It was cold. And raining. And windy. And they were right to insist I ditch my tennis shoes and pull on an extra pair of waterproof boots instead.
The grass was tall, but not as tall as these farmers would like it to be this time of year. The cows moved slowly through the mist, bobbing their heads up and down as they chewed contentedly.
Last week, I spent a morning shooting a story for my day job on this glorious piece of land in Elko, Minn., farmed for four generations by the Zweber family. Two of those generations currently work the farm where cattle dig into a buffet of rich grasses and produce organic milk while dozens of chickens are growing up to feed us with their meat and eggs.
I asked these farmers all sorts of things while the cameras were rolling, like how they raise their animals, why “organic” is important to them, why they live their lives on the farm. In typical city-dweller fashion, I marveled at the incredible about of work it takes to make a living off the land.
I met the cows, some more curious about me than others. Tim Zweber explained how each individual has a distinct personality. Tim and his dad can distinguish one from the other without even looking at the numbers on their ear tags.
“Nothing is wasted on the farm,” Tim said, confirming these cows will become meat when their milk producing days are over.
It’s a circle-of-life lesson that’s learned so early in families like this one, yet it’s so difficult for those of us raised off the farm to understand.
How can you consider eating an animal when you’ve named her? When you know her likes and dislikes? When you’ve looked into her eyes?
I told Tim about the looks of horror that develop on previously curious faces when I say it’s likely we will eventually eat the chickens currently residing the backyard.
Tim chuckled knowingly.
“It’s a difficult thing for people to understand,” He gestured to his cows, happily residing in their field.
“In order for this relationship to exist, it has to end.”
A statement that’s startlingly beautiful in its simplicity, filled with understanding, respect and gratitude.
Thanks to the Zweber family for working hard to produce real food. And for being wonderful stewards of the land. And for keeping my feet dry with a good pair of boots.
You can see more here: