Thistle Hill Farm is a certified organic dairy farm located in North Pomfret, Vermont, owned and operated by John and Janine Putnam and their four children, aged ten to eighteen. The Putnams have been farming organically for over fifteen years, beginning with vegetables and beef, and culminating in organic cheese making. Other than incidental part time help, the family makes Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise from the ground up. Every aspect of creating the cheese, from caring for the hay fields and pastures, bringing in the hay and caring for and milking the Jersey dairy cows is done on the farm by the Putnam family.
The closed herd of certified organic Jersey cows are fed only certified organic hay produced by the farm and certified organic grain. In the summer the cows are rotated through a series of small pastures to ensure that they are on new fresh grass every twelve hours. The barn contains comfort tie stalls where the cows are milked twice per day. During the summer, except during severe weather, the cows are never in the barn except for milking and their morning nap. Even during the winter, the cows are out every day stretching their legs, soaking up the sun and socializing.
Cows were meant to graze, and our cows' access to the outdoors and natural feeding environment makes them happy and healthy. The cows' grass based diet is important not just to their health but also to ours. The warm butterscotch color of Tarentaise is testament to the high betacarotene, vitamin E, conjugated linoleic acid ("CLA") and omega 3 fatty acids found in the milk of these grass fed cows. All of these elements have found to be a healthy component of our diet and, especially the omega 3's, are linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, obesity and others diseases. Grazing animals get more omega 3's because they get them directly from the grass. These omega 3's are ultimately passed to humans at the top of the food chain. (SEE Jo Robinson, NODPA News, November, 2002, Volume 2, Issue 3.)
The pastures and hay fields which feed our cows are, themselves, fed with the nutrients of the cows' manure, supplemented with lime and other mineral amendments. We never use herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Weeds are controlled by the timing of our cuttings, and by encouraging competition from desirable grasses and forages. As in any sustainable organic system, we strive to create a complete circle of nutrients, from field to cow to field.
Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise is made in a new cheese house just up the hill from the dairy barn. It was designed to be up the air drainage from the dairy barn to eliminate any chance of the barn's perfume from affecting the fresh cheese. The farm also consists of a barn for heifers, horses, sheep and chickens, a chicken house, pig pasture and various equipment sheds. A large garden provides vegetables for the family.