Nothing like the farming community to come out in full force when you need them. I’ve had an overwhelming response from dairy farmers this go around for Thirty Days of Food. While I probably single handedly keep most of them in business every time I go to the grocery store (we buy a lot of dairy products), I was having a really tough time coming up with some creative ideas to feature these awesome farmers who volunteer to share their lives. Two weeks ago while we were on a weekend vacation, I had a cream of asparagus soup with ham and immediately the light came on. I knew I needed to re-create it and feature a dairy farmer in the process! To go along with this lovely little soup, I’ve got the lovely Carilynn Coombs.
DAIRY: CARILYNN COOMBS
When did you start farming? What brought you into farming?
I was born in Louisville, Ky. When I was 3 my mother chose to move me and my brother to far western Ky where one of her pen pals (a really long story) grew up. We lived there for around 2 years before my mother fell in love with her pen pal’s brother who also happened to be a dairy and tobacco farmer. From the time I was 8 years old I have lived on a farm. I instantly fell in love.
What has been the hardest part of farming for you?
There are two things really. Being a dairy farmer we never really get a day off and even if we do get a day off it doesn’t keep my husband from calling and checking in on things. Sometimes that means my husband has to miss out on things when it comes to our little boy. He is only 4 months old and most of the time my husband leaves before he wakes up and then gets home after he has gone to bed. I try as often as I can to get out to the farm (we don’t live on it yet.) while A is awake so him and his daddy can have some time together. We both make the effort to ensure we get to spend as much time together as possible. The other hard part is the worry. My husband works around big equipment and big animals. He tries his hardest but doesn’t always succeed in being careful. Especially during the summer/fall when he has to deal with so much equipment. He has gotten better about it but a farm accident is always something I worry about.
What has been the most satisfying part of farming for you?
Doing something that most said would be impossible. I remember a calf was born out in the pasture over the winter time. The mother didn’t take it so the baby was all on its own. My step-father found the calf with nearly frozen legs. We brought it up to the stripping room (a shed type room where we strip tobacco and have a heater) and I spent the whole next few days in there. I warmed her up, fed her every few hours, taught her to stand and then how to walk. I spent every night in the room with her to make sure she didn’t die. Everyone said that she wouldn’t make 5 days. I am happy to say she lived a long life on our farm.
What crops (or animals) do you grow and why?
We have over 250 head of dairy cattle. We are currently milking 78 with replacement heifers and steers also on the farm. We grow around 100 acres of corn for silage and 300 acres of grass and alfalfa hay. We grow/raise these because it is my family’s passion and it is what his father and grandfather did. We have always been cow people. I grew up on a dairy, moved away, and found someone with a dairy. It is just who I grew up to be.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in getting into farming?
It is hard work and not for the faint of heart, however, it is one of the most rewarding lives you could ever have. There isn’t a better place to raise children and be a family, then on a farm. Also, get to know your extension agent; they can be an amazing resource.
Potatoes, ham, asparagus, carrots… And of course heavy cream. The perfect comfort soup for fall and winter! I serve my soup with croutons over the top and my husband likes to add some shredded cheddar cheese!
- 8 ounces ham, diced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, add ham and cook. Stirring until golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ham to a plate.
- Add butter to pan. Add the carrots, potatoes, and onions to pot. Cook until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add white wine and scrape brown bits off the bottom. Cook until wine is almost evaporated. Add flour and mix to combine.
- Add broth and milk. Cook until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the asparagus and cook until tender.
- With a slotted spoon, scoop out 1/2 cup asparagus pieces and set aside for garnish. Blend the soup either in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth.
- Return the soup to the pot, stir in the cream and season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Add the ham back to the pot. Ladle into bowls and serve.