TIMBERVILLE — When Faith Schlabach was 18, she developed an unrelenting illness that mystified doctors.
For the next 14 years, she stayed sick.
“I just became my own doctor,” she said in late October from her two-story farmhouse in Timberville,
While she wasn’t sure of the cause, one thing became evident: Her diet was only making things worse.
So she made a change.
She described the experience recently as she checked the stove - a pan of sourdough biscuits and a curried, coconut milk-based soup – and described what she called a disturbing trend, especially among today’s youth: Our diet is deteriorating.
Having learned about the benefits of eating well first-hand, she now dedicates her time to leading others down a similar path.
“The nutshell of it is we’ve got to change our diet,” she said. “I feel better now than I did in my early 20s. I feel like I’m treating myself everyday.”
Misty Morning’s Story
One way in which Schlabach hopes to encourage others to adopt healthier eating habits is through her new business, Misty Morning Farm, which sells family-sized milk cows.
With her husband, Adam, Schlabach has sold 10 heifers this year.
Although the couple just began offering cows for sale this year, the two have been breeding the Jersey heifer calves for about three.
They’re breeding “aggressively away from” a certain gene, A1, that’s been linked to diabetes, heart disease and autism, to name a few.
“We’ve bought lots of Jerseys and tested them and most carry it,” Schlabach said.
All the sires the county couple uses for breeding are rated A2/A2.
Another way the Schlabachs keep their animals healthy is by waiting until calves are 16 weeks of age before weaning. This allows the cows to properly develop their rumen — the first compartment of the stomach — so they can better digest cellulose in the grass.
Misty Morning’s milk is kept natural in other ways, too. The cows are grass-fed, with herbs, legumes, and natural minerals, including kelp and a small amount of grain, added to their diets.
“Grain [alone] does not develop rumen,” Faith Schlabach explained while walking around her farm near the George Washington National Forest. “Just give them Momma’s milk.”
At the farm, heifers are only given drugs if on the verge of death, and after every other measure has been attempted.
“If we have to deal with a problem, we’re not going to run to antibiotics first,” she said. And it’s not a situation she faces often.
“I can count on less than one hand how much sickness issues we’ve had,” she said.
The farmers currently have 25 cows, including steers they’re raising to sell for natural beef, with the goal of 15 to 25 new heifer calves next year.
Raw Milk’s Story
As “raw milk” becomes a burgeoning trend in locavore culture, raising and selling milk cows suited for family use is the logical next step for farmers.
Though Americans are used to buying pasteurized, homogenized milk from the grocery store, our ancestors were milking their own cows for decades before French microbiologist Louis Pasteur developed his namesake process in the late 19th century.
Soon cities across the nation required pasteurization of all milk. But the process, which includes rapidly cooling liquids after heating them for a certain period of time to kill germs, also kills enzymes and vitamins.
State law varies, but federal law prohibits the sale of raw milk meant for human consumption across state lines.
In Virginia, the sale of raw milk for drinking is prohibited, as well, but residents can purchase herd shares, meaning consumers can pay a fee to a farmer for boarding their partially owned cow. They then can take the milk produced by their animal.
One way to get around the law, of course, is to own your own cow.
While purchasing a family milk cow is not to be taken lightly — the animal will beg to be milked twice a day for a majority of the year — the Schlabachs hope people will realize the benefits. Among the perks are having a steady stream of wholesome milk for years, fertilizer for the field and a relatively small, and hopefully friendly, addition to the family.
“We really look at it … as a mission,” Faith Schlabach said.
That’s why the couple doesn’t charge enough to make a living off the herd. Most of the family’s income comes from Adam Schlabach’s construction company.
“If we don’t educate the consumer, the tide will never change,” she said.
For more information, visit the farm’s website at www.mistymorningfarmva.com.
Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or email@example.com