Since December of 2012, Chris and Sarah Ficken have been working diligently to build their farm and family with dedication to their core philosophy. “Sustainability. Diversity. Community. Livestock.” In addition to their herd of milking cows, Chris and Sarah operate a CSA. They offer fresh, local shares of beef, poultry and seasonal vegetables.
Chris began his farming career at the age of six with four goats (Mancha, Flashlight, Sweet Sunset, and Cookie) and has never looked back. Sarah was not born into farming, but has embraced the lifestyle with open arms. Chris has a B.S. in Animal Science with a concentration in Dairy Science and Sarah has a B.S. in Natural Resources with a concentration in Applied Ecology.#Sustainability isn't just a buzzword at New Moon Farm. It's a way of life. #FarmerFriday via @cabotcheese Click To Tweet
Chris keeps the farm functioning day-in and day-out; taking care of the herd, repairing fencing, planting, tending, harvesting, splitting wood, making any necessary repairs and dealing with all the surprises that pop up. Sarah has a full time job off the farm and the couple has added a beautiful daughter to their own herd, but during her ‘free time’ she can also be found milking cows, working in the field and chasing down the occasional rogue cow.
Chris and Sarah met while in school at Cornell University. After an extensive search throughout Vermont and New York, New Moon Farm was established in Munnsville, NY (approximately 30 miles from Syracuse). They found their ideal spot after a chance left-hand turn at a fork in the road. The day after their wedding, the Ficken’s made an offer on the farm and a few short months later – they were home.
What is your favorite thing about being a dairy farm family?
As a dairy farm family we get to share the early mornings, long days, and late nights knowing that everything we do is going to build a better future for our family and our community. We love sharing our farm with our baby daughter. She squeals and giggles with glee each time we bring her out to the barns or up to the pastures and she gets to see a cow.
What is your family’s favorite meal? Care to share a recipe?
Our favorite meal this time of year has to be homemade macaroni and cheese. It is simple, delicious, and we always have the ingredients on hand. Here is how we make ours. We cook wagon wheels according to directions and set them aside in a casserole dish and preheat the oven to 350. We slice up an onion and some garlic and sauté it in Cabot Butter. Once the onions are limp, we melt in ½ cup of butter and sprinkle in ¼ cup of flour and a dash of salt, pepper, and smoked paprika while stirring constantly. Once we have a thick paste, we gradually whisk in 2 cups of whole milk and reduce the heat. We add 1 pound of thinly sliced cheddar and half a pound of thinly sliced Cabot or McCadam Muenster and stir until smooth. We toss the pasta in the sauce and return it to the casserole dish. We sprinkle the top with a mixture of breadcrumbs and sautéed onions and bake until the top is crispy.
What is your least favorite farm chore?
Sarah’s least favorite farm chore is entering and paying the bills. Chris’s least favorite farm chore is defrosting frozen water pipes in the winter.
What is your favorite time of year on the farm?
Our favorite time of year on the farm is early Autumn. Our harvest is done by the middle of September and we know exactly how much forage we have for our animals. The heat of summer is gone, but the days are still long enough for lazy Sunday brunches on the porch and dinners spent watching the stars. The brutal cold of winter hasn’t set in, but most days are perfect for sweatshirts or flannel and the nights are perfect for snuggling up under a quilt. Early Autumn on the farm is the quiet, purposeful pause between the hustle of summer and the struggle of winter.
What time of year is the busiest for you?
Whichever season we are currently in feels the busiest. In reality summertime tasks are the most time consuming and the most urgent, but there is a constant hum of action that runs through the farm through the year. During the fall we prepare for winter, finishing up projects, snugging up the barn, repairing machinery, and packing the woodshed full. During the winter we keep our animals warm and well fed and try to catch up on projects in the house and plan for the coming year. During the Spring we plant seeds, mend fences, and position ourselves to reap a bountiful harvest in the summer. Summertime is packed with harvesting hay, rotating our cows through pastures, and sharing the bounty of our land through our CSA.
What is the next big sustainability story on your farm?
Sustainability is more than a buzzword on our farm. To us sustainability means farming in a way that enhances current resources so that they continue to be available for our children and grandchildren. We strive to grow an environmentally, socially, and financially sustainable operation. We have adopted low input methods including composted bedded pack barns, natural ventilation, skylights, energy efficient milk equipment, and conservation tillage methods. All of these measures have helped us be good to the environment, our neighbors, our cows, and ourselves. Our next big sustainability project is installing permanent perimeter fencing. This permanent fencing will help us improve our grazing program which will improve the health of our land.
What is one thing you would like people who have never experienced farm life to know?
Farming forces us to be very honest with ourselves every day. Every 12 hours we totally recommit ourselves to our animals when we milk, feed, clean up after them, and generally put their needs before ours no matter the weather, our personal circumstances, or if one of us is in labor. (Yes, we had to milk the cows before going to the hospital to have our daughter). Responsibility for the farm rests entirely on our shoulders and it is very humbling to experience the very tangible results of our actions — especially when our actions result in healthy/happy calves frolicking.
What do you think is your greatest accomplishment on the farm?
We have built our farm literally from the ground up with the help of family, friends, and neighbors. Over the past three years we have slowly breathed life into our farm, restoring animals to our land, health to our fields, and the chaos of joy to our old farm house. The gratitude we feel as we walk into the house at night is immense as we can look at the work of our hands and feel contentment in a day well spent and pride in a job well done.
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