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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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