There are a lot of little farms in our area trying to survive by diversifying what they offer and how they produce their product. The Warburton Farm, also called Sunset Ridge-Warburton Farm is one of those farms. What is now helping the farm survive is something that was started to help their youngest be able to consume dairy products after he was born with a condition that leaves him allergic to certain proteins, including those in milk. That’s an awkward and inconvenient development when the family owns a small dairy farm and everyone else can eat the yummy treats made from milk.
When Eileen, the little boy’s mom, heard about A2 milk through her oldest son, who was researching something else for a project for 4-H and read about it, she wondered if her youngest would be able to digest it. A2 milk refers to a type of beta-casein protein found in dairy cows. In A2 milk, the protein is broken down finely, which makes it easier for people with digestive issues to process dairy products. It is not the same as lactose-free milk, which those with a lactose intolerance can drink.
She looked for the milk in the United States, but instead only found it in Australia and New Zealand at the time. (It is produced on a large scale in the United States now.) Then she wondered if any of the Jersey cows from their small farm was carrying the A2 gene and since testing for the gene only takes sending a sample of the cow’s hair to a lab, she decided to check.
Cardinal was the first of the family farm’s cows to test positive for the gene and it turned out Eileen’s youngest could drink the milk, which made Eileen wonder how many other people might benefit from A2 milk from a local source. That launched the family onto a journey to obtain grant money for a bottling plant and pasteurization machine.
I took photographs for Eileen of Cardinal sometime last year (I think anyhow, since 2020 feels like 5 years in one) and that photo now adorns the labels for the milk they sell in local stores. Each of the last two years I have also taken a few photos of the family, her and her husband, the two boys and her in-laws, and of course, Cardinal.
It has become an annual highlight for me — seeing a family doing what they love, caring for their animals but also enjoying providing a locally produced product for their neighbors and others.
This year I dragged my dad along because he wanted to show me some of the family farms that have recently gone out of business (and there are quite a few, sadly). He enjoyed talking to Eileen’s in-law’s who he knows fairly well, we had a tour of the bottling plant, saw the new baby goats, and then set off at sunset to see one of the larger farms up the road.
It had rained while we were there and a misty fog was rising up from the valleys around us and the sunset was golden and magnificent. There is a local woman who posts beautiful sunset photos and I was determined to properly compete against her with a beautiful sunset photo.
I liked the sunset photo I got but was completely bowled over maybe a half an hour later when we ended up with a flat tire, along a tiny dirt road, and I looked across the field at an amazing sunset.
While Dad and The Boy changed the tire I climbed up a small incline, looked out over the field and watched the sunset change from bright golden to pink and purple and blue.
It appears a little darker in my photos than it actually was, but it was still spectacular. And to the left of it was the farm that only a few weeks ago had to sell it’s dairy cows, glowing a soft purple from the sunset.
I told my daughter, once the tire was fixed and we were on our way, that it is always an adventure when we head out somewhere with Grandpa. We never know what will happen or where we will end up. Luckily we ended up driving around a beautiful area and seeing a hard working farm family, some amazing scenery, a large herd of deer, rabbits, and an amazing sunset.