February 16, 2012
HAVE COWS-WILL TRAVEL
Unlikely hobby for two professionals unexpectedly helps business’ bottom line
Like many Baltimore/Washington D.C. area residents, Periwinkle and Lulu (two Jersey cows) enjoy beating the summer heat by vacationing in New England. Not that they have a choice in the matter, but their owner George Stone does. George, a neurobiologist and recent retiree from the National Institutes of Health, travels from his suburban Maryland home to Maine every summer with cows in tow to run the operations of a family camp and retreat center that he owns with his wife, Holly.
During the fall, winter and spring, Periwinkle and Lulu live nearby the Stones on a small farm owned by George’s close friend and family pediatrician, Mel Stern. Mel, whose pediatric practice is also at the farm, has kept a dairy cow or two for over 30 years. “Free milk,” explains Dr. Stern. George and Mel take turns to ease the load of the twice-daily milking, but George ends up using most of the milk. “We’ve gotten into making cheese,” says George. “We play around with hard cheeses like Cheddar and Gouda and even mold-ripened cheeses like Camembert.” Holly likes to make yogurt and cottage cheese with the milk.
But the summer months in Maine are the real reason the Stones keep Periwinkle and Lulu. A few years back, the Director of their family camp and retreat center had an idea to incorporate a couple of dairy cows into the program in order to: (1) cut food costs; (2) add something fun to the program; and (3) give them something unique to market themselves to potential customers. “It’s been a real success,” said David Brunner, Director of Medomak Camp and Retreat Center. “Along with the cows, we’ve implemented an organic production garden that allows us to grow almost all of the vegetables we use for our two commercial kitchens. Initially, I had hoped we would save money with the garden and cows, but as anyone who buys organic knows, it can be much more expensive. But because of our scale, we’ve been able to keep our food costs neutral, which when you think about it is pretty amazing. So the real payoff has been that it allows us to market ourselves as serving food using organic, fresh, ultra-local, farm-to-table vegetables and dairy. It really sets us apart from your typical retreat/conference center or vacation destination. And, everyone LOVES milking the cows.”
Periwinkle and Lulu are taking a much deserved break from milking right now. They are living at the Stern farm, eating hay, and simply enjoying the mild winter weather Maryland has been experiencing. But summer is coming, and they are both due with calves in the spring. Just in time to travel to Maine.
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If you’d like more information about Periwinkle and Lulu, their owners and Medomak Camp and Retreat Center in Maine, please call David Brunner at (301) 854-9100 or e-mail David at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Although I have visited Medomak many times, informally, it is wonderful to be at family camp this week. So many memories of so many people and experiences are rejuvenated on each visit. I am so grateful for what Medomak was and is becoming.