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Amanda Freund

00:02 Amanda Freund so happy to have you on 00:05 the everyday enthusiast I was lowkey 00:08 stocking you on the internet and you 00:10 have quite an accomplished resume like 00:12 it is really impressive you worked for 00:15 the Peace Corps you worked with Congress 00:17 women but of course I mean you're 00:19 working on this multi-generational 00:21 family farm tell me a little bit more 00:23 about that that must be quite the 00:25 experience working with you know your 00:27 family on something you know a business 00:29 together yeah I actually spent quite a 00:33 bit of time running away from the farm 00:34 which is why you saw the before and the 00:37 time with the congresswoman I was kind 00:40 of trying to ignore the fact that that 00:43 was probably gonna be the trajectory of 00:45 my life but I went off to Cornell 00:48 University after high school and so I 00:49 had like grand ambitions but I I guess 00:54 it took being over on the other side of 00:56 the Atlantic Ocean and living in a mud 00:57 hut for two years to recognize that some 01:00 of the stuff that my family had going on 01:02 on our farm was actually pretty darn 01:05 cool so the more unique and special part 01:08 of any farm is the family that's behind 01:11 it and so I work with my mom my dad my 01:14 brother my sister and two uncles and you 01:19 think you have co-worker dynamics that 01:21 are interesting you it it's a 01:24 Thanksgiving everyday like those family 01:28 holidays don't mean a whole lot when 01:30 you're seeing those people every single 01:32 day but yeah so I mean it's it's both 01:36 the reason that I came back to the farm 01:38 I mean it I would not have ever pursued 01:41 being a dairy farmer if I hadn't grown 01:43 up there right and it it kind of gives 01:48 me a reason to show up every day because 01:51 my family is counting on me but so we 01:54 we've got three different businesses and 01:56 we each wear a different hat to keep 01:58 them all rolling but yes it's good so 02:01 that's that's interesting just to take a 02:02 step back you said you ran away you know 02:04 as a young woman growing up on a family 02:07 farm you seemed like you wanted a you 02:10 know 02:10 greener pastures no pun intended so like 02:14 what was that like as a young woman 02:16 rubbing on a farm like did you walk like 02:18 what made you want to you know seek out 02:20 something else and do those you know 02:21 quite a different experience its Zambia 02:24 is that reworked or is it just you do 02:25 work in multiple countries nope it was 02:27 it was one country one mud hut all two 02:29 years I got very well acquainted with 02:33 those four walls um yeah I just you know 02:37 you especially being it's mostly the 02:40 dynamic of just being in a small town 02:41 and you go off and you get a college 02:44 education and you eat the world has 02:47 opened up to you I mean my parents were 02:49 always supportive I did a couple 4-h 02:51 programs where I got to travel to Mexico 02:54 and Japan in high school so like your 02:56 eyes get opened up to something that is 02:58 so much more diverse than what our 03:01 little town of 3,000 people has to offer 03:03 and it's hard not to crave like seeing 03:08 that and learning about it and being 03:10 part of it so I've been back on the 03:12 family farm full-time for five years 03:15 back from Peace Corps for eight years 03:17 and I mean sometimes I do feel like I'm 03:20 in a little bit of a bubble like this 03:22 whole pandemic that is continuing to 03:25 sweep through our country I mean in the 03:28 beginning when people were describing 03:31 their lives being upended and and being 03:34 stuck at home I realized apparently I've 03:37 been practicing social distancing I mean 03:41 with the exception of a few extra like 03:44 precautions that we took when like the 03:46 nut truck driver showed up or something 03:48 like that for like my life on our dairy 03:51 farm has not been changed as a result of 03:54 the corona virus and if that doesn't 03:56 change your life I don't know but it's 03:58 you know it's funny that's kind of the 04:00 beauty of living in a small town you 04:01 know my uncle he lives in a small town 04:03 in Oregon and the road he lives on is 04:05 literally called 9 Mile Road because 04:07 you've got to go nine miles to even get 04:10 to a gas station where he lives 04:12 so it's like there's there's a beauty in 04:15 that uh that