Chambers Valley Farm, Salem, New York

The Chambers Valley lies on the New York State line, tight-up against Sandgate, Vermont. The Chambers brothers' farm straddles this border, with 350 acres in Vermont, and 750 in New York.

Bob and Jim Chambers milk 730 Holsteins on this beautiful family spread, started here by their grandfather, John Chambers Sr., in the 1930's. His son, John, Jr., passed the operations on to Bob and Jim, who have successfully consolidated smaller farms and up-graded operations, bringing Chambers Valley into a strong position today.

The next generation is fast getting ready to do its part on the farm as well. Lisa, Jim's daughter, graduated from Salem Central High School and has headed off to SUNY Cobleskill where she is getting a degree in Ag-business. She shows every sign of being ready to carry this family farm on from where her uncle and dad leave off a decade or two from now.

Dimock Farm, Peru, New York

Winners of the 2007 Agri-Mark Top Quality Producer Award, Don and Martha Dimock of Peru, New York, are all about dairy farming. They stand on the shoulders of generations in farming before them, and have successfully passed their farm on to two of four children, son Bruce, who is a co-owner, and daughter Anne, who is an employee.

Don's father had a feed business, Eastern State Farmer's Exchange, which evolved and merged into Agway. As a boy, Don worked on his uncle's farm in Oxford, MA. After high school, while working as a milk tester, he met Martha on a Heiden family farm in Wilbraham, MA. They were married in 1962, and for eight years worked at Whittier Farms in Sutton, MA, before moving to Peru in 1971.

With $3,000 in savings and a $10,000 family loan, they managed to buy their farm with a land contract from the retiring farmer, a Mr. Davis, who moved to a small house directly across the road from the barns. "He kept an eye on us as long as he lived," smiles Martha, over morning coffee, adding, "I like to think he's still looking down on us today . . . he was always so interested and encouraging."

Dimock Farm benefits from rich soils and good employees. Seven hundred acres of loam and sandy soil produce corn, alfalfa, and good quality hay. As for the workers, Don says that starting out as an employee has stood him in good stead.

"We've hired good people and, having been there myself, I know how to work well with them," he observes.

With a herd of 265 and 240 being milked, Dimock Farm is one of the larger operations to ever win Agri-Mark's Top Quality Producer Award. Don and Martha attribute their success, in part, to their remodeled milking parlour.

"It's a sensible set-up," observes Don, "where one person can easily milk sixty cows an hour." Having one reliable person minimizes the possibility of a task slipping unattended between two or more workers.

The calves get blue ribbon care here. Their 40 by 80 foot barn holds up to fifty, and is an insulated structure of Don's design. The venting is totally natural; there are no fans whatsoever.

"It's a good environment for calves, " says Don, "and a great environment for those of us who are taking care of the calves."

This, it seems, is the true secret to Dimock Farms enduring success: Don and Martha have created a clean, sensible environment where cows and people are all encouraged to give their very best.

Don-Sher Farm, Ellenburg Center, New York

The Don-Sher Farm sits tight to Star Road, State Highway 190, between Plattsburgh and Malone, New York. Don and Sherry McNeil began milking cows here 21 years ago after renting for a few years about ten miles away.

Glenn, the oldest of their three children, works for the Soil and Water Conservation District now. Jenna is in animal science at SUNY Cobleskill, and Danielle studies business administration at Clinton Community College.

Managing a small family farm with 200 acres of alfalfa, timothy and clover, and 60 registered Holsteins and Ayrshires is "full time all the time." Somehow, Don and Sherry always find the time to make visitors feel welcome, however.

On the late summer afternoon I stopped by, Danielle was excited to introduce a few of the farm's favorite critters. There was Candy, the Brown Swiss Ox; Tiburon, the Ayrshire; and Tabby, the Holstein. These magnificant animals are regarded as part of the family. Together with Dixie, their golden retriever, we all went out to a small side pasture for a family portrait.

Finishing the visit, Danielle asked for a picture with Tiburon. The flowers were nicest by the porch, but when standing there, Tiburon completely blocked them. "No problem," laughed Danielle, leading her huge Ayrshire milk cow right up onto the porch! There they were, Danielle and Tiburon, two friends leaning across the rail, flowers all around. It was a "Blue Ribbon Moment" at this neighborly farm, proud to have its milk go into the making of McCadam Cheddar.

Goodrich Farm, Knox, New York

Bill Goodrich's mom and dad came to this farm in 1962 from a rented farm in Hardwick, MA. His mother, Joan, still lives in the farmhouse, but Bill now has charge of the 200 acres, 150 field and fifty forest and wetland.

"Aside from his forty head of Holstein, one of Bill's proudest possessions is his "No Till Seeder." "It'll seed twenty acres to hay with no turning of the soil in a day easy," he boasts, and then says as an afterthought, "It's so strong and heavy, it'd drop seed right through three inches of asphalt!"

Now that's a vision: hay coming up through the pavement from here all the way to Albany over forty miles away!

Iron Will Farm, Berne, New York

Reta Youngs and Kevin Dibble manage forty cows at a family farm started by Reta's grandparents over fifty years ago. Their farm straddles Brick School House Road in Schoharie County in the town of Wright, just a few hundred yards from the Albany County line.

