CALDWELL FAMILY FARM
We truly are proud to present everything that’s for sale in our stores, but there is no product, no farmer, no family, no relationship that we cherish more than Caldwell Family Farm’s. The combination of the people involved, the way they care for their land, and the depth of their love for their herd and for their work fills us with awe and hits our hearts deep.
On one of the first seriously chilly days of a slow-to-start autumn, a lucky dozen Rosemont employees took a road trip to see the Caldwells at their home farm in Turner. A bunch of friendly dogs came out to greet us, followed shortly by the patriarch, Ralph Caldwell, and his amazing daughter Dee Dee.
The Caldwells look after 1,000 acres of MOFGA-certified organic pasture, on which 500 head of beef cattle roam. All that and there are just 14 employees, many of whose relationships with the Caldwells go back decades. Most of them come to the Caldwell family’s Thanksgiving dinner.
But if you appreciate their care for their workers, it’s nothing compared to their attitude toward the animals. Caldwell is one of only five farms in the United States to have earned a Step 5+ rating from the Global Animal Partnership, the leading worldwide non-profit organization of farmers, scientists, retailers, and animal advocates working to improve farm animal welfare. Dee Dee told us details about the life of each individual cow we met that parents would be proud to know about their children.
SStories and insights spill out of Ralph and Dee Dee relentlessly, and effortlessly. The way to the slaughterhouse is lined with flowers, to set the cows at ease. (And the animals never go alone, but always with mates, for the same reason.) The Caldwells took on a friend’s cattle not for beef, but to make sure their own cows had enough friends to pass the time. Neither Ralph nor Dee Dee get too far into a story about their bovine partners without starting to shed tears, and it didn’t take a few of us long to respond the same way: deeply grateful and a bit weepy.
Because the Caldwells cross-breed their Angus bulls with other breeds, the animals’ overall vigor and health are improved. The organic pasture and feed, and lack of overcrowded fields, are helpful in this regard as well: The Caldwells’ vet bills are mostly taken up by incidental charges for their dogs and horses!
To stroll the Caldwells’ fields; to slide quartered Maine apples into the slobbery mouths of their cows; to take in the views of Mount Washington Ralph, Dee Dee and their crew enjoy every day; to see the care, precision and love they put into their work; to have Dee Dee force her own jacket on one of us when the chill in the air grew a bit fierce — all this quieted us in appreciation and wonder. Mid-day, Ralph and Dee Dee got ready to hose down the cows and arrange some feed. We got back into our van to drive south, our butchers newly inspired to tell y’all some stories about where our food comes from.