isolation you know in a way 04:18 and a lot of farmers and people who grow 04:21 up on farms are already used to that 04:22 lifestyle and 04:23 yeah I've actually heard that line a 04:25 couple times you know people you know 04:26 they've been they've been ready for this 04:28 you know of course it's absolutely and I 04:33 like I certainly I mean it's something 04:36 that I feel mmm any other day of the 04:39 year not just because we're in 04:40 coronavirus like a disconnect like there 04:42 is certainly an isolation associated 04:45 with being in a rural community but um 04:48 but alternatively there's also this 04:51 incredible way that the community looks 04:54 out for each other so like I mean just 04:56 the relationship that we have with our 04:58 fellow farmers in this town and with our 05:00 neighbors so like it's it kind of you're 05:03 you're caught you know both ways but no 05:06 can trade off because it's great off it 05:08 is and my cows have no idea that there's 05:11 a pandemic happening so it's not like 05:13 the topic of discussion at the 05:15 watercooler each morning oh gosh that's 05:17 so funny but just like go back is I have 05:21 to ask you know living in a mud hut what 05:24 was that like I mean wow yeah I got 05:28 really really acquainted with a very 05:32 diverse range of spiders and snakes and 05:36 cockroaches and all sorts of other 05:39 critters that wanted to also use my home 05:44 as their accommodation but but honestly 05:48 I mean I think the Peace Corps was and 05:50 hopefully will continue to be because 05:52 right now there's actually no serving 05:54 volunteers because of the pandemic but 05:56 that's cool what an incredible program 06:00 they just take these Americans and after 06:04 just a couple months of training they 06:06 plop you down in the middle of a rural 06:08 village all I mean all over the world 06:10 some programs are urban focused as well 06:13 but so I then had the task of 06:16 communicating with this group of 06:20 villagers in Zambia oh what the heck I 06:22 was even doing there so and I mean they 06:26 were subsistence farmers so to be able 06:28 to go and and communicate with them 06:31 about farming but on a whole different 06:34 level and be able to 06:36 share my experience and to kind of 06:38 identify areas where there could be ways 06:41 that they could do better like so I mean 06:42 it was more a cultural experience 06:44 certainly than a professional building 06:48 experience but I think if you make it 06:50 through two years of Peace Corps you 06:52 probably can handle just about any 06:53 challenge that comes your way it must be 06:56 so gratifying to to see the results so 06:59 was the purpose of your travels there to 07:01 like help them with agriculture and 07:02 teach them you know the things you've 07:04 learned where you had already worked 07:05 with 4-h and were you passing on those 07:07 lessons to farmers in Zambia so this the 07:10 content of kind of the material that I 07:13 was trying to share with them was very 07:14 specific to what the program taught me 07:19 there in in Peace Corps so I certainly 07:21 have life experience but I was there to 07:24 focus on some forestry topics because 07:27 they have such a high rate of 07:28 deforestation but I also after a year of 07:32 being there realized people weren't that 07:35 interested in making compost files which 07:37 I had been constantly trying to engage 07:39 with them about but I discovered that 07:41 there was actually a demand and need and 07:44 interest in providing a higher nutrient 07:49 dense diet for their babies so I 07:51 actually a lot of educational programs 07:54 about incorporating protein into babies 07:57 diets and when you feed somebody at a 08:01 meeting you get like three times as many 08:04 people to show up that's the same in 08:05 Connecticut as it is in Zambia and so I 08:09 I probably went into Peace Corps 08:13 thinking that I was going to do much 08:14 more like wholesome agricultural topics 08:16 and at the you know halfway through my 08:19 service I discovered that there was 08:20 actually a need and demand and interest 08:23 in learning how to kind of make a more 08:28 nutritious diet for for their young 08:32 children so I didn't know much about it 08:34 before I got there but I made a point of 08:36 figuring it out so that I could be 08:37 researched that is so fascinating and 08:40 obviously as a young woman traveling 08:42 around the world that must be so 08:43 impactful