Person: Steve Googin
Drink: Fresh cow milk
Date: September 15, 2011
Location: Greyrock Farm outside of Syracuse, NY
Cup 49 did not involve any coffee. But it did include raw cow milk.
I bet you didn’t see that coming. I didn’t either.
It all began when a crazy idea infiltrated my mind while filling up my car for an eight-day road trip:
I should find a way to milk a cow!
In all honesty, I have no idea where these ideas come from. Luckily, I knew my travel companion Rachel would be game for the challenge so when I picked her up, I told her the idea and we began our quest to make it happen. There’s not exactly protocol for finding a cow to milk, so we resorted to telling any stranger we ran into about our goal in hopes we’d somehow find a lead to a dairy cow.
Our strategy worked. We met a wonderful young woman named Abigail through a travel service called Airbnb, which allows people to rent out space in their homes. We stayed at her beautiful home outside of Syracuse, New York and the three of us stayed up late into the night getting to know each other. At some point we brought up our cow milking quest and Abigail knew the perfect person to help us make it happen—Steve Googin, an acquaintance of hers that worked at an area farm.
She gave us his phone number, we sent a few text messages, and the the next day Rachel and I were tromping around a Greyrock Farm learning about crops, cattle, and community supported agriculture.
Community supported agriculture is a socio-economic model of agriculture where individuals in the community pay a membership fee and in return receive a box of fresh produce each week throughout the farming season. The result is that members of the CSA get local produce picked at the peak of freshness and farmers have more financial stability and get to connect with the people that eat their food. CSAs have been around for years but the model has recently grown in popularity.
Rachel and I were lucky to visit Greyrock on a pickup day, which meant during the few hours we toured the farm, carloads of individuals and families showed up to pick veggies from the neatly stocked bins inside one of the barns. Each person that walked into the barn was welcomed with a friendly hello from Steve and the other farmers. It was clear that Greyrock was more than just a farm, it was a community of people that cared about each other.
I had never heard of CSAs but listening to Steve explain the details and watching dozens of members leave with armloads of veggies and smiles on their faces—I loved the idea. It seemed like a desirable alternative to shopping for veggies under the fluorescent lights of an impersonal big box store. The passion in Steve’s voice as he told us the history of the farm and his own story only intensified our fascination for supporting local farming.
At one time Greyrock was a dairy farm run my two women. As the women got older they needed someone to take over. That’s when they found Matt Volz, a young farmer looking to start a CSA. Matt convinced Steve, who was a friend from high school, to join the crew and although the idea of joining a small, sustainable farm in the middle of nowhere might have seemed a little crazy, Steve was easily convinced. He was passionate about the idea and could see its potential to positively impact the community.
After the tour we got down to business. Steve led the two dairy cows into the barn for their afternoon milking while Rachel and I nervously followed. It was clear that the cows were used to—and looked forward to—this part of their afternoon. It was also clear Rachel and I had no idea what we were doing. Luckily Steve was a great teacher and patiently walked us through the process.
It’s difficult to accurately describe what milking a cow feels like—I suppose awkward and a little frustrating are fitting adjectives. Most of the milk ended up on the ground instead of the milk bucket but it was a fun experience nonetheless. If you ever get the chance, definitely try it.
After Rachel and I both had a chance to try Steve took over and later offered us a taste of raw milk that had been refrigerated after the early morning milking. I figured it was an acceptable substitution for a cup of coffee—and also a delicious way to celebrate that we’d accomplished our crazy goal to milk a cow.
Now is milking a cow a spectacular accomplishment? Not really. People do it everyday.
But what is cause for celebration is the fact that we turned a crazy idea into a reality. What we were really celebrating was a mentality; a pursuit. Two mentalities actually—our attempt to accomplish a challenge and Greyrock’s attempt to innovate a better food system in its community.
What began as something nonsensical turned into a valuable experience—a lesson in the importance of understanding where food comes and its ability to build community and nourish the spirit. When we left the farm, we had armfuls of fresh veggies and new friends. We had great memories and new knowledge (we also had more great pictures you can see here).
That wouldn’t have happened if we had dismissed the crazy idea before giving it a chance. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t accepting the challenge and followed our curiosity.
The more I thought about Cup 49, the harder it was to keep the words of Steve Jobs out of my head. I first heard his Stanford commencement speech a few years ago but watched it again after countless people shared the link after his passing. Within the speech is a quote that I often repeat to myself:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.
Jobs continues, “Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Cup 49 was an adventure, a new experience, and, most importantly, a reminder to chase crazy dreams.
Because most great ideas are crazy—until they work.