Iron Will Farm evinces the hard work of a family that loves the land, their herd, and the life of farming. Peacocks stroll the barn yard, all descendents of a pair brought here years ago. Don't let talk of exotic birds create visions of a gentleman's farm with watercress in the sandwiches, however. The vintage 1940's era, rusting GMC truck out beside the barn isn't there for show; it was used just a season or two ago in the building of a new barn, and may yet see service again before it's scraped.

Reta and Kevin are proud to be cooperative members of the McCadam farm family.

Marlyn Farm, West Chazy, New York

The Little Chazy River winds for almost two miles right through Marshall and Lyn Ducharme's 'Marlyn Farms' in West Chazy, New York. Here, in the 1940's, Marshall's grandfather, fresh from Quebec, began dairy farming.

When Bernard, Marshall's father, took over in the ‘50s, there were 385 acres. Now, under Marshall, Lyn, and their two sons, Jon and Tony, the property has been enlarged to over 800 acres. The free stall set-up for about 270 was installed in 2002. A new shop came in 2005, and the heifer barn was expanded in 2006.

These statistics don't really tell the Marlyn Farms story, however. The heart of this family is glimpsed as the boys take to the fields for haying; as Lyn leads 'Paolo' her miniature donkey across the back yard; during family swims on a hot summer's day. Of course there is always McCadam Cheddar Cheese on hand when company arrives.

"The sharper the better," says Marshall with a smile.

Miner Farm, Chazy, New York

Located in New York's fertile Champlain Valley, the Miner Institute is the present day manifestation of the philosophy and principles once embodied in Heart's Delight Farm.

Heart's Delight was developed on William Henry Miner's family homestead of 144 acres in Chazy, New York, beginning in 1903. By 1918 the farm had grown to 12,000 acres. There was a wide variety of animals on the farm, including beef and dairy cattle, mules, draft horses, purebred horses, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, pheasants and brook trout.

William H. Miner's will provided for the establishment of a school and farm devoted to teaching scientific and environmentally sound agricultural practices. Today, utilizing a working Holstein dairy farm and a Morgan horse herd, Miner Institute demonstrates the latest innovations in crop and dairy/equine production so that regional producers and allied industry may understand the on-farm application of new technologies.

The dairy complex at Miner consists of four barns. A 160-cow freestall barn built in 1970 for dairy cows now houses pregnant heifers and far-off dry cows. A freestall dry cow barn with calving pens was constructed in 1999. There is also a greenhouse barn built in 1993 for calves from weaning through four months. The newest addition is an insulated freestall dairy barn. Built in 2004, this facility was designed with labor efficiency and research capability in mind. The current herd, consisting of approximately 300 registered Holstein dairy cows, is milked three times a day in a double-12 parallel parlor with automatic identification and pedometer system. This barn also has an attached research wing, including an office/laboratory and feed room, and 16 tie stalls that allow the measurement of individual cow feed intake.

A dairy cooperative representing 1,400 farms in New York State and New England, Agri-Mark is especially pleased to include the Miner Institute among its member farms. The dairy excellence exemplified by Miner Institute goes into every Agri-Mark product, including the blue ribon Cheddar cheeses of McCadam and Cabot.

Kenyon Hill Farm, Cambridge, New York

Mike and Donna Nolan raised four children (Courtney, Curtis, Shane, and Ryan) here on this unbelievably beautiful farm in the rolling hills of Cambridge, NY. Shane and Curtis were happy to put a halter on a Holstein calf borrowed from the mix of registered and grade 'black and whites' here. Ruby, the family dog, tagged along as we headed outside.

"We milk 190," they boys enthused, climbing the hill behind the farm house and barns. eager to show the panoramic view of Vermont to the east. We were joined by mom and dad and, after a fashion, the calf settled down for a family portrait.

As warm light receded and purple shadows began to fill the valley, the Nolans gave me directions to George Foster's place, just over a hill, across a brook and around a corner in the view beneath us. George, a milk hauler for McCadam/Agri-Mark, is a celebrated story teller - a visit with him is often long, but always rewarding.

“George calls his place ‘Paradise’,” mused Mike as we rode back in his pick-up. He added - after a long pause - “I like to say we look down on Paradise from here!”

Skellkill Farms, Greenwich, New York

Steve Skellie is the seventh generation of Skellies in dairy in the township of Jackson, New York. His family has worked this land for over 150 years. A visit to the farm reveals why this efficiently managed Skellkill Farm will continue.

With 455 acres growing hay and corn, this farm supports a grade Holstein herd of 400 milked twice daily. Employees include 7 from outside and two family members. With cousins Jay Skellie and Tom Jilek in dairy nearby, it's clear this family's farming roots run deep.

Steve and Melissa have three children, all still in school. Will they continue with the farm? "Well, school's first. They haven't yet decided," Steve muses.

This summer, the passion of their youngest, Madeline, is totally softball. At 17, she's pitching and playing first base for the Saratoga team, and they're headed to the Nationals in Illinois. And Mom and Dad? Well, you will find them out there too. Farming is important to the Skellies, but they know it's a close family that makes farming possible through the generations.