and not going to these 08:45 countries and seeing you know the 08:47 devastation and 08:48 you use the resources around them to 08:50 develop their country that's that's a 08:52 really gratifying work like I said but 08:55 it's also I don't think that work gets 08:58 recognized a lot you know like I don't 08:59 think people nowadays really recognize 09:02 the work of the Peace Corps 09:05 but that systems that's really cool 09:06 that's really crazy so and then 09:08 obviously once you wrap that up you 09:10 moved on to the family farm and they 09:12 welcomed you back with open arms of 09:14 course they said they're just so happy I 09:18 think had about like being able to like 09:21 transition back and I had gone off for 09:24 like a 9:00 a.m. yoga one morning on a 09:27 Tuesday and I came back and as soon as I 09:30 walked out of my car my father was 09:32 standing down he goes 09:33 you been home for a week you better get 09:35 your butt back to work 09:38 two years in a mud hut like give me a 09:41 minute and so it turns out that one week 09:45 was sufficient to back situated and it 09:50 was off to work I would write alright 09:53 cool so then tell us a little bit more 09:55 about your family businesses that you 09:57 said there's three there's also a 09:58 storefront as well right am I not 09:59 mistaken yeah so so we have been farming 10:03 as a family for just about 70 years 10:09 my grandpa was actually a boy from the 10:11 Bronx and he went off to Cornell 10:14 University and he had intended to be a 10:16 veterinarian but then he got drafted and 10:19 served in the Korean War and when he 10:22 came back he did not get into vet school 10:25 like his grades or like his ability to 10:28 take the test and get in he had lost a 10:30 lot of information that he was supposed 10:33 to be able to remember and so he went to 10:36 go visit a buddy he made in the war who 10:39 happened to live in Canaan Connecticut 10:40 and he was riding on the back of his 10:43 pickup truck and he fell off and the 10:45 nurse who ended up wrapping his knee 10:47 became my grandma and so as a result 10:51 they got married on Christmas Day 1948 10:55 and started dairy farming together in 10:57 1949 10:59 and so here we are I'm I'm three 11:01 generations later so two of his five 11:04 children decided to take on that family 11:06 farm and so the core or the the 11:09 foundation for our business is the dairy 11:12 farm where we milk cows and that milk 11:15 goes to the Cabot cooperative um but 11:18 then my dad also came up with a product 11:20 called cow Potts so we're actually 11:23 manufacturing a biodegradable plant Abul 11:26 pot from our cows manure right there on 11:29 our dairy farm 200 feet away from the 11:31 barn where those cows are providing that 11:33 raw material everyday um and then my mom 11:36 she when she came onto the farm she 11:39 realized that raising a family and 11:41 milking cows was just a bit more 11:44 challenging for her to handle so she 11:47 actually started to build on the the 11:51 project that they had done for years 11:53 which was picking some sweet corn 11:55 putting in a bushel basket setting it on 11:58 the side of the road and it was the 11:59 honor system if a neighbor drove by and 12:01 they wanted a dozen years of corn and 12:02 they left two dollars they grabbed their 12:04 corn they went on their way and so she's 12:06 transitioned that into a year-round 12:11 two-story farm market bakery Garden 12:15 Center catering business greenhouse she 12:18 does it all but it allowed her to raise 12:21 her children while also being very 12:23 active on the farm but in a different 12:25 vein Wow and obviously you know passing 12:29 on what you've learned your children in 12:32 the next generation and building that 12:34 bond that must be so important I'm sure 12:36 you have like a lot of cherished 12:38 childhood memories you know on the farm 12:40 with your family I remember working a 12:46 lot oh my my summer breaks were a lot 12:50 different than a lot of my friends I 12:51 spent a whole lot less time at the town 12:53 pool there was certainly an expectation 12:57 that when you got your homework done 12:59 that you were out and helping and so I 13:02 certainly I don't I mean what a 13:05 tremendous opportunity to have my 13:09 parents around me to have this 13:10 incredible female role model 13:12 just did anything that she put her mind 13:14 to but yeah let's let's not use the word 13:17 cherish so tell me how exactly how