Two weeks ago, I received this email from a woman named Marnie:
We have this 21 person local cow share going on in Nicasio, right above the Nicasio Resevoir. We are all getting together to have one of our cow share meetings. We talk about our cow and share products we have made from her milk in a kind of pot luck. Everything from butter and cheese to moss artwork! We were wondering if you would want to take a photo of all of us with our cow up here on Black Mountain?
I had never heard of a cow share before, but after living on a farm with two Jersey cows for a year and a half, I know how much work (and milk) is involved in caring for a cow. During my time on the farm, I had countless, seemingly endless, milking sessions, by hand, with two Jersey cows, so I know that even one Jersey cow produces way more milk than a single family can consume.
There were many mornings when I would have paid someone to come and take over my milking duties… those were usually the mornings when Barbra, the cow, kicked over the full bucket and I watched my hour of warm, white, liquid, labor spread across the dirty barn floor. So I thought the idea of a cow share was brilliant and I couldn’t wait to document the gathering.
I learned that the cow share initially started off with five families. But with two milkings a day, seven days a week, sometimes people couldn’t make their designated milking, so another family would be brought in to substitute and eventually the cow share grew to 21 people.
Unfortunately not all of the 21 people were able to make it for our photo shoot. But of the people who were there, I was excited to see many familiar faces, in addition to an absolutely gorgeous backdrop for our photo shoot.
After the group photo, we came back and had a picnic of all the yummy products people had made with Rosie’s milk…
Including feta cheese…
And ice cream…
The group was clearly proud of their girl Rosie…
…they had baby pictures to prove it.
As we were picnicking, more people showed up, and even though we still didn’t have all 21 people, we had more people than the first photo. So we decided to do another group photo, because the more people in the photo, the more effective the message of the cow share.
But as we were trying to encourage some of the reluctant members to be a part of the second photo shoot, as well as to move quickly, because Rosie’s dinner time was rapidly approaching and she was getting antsy, it became clear that 21 people is a big group of people. And big groups of people are hard to manage, especially when technically there isn’t a manager.
As we stood on the hillside, after the second group photo, the group had an impromptu talk about the future of the cow share and the challenges that it presents, especially for Marnie, who ends up spending the most time worrying and caring for Rosie because she owns the property where Rosie lives. She confessed caring for Rosie and managing all the milking schedules was a lot more time-consuming than she thought it would be, so she felt like Rosie had to go to a new home.
The group seemed surprised and disappointed by the news, but not discouraged. Challenges and hurdles are inherent when working with large groups of people… and cow shares, as wonderful as they are, are no exception.
Sharing anything takes lots and lots of communication, and sharing a giant living, milk producing cow… probably takes even more communication. So it seems Miss Rosie will most likely lose her glorious view overlooking the valley, but hopefully this cow sharing, milk loving, community will continue to go on, and with good communication, it will only grow stronger with time.