The trees and ground are covered in snow, the animals are all safely in their winter barns and coops and we are thinking of you — our readers and friends of the farm — as the Northwoods settles into winter.

We wish for you the best of health and cheer, even as we are all sheltering in place. This week has been a combination of joy and trial, and my hope is that through stories like this, we can spread the joy with you and learn from the trials as we move forward together toward our vision for a healthy planet and all its inhabitants.

Yesterday, we hosted a Zoom video chat with our grandparents in Rochester, who haven’t been able to visit the farm in 15 months. Kara logged in via her phone and took them on a tour of the farm and the animals, and we laughed about their antics and character.

Lambs came right up to sniff the phone, pigs grunted hoping for a snack and turkeys yapped noisily amidst the snow. It offered a treasured chance for us to see each other virtually and share a fun moment to alleviate the isolation. And Grandma and Grandpa didn’t even have to brave the snow and ice, or the virus.

Our farm has been on lockdown since mid-March to keep health and safety first. We knew that the pandemic would intensify with the cold weather and the opening of schools and we have been working for months to build ways to support people like our grandparents and you in continuing to source safe, high-integrity foods and offer cheer to your loved ones without gathering in-person through the holidays this year.

As every family becomes touched by this virus, it becomes even more clear how our choices impact each other and our community. While our grandparents have been safely quarantining at Charter House in Rochester, Steve’s folks (who live in town) are currently in the hospital with COVID-19. Because of our own strict quarantine and protocol, we at Farmstead are safe, which is a model for the action required to turn this pandemic around. Let’s do this together, so we can create a better world on the other side. Please be safe. Our hearts and thoughts are with you all.

It’s synergistic that Gov. Evers released his statement cautioning against gathering in person for the holidays and encouraging virtual connection and shopping online, just as we released this year’s Holiday Gift Guide from the farm. Similar advice for safely celebrating the holidays was recently released by the CDC.

We’ve been anticipating this situation and working for months to offer choices that empower our Friends of the Farm for having a safe holiday. Our medically-informed leadership and deep compassion for the situation has not only completely transformed how we do business at Farmstead but also honed our vision for how our products and services can benefit and impact the families we serve.

From creating and curating, website building and photographing, our dedication creating this year’s Holiday Gift Guide has been with your health and best interest at heart. Giving the gift of health this year is the greatest sacrifice and act of love during these difficult times. We are here to support you being able to share as much joy through distance as possible. We have created this offering for you with love and a desire to keep you and your family safe.

You can find our gift guide on our website.

We wish for you a joyous holiday season, filled with warmth and cheer. Please be safe, so that we can see you down on the farm sometime.

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. She can be reached at 715-462-3453 or www.northstarhomestead.com.