many 13:23 four cows you have on the farm right now 13:25 yeah so today we're milking 287 cows we 13:29 had three cows have babies this morning 13:31 so we we we just added three more cows 13:34 to the barn but basically on our farm a 13:37 cow has one baby every year just about 13:40 more or less and so we have probably 13:43 about 350 mature animals on the farm and 13:50 so we actually milk all of our cows with 13:53 robots 13:54 so each cow gets to choose her own 13:57 milking schedule and so she wears a 13:59 collar that also acts like a Fitbit and 14:02 so it records for activity and her 14:05 chewing behavior so that we can get 14:08 early indicators if she's not feeling 14:10 well she's obviously not gonna get up 14:12 and grab a snack just like if we're not 14:14 feeling well we're probably not gonna 14:15 try to eat much um and then because who 14:23 she is and then we can track all that 14:25 information about her how much milk she 14:28 gave how long she was being milked for 14:29 the quality of her mouth I mean all of 14:32 it and so our barn is pretty 14:35 self-sufficient and we only have to step 14:38 in when there's kind of any outliers or 14:40 anything that's an extenuating 14:42 circumstance and it seems to something 14:45 that's very very important to your 14:47 family farm is sustainability and 14:49 there's a lot of practices you have in 14:51 place to remain sustainable what is it 14:55 like being a farmer in the 21st century 14:57 I mean I'm assuming there's probably 14:58 more regulations than there were maybe a 15:00 decade or two decades ago but also just 15:02 as a farmer who cares about the 15:04 environment 15:05 you know what changes for recent changes 15:06 have you guys been implementing yeah um 15:09 my my dad likes to joke that my 15:11 grandparents were hippies and so they my 15:15 grandma back in the seventies dreamed 15:18 about having a digester I mean they they 15:21 decided when we did finally installed 15:23 our digester in 1990 15:25 seven to call it the ester digester and 15:33 so we actually have the longest 15:35 continuously operating digester in the 15:38 country so we have been generating a 15:40 renewable biogas which is what we burn 15:43 to heat our house and hot water instead 15:46 of propane or heating oil and where that 15:49 gas is being captured from our cows 15:51 manure and so we and we have solar 15:56 panels that generate the electricity 15:58 needed to operate our dairy barn in our 16:00 cow pox factory we do a lot of different 16:02 conservation farming practices to make 16:05 sure that we reduce soil erosion soil 16:07 compaction so that our our land base can 16:10 continue to be very productive for 16:14 growing the crops to feed our cows and 16:16 that we're also protecting the waterways 16:17 we have multiple rivers that go through 16:21 our farm and our different fields and we 16:24 need to make sure that anything that 16:26 happens on our farm stays on our farms 16:29 because those rivers eventually run into 16:32 Long Island Sound and so we could 16:35 potentially have impacts on a whole 16:36 different ecosystem if we don't do 16:39 things correctly but I would say that 16:42 something that stands out to me as being 16:44 very different from when my dad started 16:47 farming was there is much more 16:55 hesitation by consumers and the public 17:00 to assume that we're doing the right 17:02 thing and I don't know that the concept 17:05 and the term sustainability is always 17:07 associated with farmers unless it's 17:11 small-scale organic biodynamic so like 17:14 there's certain buzzwords that are 17:17 apparently more easily aligned with 17:19 sustainability but I would say to you 17:23 that as a 300 Powell conventional dairy 17:26 farm we have actually embraced 17:29 sustainability I mean for decades and 17:32 that there's there's a very important 17:35 place for us to be and us 17:37 to a role for us to play in sustainable 17:41 agriculture even at scale so I I think 17:46 that our industry has a lot of work to 17:49 do to regain that trust by our consumers 17:53 because I on a daily basis have to 17:56 confront a lot of skepticism by people 18:00 that were making decisions that are the 18:02 right thing to do for the earth for our 18:05 community for our cows so we need to 18:08 kind of like figure out how to bring 18:11 everybody together to get that to be a 18:14 clear consensus that that we're we're 18:17 doing things the best way that we 18:19 possibly can