Karyn comes from Maltese farmers, and though in Australia they were tradesmen, every one of her extended family grew their own food in some way. She “stumbled” into the dairy industry on the South Coast, after finding love with beef cattle as a young girl. Karyn is the first in two generations to return to making her living solely from the land.
Carissa grew up in the mountains of Montana, but spent several weeks a year at her grandfather’s beef ranch in California. As a little girl, she would sit with him while he milked and talked, doing everything so carefully. That milk was liquid gold, and his cow his goddess.
Later Carissa discovered a passion for financial analysis, but the corporate world was unfulfilling to her. In 2003, struggling with illness, she traveled to Australia with Karyn. The dairy where they stayed was healing ground and it was also where Carissa realized that cows are in her blood. “It’s a generational thing,” she said. “When it surfaces, that’s that.” For Karyn, there was never any question: she becomes her best self when she’s with cows; she connects intuitively. She can’t not be around them.
Together, Karyn and Carissa spent the next ten years building the skills they wanted to inform their dairy business. Carissa did professional bookkeeping to observe the financial responses to decision making in the dairy, retail and non-profit sectors, while Karyn worked in dairies observing everything from parlor technology to staff management. This was during the global financial crisis: educational years.
At Benmar Farm, we’re driven by three ideals. We build relationships between people and food, connecting them to the joy and abundance there. We care for our animals as unique individuals, treating their milk as a reciprocal gift. And we pay our knowledge forward: demonstrating that it’s possible to run a humane dairy on a commercial scale, while doing all we can to pass on what we’ve learned and are learning.