The HVADC Cultivator
Farm and Food Funding Accelerator Participant: Miracle Springs Farm
In 1937 in Bloomington, Illinois, Delmar Duane Darrah bought a series of farms in a circle, so that bad weather affecting some, would not affect all. Those farms remained in the family for many years. Though Ancram in Columbia County is a far cry from Illinois, once the last family farm was sold in 2003, Darrah’s granddaughter Jaimie Cloud and her husband David Levine, daughter Gracen and son Griffin all decided to sustain the family farm tradition by restoring a farm closer to home in the Hudson Valley using regenerative principles and practices, and they named it Miracle Springs Farm.
Miracle Springs Farm is a small goat dairy that also grows non-certified organic vegetables, keeps bees, and cares for a teeny herd of cattle and one horse, named Puck. Jaimie and David work closely with a team which includes Rene DeLeeuw, Head Farmer and Goatman, and Jeremy Spesard, Chef and Farmer, among others, to produce several varieties of goat cheese. Their popular, farm-fresh Chevre is available in plain, rolled in organic "Everything" seasoning, or rolled in organic Tellicherry peppercorns. Signal Rock - with its stunning line of ash made from charred beet leaves, is nuanced, but not complicated. This semi-soft cheese has distinct floral notes and a smooth, salty finish. They also produce a Camembert style cheese - featuring a delicious and nutritious bloomy rind that surrounds a supple center, full of rich, buttery flavor, and Roe Jan Reserve, a raw goat's milk, hard cheese, aged over 60 days, with a nutty flavor profile and excellent balance of salt and acid. The farm sells regionally throughout the Hudson Valley, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York City, to restaurants, markets, cheese stores, at farmers markets and online, also offering a CSA style cheese club.
In addition to the farm, both Jaimie and David are active in promoting sustainable practices in education and business. Jaimie is the Founder and President of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, a not-for-profit organization that works with schools systems to update their curriculum and instructional processes to educate for sustainability. As Co-Founder and President, David runs the American Sustainable Business Council, working with businesses and business organizations, and which advocates for policies that support a vibrant, just and sustainable economy.
Rory Chase of Chaseholm Farm currently partners to produce the Miracle Springs cheeses. Chase is a master cheesemaker and together Chase and the the Miracle Springs team develop, produce and sell their cheese.
Miracle Springs is looking to grow its capacity for goat milk production and cheese making in order to reach its critical size, said Cloud, adding they are hoping to nearly triple it which would mean they will focus on breeding and genetics, culling and replacing goats and growing the herd. It also means that Miracle Springs is expanding to include a pasture for the goats so they have plenty of space to play, and then of course grow their client base. Cloud explained that their plans are also intrinsic to improving compost management and distribution system to enhance the nutritional value of the farm’s pastures.
Once the goat cheese operation is profitable, she said, they can re-invest in their bees and vegetable operation and even hope to grow mushrooms down the road.
Cloud cited “cash flow” as the farm’s top challenge. “We are piecing it together, but it is challenging to find the right investment/loan partners and the right terms,” she said.
Obtaining additional funding for Miracle Springs would allow for the construction of a commercial kitchen, washing and packing station and maybe even a creamery on site, Cloud explained. “We would put employee housing on the top,” she said. “We would buy some tiny cheese caves to be able to expand our variety of cheeses and we would invest in some creamery equipment with our creamery partner Rory Chase--so that he can handle the increased productivity.”
“Community is paramount in farming,” said Jaimie. “HVADC’s Farm and Food Funding Accelerator invited us to join a community of people who have expertise in, and experience with funding opportunities, financial planning, the investor world, and the agricultural scene in the Hudson Valley. It would take us years to build those relationships on our own. FFFA is also a community of farmers—folks like us who are entrepreneurial, edgy and passionate about farming and want to make a living doing it. It’s the 21st Century—there are ways for small farms to thrive –and together we can help each other by creating mutually beneficial relationships. Everyone needs to eat. Building a robust and prosperous regional food system will be more and more important as time goes by if we want to be sustain-able.”
Cloud expressed a myriad of intentions for their participation in the FFFA, such as building relationships, seeking advice, learning about funding opportunities, gaining “thought partners” and making valuable connections.
“It is heartening to know that there are very smart people dedicated to making small farms viable in the Hudson Valley,” said Cloud. “We are not alone—and I can’t tell you how comforting that is. We have met amazing farmers all with questions and challenges we can relate to, and with local source products we can use to make our cheeses. We have been given invaluable help with our financial planning, and in the last session we gained insight into the world of lenders and investors that allowed me to empathize with them in a new way. I was given a vital list of information they need and we need to communicate about who we are, why we are and why we think we have what it takes to make it. Making it all explicit in the way we learned to do will be the difference that makes the difference for us.”
“Every day I draw on the thinking and dispositions that are required if we want to be sustain-able and more precisely, regenerative--leaving the place better than we found it,” said Cloud. “Perseverance, humility and self-efficacy, systems thinking, creative thinking, metacognition (thinking about thinking), anticipatory thinking, ecological principals and physical laws, navigating short term/long term choices....questioning old ways, preserving the good ones and transforming the ones that are unsustainable or outdated, creating social norms to tend the commons....it’s all there and much, much more.” Cloud said that there isn't one single attribute from her work in sustainability that she hasn’t needed since Miracle Springs’ inception.
Photo Source: Miracle Springs Farm