not because it's all about 18:21 the dollar figures but because it's 18:23 what's going to mean a sustainable farm 18:26 for the next generation where we're not 18:29 in this for a quick buck we're in this 18:31 because we want to see a fourth 18:33 generation on our farm 18:35 so you see some hesitancy from other 18:38 farmers to adopt the policies and one 18:41 that maybe not policies but the things 18:43 that you have implemented to remain 18:45 sustainable you're seeing some 18:46 resistance in the agriculture community 18:48 from that no no I think I think the 18:51 agricultural community is embracing 18:53 different practices it's not a one size 18:55 fits all but I think that there is a an 19:00 assumption by the average consumer that 19:03 animal AG is bad I mean you see meatless 19:07 Monday you see people converting to 19:09 plant-based diets you see people 19:10 choosing almond milk over dairy milk 19:12 because it's not it's the more 19:14 environmental option and I think that we 19:18 need to be much more vocal out than 19:23 proud my farm is not only generating our 19:27 own our own energy from our cows but 19:29 we're maintaining 600 acres of open 19:31 space for a Wildlife and Recreation our 19:35 cows are actually recycling byproducts 19:39 from our own diets so they can actually 19:43 take the Brewers grain that is used to 19:45 make beer and they convert that into 19:48 milk by having it as part of 19:50 you know one of the ingredients in their 19:52 food so I would say the hesitation is 19:54 not by farmers to do the right thing and 19:56 choose sustainable methods but the 19:59 challenge now versus thirty years ago is 20:02 having people that go to the grocery 20:04 store and making educated decisions with 20:08 their purchasing based on what is truly 20:11 sustainable I'm hoping this interview 20:14 will educate consumers about those 20:16 choices awesome well thank you so much 20:19 Amanda thank you so much this is a 20:21 wonderful conversation 20:23 of course we'll include links everything 20:25 down below to all of your family farms 20:27 and everything in the links to your 20:28 stores but thank you so much this is a 20:30 great conversation and happy to have to 20:32 have you on our show I appreciate you 20:34 inviting me it is always a pleasure and 20:37 a joy to talk about what we do on our 20:39 family farm yes and of course consumers 20:42 we need to remain educated about the 20:44 choices we make and there are farms out 20:46 there that are making the right choices 20:48 and you know dairy farming is oh gosh 20:51 we've done so many videos with dairy 20:53 farmers and learning about you know the 20:55 like we have there's dairy there's a 20:57 water beds for cows like is it who would 21:00 have known like it's and when you learn 21:02 about the little things about the 21:03 industry like that it's just so 21:05 fascinating and kind of heartwarming 21:07 like you know um these farmers they 21:09 really build a a real heart-to-heart 21:12 connection emotional connection with 21:13 these animals and forget about that you 21:17 know well and I'll leave you with two 21:20 things I guess is one is that when you 21:24 buy milk from the grocery store it is 21:28 most likely with in coming from within a 21:30 hundred miles of you so milk a local 21:34 food product 365 days a year 21:37 our cows are providing milk every single 21:39 day Christmas New Year's July fourth it 21:42 doesn't matter and so you can rest 21:46 assured that when you're buying milk at 21:47 the grocery store you're buying a local 21:49 product that's coming from a local farm 21:51 and if you have a question like you've 21:56 got the brown sitting right in front of 21:59 you like call them email them look at 22:01 their website like if you have if you 22:03 have a husband 22:04 tation are concerned about something 22:06 just client you know access the 22:09 information be a critical thinker and 22:11 and and reach out to farmers and and 22:14 learn about how your food is made and 22:16 we're always happy and willing to share 22:18 with you alright awesome well thank you 22:22 so much Amanda all right we'll wrap it 22:23 up thank you take care

theTUNDRA sits down with Amanda Freund of Freund Farms, a multi-generational family farm based in Connecticut that is revolutionizing agricultural sustainability practices. Check out this link to learn more about Freund Farms: https://cowpots.com/

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