It’s just before 6 AM and the day at Triform has already begun. This morning I’m with householder Max vom Stein, his daughter, Lily, and co-worker, Lena, as they start the daily routine of caring for and milking Triform’s cows. These beautiful animals are a big part of the farm and Max was kind enough to give me a tour of the dairy operation to let me get sense of just how these cows fit into the bigger picture of the community.
While we talk, Max is busy herding heifer calves born this spring to nurse with their mothers. He explains that Triform’s herd is a mixed one, combing a variety of breeds, including Jersey, Devon, and Swiss Brown cows. Once the calves are seen to, we move on to milking. I learn right away that Triform’s cows are more than just livestock; each has their own name and distinct personality. Lily introduces me to Stormy, a very sweet Holstein that I’m told is one of the cows most beloved by the community. As we settle in to milk, slowly filling our pales, Max elaborates on all the ways that Triform’s unique approach to its cows differs from a typical dairy farm.
To begin with, the cows are cared for according to organic principles and produce Demeter certified Biodynamic milk. This means that they are fed a diet exclusively of hay also grown at Triform and their milk is some of the finest milk possible. Producing more than 80 pounds each day, the dairy provides enough to supply every household in the community with all the milk and yogurt they need. But the access they provide to fresh and wholesome dairy is only one of the ways Triform’s cows contribute to the wellbeing and healing power of the community.
For the young people who choose to work in the dairy, being with the cows is powerfully therapeutic. A lot of this has to do with the fact that Triform’s dairy operates exclusively through hand milking. With Max’s guidance, Triform’s students, apprentices, and journey people milk twice a day—once in the morning and once again late in the afternoon. Not only does this offer a sense of routine and connection with the daily rhythmic cycles of nature, but milking the cows provides an opportunity for hands-on engagement with the world through meaningful work. Through this work, young people, establish relationships with each other, with volunteers and with these large animals. All of this, of course, fosters personal growth by teaching responsibility and by building confidence and practical skills. Max also tells me that one of the rewarding aspects of the dairy is the sense of pride and collective accomplishment the young people working there experience through their ability to contribute so directly to providing for the entire community.
For everybody at Triform, being involved with the cows is about so much more than just milk or work; it is an opportunity to care, contribute and connect.