Don’t be surprised if you walk out of the on-farm shop at Seven Stars Farm with reverse sticker shock. Cindy Dunphy, who owns and manages the biodynamic, certified organic farm along with her two sons, Ryan and Zack, routinely gives newcomers two quarts of Seven Stars yogurt on the house.
“It’s our way of paying it forward,” she says.
Dunphy has been doing just that since the previous owner of the farm endured a catastrophic farming accident 20 years ago. Dunphy and her family immediately stepped in to support their friends and neighbors, helping with the unyielding demands of the farm.
A stint volunteering to manage the books evolved into an interest in farm operations, and in 2014 stewardship of the 420-acre farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania was passed to the Dunphy family.
Never planning on a life in farming, a fervent belief in organic keeps Dunphy grounded when milk trucks break down or power outages prompt 5 a.m. wake-up calls. When her children were young, Dunphy fed them organic food and even started her own organic clothing line because she wanted “only the purest” for their skin.
She brings a similar philosophy to the treatment of her cows, maintaining a thriving herd of Jersey cows using homeopathic remedies, herbal tinctures, and healthy pasture. The herd of Jerseys graze from early spring to late fall. The rest of the farmland is managed organically to cultivate haylage, small grains, and hay to feed the dairy cows through the winter.
As a biodynamic farm, a guiding principle for Seven Stars is to honor the interconnection between soil, plants, and animals. In that vein, the farmland is protected from development through conservation easements, ensuring generations of families benefit from its ecosystem services: healthy food, clean water, and improved soil quality.
A point of pride for Seven Stars farmers is their carefully managed, robust composting system. The farmers meticulously monitor windrows of compost made with bedding, biodynamic tinctures, and the manure of healthy cows—as opposed to potentially problematic manufactured fertilizer. They turn it unceasingly, wait patiently for the rich texture and earthy smell, and talk excitedly about getting it out on the fields.
Along with crop rotation and diversification, the cycling of organic matter not only provides a healthy balanced diet for the soil and the plants, but ultimately contributes to superior pasture fertility and thriving dairy cows.
Each spring those cows bound off to their first day of grazing at the annual “Cow Skipping Day,” a community celebration that embodies the authentic organic ideal of truly pasture raised.