Here's an excerpt from a family Christmas letter written by my beautiful, kind and talented mother, Vicky Caldwell. She has sent out letters with her Christmas cards for the past few years, and I thought the focus of this year's letter would be especially interesting to Proud to Dairy members. My parents are a never-ending source of inspiration and encouragement for my siblings and me, and they are a wonderful example of what it means to be Proud to Dairy, even in tough times.
‘Tis the Season
Yes, it is the season. The season for joy, the season for giving, the season for hope, the season for love and the season for faith, farm, family and friends. This past year has been one of the most challenging, as all of our dairy farming friends will attest. But with challenges come opportunities, with opportunities come change and with change comes growth. With the Lord’s guidance during 2009, I believe Ron and I were able to meet challenges, find opportunities, accept change and grow in our trust of God’s omnipotent protection of our lives.
The dairy industry saw record low prices for a record length of time this past year. As Ron and I spent more time running numbers, budgeting expenses and stretching cash flow, we realized that switching to rotational grazing had put us in a much more viable position to ride out this extended downturn. We also saw the need for change within the industry and the opportunity to effect those changes at the grass-roots level.
While mainstream media sources did not pick up on this crisis, trade papers and state and U.S. legislators were inundated with reports of financial difficulties and certain extinction for the American dairy farmer. For the first time in our married life, Ron got political. He started by drafting a letter for other local dairy producers to join him in supporting a resolution for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau to actively pursue a change within the legislature of the current milk pricing system.
He also served on a committee that organized a legislative meeting in Butler with U.S. Congresswoman Katherine Dahlkemper, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, to hear testimony from producers and other dairy industry representatives. From this meeting, and others like it across the state, a producer-member committee was formed that is seeking lobbyist representation within the legislature to ensure farmers interests are addressed in any milk pricing discussions or enactments. It was quite an eye opener for Ron to see how the political spectrum operates.
Perhaps our biggest opportunity for change and growth came this fall when we received a raw milk permit. We had a local web designer build our new website, www.broadrundairyfarm.com, and we developed a Broadrun Farms Fan Page on Facebook.
And with that, we were in the direct marketing business. We now sell raw milk, free-range eggs, pastured broilers, freezer beef and “milk-fed” pork right off of the farm. Our customers bring their own jugs that we fill with a smile and a story about the animals, our family or just a comment on the weather. Our customer base continues to grow each week, with folks finding us on the Internet or driving by and seeing our sign. We have customers with large families and those who are older and were raised on raw milk. Often times there is a waiting list for eggs, so I have ordered another seventy-five pullets for this spring. I have earned the titles of “The Chicken Lady” and “Farmer Vicky.”
Yes, it is the season. The season for rest, the season for renewal, the season for rejuvenation, but most of all, it is the season for celebration. We pray your family will celebrate this holiday season for the blessings our Lord has bestowed upon us, the lives of those that have gone on before us, and the promises of a new year that will unfold ahead of us.
Peace, Happiness and Merry Christmas!
--Ron and Vicky Caldwell
Photo below: The Caldwell Family
Seated: Ron and Vicky; Standing: Kelly, Kevin, Steven, Sarah and Emily