Pitchin' In: "Happy Cow Milk" at Jersey Acres Farm
The Saturley siblings—Joceyln, 13; Jaime, 10; and Jacob, 7—awaken by sunrise at Jersey Acres Farm to check on their chickens.
There are 120 birds in the family flock, each one nourished with non-soy, GMO-free feed and given lovely monikers like Ice Cream and Fudge. The homeschooled Saturley children have learned from their parents, Jacque and Jim, how to incubate organic eggs and prepare them to be sold at local co-ops for $4 a dozen.
“We started with 10 chickens and we’ve watched them multiply to over 100. It’s really wonderful for the children to experience the whole process,” Jim Saturley says. “Each of the children have their own set of chickens they look after, and they get very attached to them.”
This is farm life in Myakka City, where every animal in the Saturleys’ care has a name and a personality. Though there are goats, a skunk, three cats, and a dog named Molly on the 72-acre property, only the chickens and cows provide the farm’s revenue. Raw milk, cream, cheese, and butter are the most substantial, highest selling products, and they are delivered to co-ops and markets throughout Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tampa twice a week.
From milking the cows to transporting the merchandise, the Jersey Acres operation requires tremendous love and muscle. Work begins at 6 a.m. and ends around 9 p.m. seven days a week, and in this rural stretch of Myakka nature dictates the rhythm. The Saturleys can watch the sun ascend and dip every morning and night without ever having to leave their land, and they willingly heed its direction.
Something in Jim Saturley’s blood drew him to this simple, spiritual way of living. His relatives—including his grandparents on both sides, as well as his aunts and uncles—all enjoyed a history in the northeastern dairy business. Jim Saturley built spec houses in Georgia and served as an office manager in Tampa before pursuing this longtime dream. About 15 months ago, when the Jersey Acres owners were seeking to sell, he went from the desk to the dairy, and he hasn’t looked back once. “A big reason for going into this business had to do with the fact that we found out how our food was being produced and it scared us,” Jim Saturley says. “We were passionate about changing that. The owners of this farm wanted to sell and we knew this was ultimately what we wanted to do. We always follow our gut.”
They started with one cow—Eula Mae, now 5—which they had raised on their own before becoming farmers. She is joined by a herd of more than 30 peers, 24 of which are currently viable for milking. They are Jersey and Jersey-cross cows, which are known for their rich cream and butterfat, and they are pasture-fed with grain supplementation. “I love walking the cows and getting to know them and their personalities,” Jacque Saturley says, bucket in hand. “I love bottle-feeding them. They are all so different and unique, and it’s amazing how they learn to communicate with us.”
The cattle’s unpasteurized milk is sold for pet consumption only under a commercial feed distributing license. That said, research shows that raw, unaltered milk allows proteins, minerals, fats, enzymes and carbohydrates to be metabolically available to humans. In other words, the body can more readily use all of the milk’s nutrition when it is raw. The Saturleys do not inject their cows with antibiotics to increase milk production. Cows are treated with compassion, and the land is separated into 32 paddocks for their grazing pleasure.
“We treat them the way they deserve to be treated,” Jim Saturley says. “I feel bad if I get mad at one of the cows. It is important to us that they are treated humanely.”
“We treat them the way they deserve to be treated, I feel bad if I get mad at one of the cows. It is important to us that they are treated humanely.”
The Saturleys have two employees outside of the family (Amanda, who does the bookwork, and Dustin, who is a jack of all trades). Help is imperative, as Jersey Acres sells 700 gallons a week to outlets such as Jessica’s Organic Farmstand and Detwiler’s Farm Market in Sarasota, and Choices Natural Market in Venice.
Prices are $9 for a gallon of milk, $5 for a half-gallon, $11 for a quart of cream, $7 for a pint of sour cream, $6 for a pint of cottage cheese, and $11 for a pound of butter. Patrons are welcome to schedule an appointment to buy the products on-site.
Some of Jersey Acres’ regular customers call the farm’s output “happy cow milk.”
There sure are happy people behind it, too.
Jersey Acres Farm: 13339 MJ Rd, Myakka City; 941-322-2162