by: Audra Mulkern
I was graciously invited to tag along to North Carolina by a local farmer/cheese maker, Anne Becker of Cherry Valley Dairy. Her former mentor Suzanne Nelson of Cozi Farms had purchased a permanent home for her farm and was planning a barn raising. Anne and I flew overnight from Seattle and arrived to terrible rain. Now in Seattle, we know rain as something that can go on for days, weeks at a time. But rain like this? This was something I hadn’t experienced before and had to quickly take cover in the rental car because the rain threatened to soak right through my camera bag. Needless to say, the barn raising was rescheduled, but there was no time to be disappointed. There were animals to feed, and eggs to collect, and vegetables to be harvested. My time with Suzanne was during chores; feeding the cows with a surprise birth. Suzanne moves fast and with purpose. Her passion and energy seem to emanate. I grabbed on and held tight for the ride.
As a former Capitol Hill journalist, Suzanne Nelson passionately loved politics and her participation in the representative government. It was ‘intellectualism as sport’ until several events caused her to question her previously unexamined ideals and lack of connection to the land that she so dearly loves. She quit her job and, quite literally, ‘dropped out’. Later, when unable to find the kind of food she wanted to feed her family, she bought a dairy cow, Greeley, who became both the impetus and the beginning of her farming career.
The farm is now home to a diversified polyculture. Her herds and animals are unaltered from birth; no ear tags, dehorning, castrations, etc. It’s a commitment of time and energy that Suzanne balances that of her young daughter who often spends time on the farm with the baby animals and helping with chores.
I watch as she moves throughout the herd, calling their names, touching them, and keeping watch on the laboring heifer. The life Suzanne has created may appear to be drastically different from the outside. It’s a life that she approaches each day with as much careful thought, passion and energy as she did Capitol Hill days, but now her ideas and ideals will change the world from the ground up.