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Pastureland: Looking For A Fresh Start

By Joy Summers

Steve Young-Burns is a man on a mission. He is passionately spreading the word about PastureLand Co-op, organic Minnesota dairy farms that are in jeopardy. What began in 1999 as a collective of farmers interested in keeping their land, waterways and animals in peak health became a purveyor of rich, tangy butter and cheeses.

Today, PastureLand consists of three family farms: Dan French, the Bernud family and Cedar Summit Farms; all sustainably raising cows that are allowed to roam pastures, munching on fresh, organic cud and giving some of the richest, most flavorful milk available. (Don't believe me? Buy a pint of Cedar Summit cream and tell me that isn't the closest thing to liquid ice cream your lucky lips have ever touched).

Unfortunately, doing the right thing isn't always great for a healthy bottom line and as of right now the company has stopped producing some of their products.

Steve Young-Burns of Pastureland
PastureLand CEO Steve Young-Burns (credit: Joy Summers)

The great thing about this call to arms is that the butter, cheese and milk isn't just decadently flavorful, it's also much healthier for you. You get more good fat, less bad fat. When dairy (and beef) cattle get all their nutrition from live pasture there is a naturally occurring better balance of Omega 3 fats –- the kind people use store -- bought pills to supplement their diets with. When cows are taken off pasture or shift to grain the amount of Omega 3 (HDL) present in the milk or meat plummets and the amount of Omega 6 fats (LDL cholesterol) rises precipitously.

Now the problem: Milk prices are an unpredictable beast and the co-op hasn't been able to secure a market for the skim milk produced in butter and cheese production. We are dangerously close to losing something good and right, and farming families-some with young children-will be left with some difficult decisions to make.

What Steve is doing is talking to anyone and everyone who will listen to him.

"If we found a permanent/long-term outlet for our organic non-fat skim milk tomorrow we could be back in business churning butter and making cheese in a heartbeat."

They need investors who can put their money into a business selling delicious product with a conscience.

OK, I can't do that, but what can consumers do?

"When you buy food you are buying the entire system that got that food to your plate," he said. "If you like McDonald's that is fine, but know there is a direct connection between those McNuggets and factory farms, polluted streams, unhealthy workers, and your own high cholesterol. When you buy PastureLand or Cedar Summit once in a while you are saying you like to see clean family farms and cows on grass. When you give sustainably, ethically produced foods a spot in your shopping cart every week, you are casting for vote for a more diverse, more sustainable, healthier food system. Who among us doesn't want that?"

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