July 27, 2009

Ridgeview Dairy Farm in Argyle, New York

When I was growing up my parents and grandparents raised cows, chickens and pigs. They had longtime friends who lived in Argyle and also raised animals and did farming. We tended to spend a lot of time with them since they had the same interests. Often we would help them with a particular farming task and they would return the favor with whatever we needed done. When we drove to Argyle growing up, my father would roll all the windows down and proclaim that he LOVED the smell of cow manure and corn silage. All the while my sister and I gagged ~quite dramatically I might add. I was always the oldest of all my parent's friend's kids. And the Argyle friends' kids came along when I was 9. Their son was about 4 years old when they were in the thick of farming. That little boy LIVED and BREATHED anything farm related. Well, his father eventually got out of farming....he always had a "regular" job anyway and it just got to be too much. The couple ended up getting a divorce and needless to say we didn't see a whole lot of them. I get kind of emotional (yup, me..) when I see the kids...all grown up now...AND the son is a big time FARMER which is actually no surprise. He is undoubtedly living his lifelong dream of being a dairy farmer. For the past 3 years or so he had been renting a farm and running it himself. It was a dairy farm which he worked for the whole 3 years to turn over to Certified Organic. Then he decided that it was counterproductive for him to try to rent from someone else....so he bought his own 50 acre farm. Every time we would run into his mother we would tell her that we wanted to bring the kids over to see the animals and the working farm but never seemed to have (make) the time to follow through. So once again after seeing her last week (and not seeing my sister much at all due to the hectic baseball schedule) we bit the bullet and made the trip. It was better than any school field trip. The farmer and his girlfriend made time in their busy farming schedule to show us around and answer questions...and they didn't hesitate to let us know that they had to get back to their work...because chores need to be done before the 4:30pm milking time.
In this barn, 65 dairy cows are housed. I have to tell you specifically about the conditions these cows are cared for in. Although the barn is old, it has huge fans on the end that draw the hot air out and provide circulation of air. There was a cool breeze throughout the stalls where the cows are hooked with a chain but loosely and such that they can lay down if they want or stand up. They had good looking fresh hay in front of them and the blue buckets in front of them are filled fresh every 10 minutes by a built in water spicket. The cows had plenty of room between them. They don't go to a milking parlor, they are milked right in their own area. To music. The barn had a sound system piped throughout. Hearing top 40 music in the barn actually made it seem like a cool place to work. Although it must have been potent in there because even I could smell it.

The several contraptions that hook to their utters are also hooked to the steel lines that run from the stall over head to the big milk tank where secure bio protocols are in use. I think that means clean? The farmer moves down the line of 65 cows milking each of them individually.
The farmer (Dan) said they get 7,000 gallons of milk every other day. A refrigerated truck comes to take the milk. He used to supply to Stewart's but he said they don't pay the farmer what he deserves, so he sells his milk to a co-op. He is working on getting his current farm switched to organic and said that he will get 3 times more money for the organic milk that will be produced.

Other than the dairy cows, they had one horse, 4 pet goats, 2 dogs, 15-20 heifers (one year old cows) and banty chickens and some baby chicks.

The baby calves stole the show for the kids. This little guy below licked and tried to suckle on my littlest nieces fingers. Needless to say we are going to HAVE to go back. Reagan was surely impressed by the vastness of owning the land and THAT MANY cows and other animals. I think it made an impression on her that he SELLS milk to the stores and that our milk ORIGINATES right there. She was actually a little grossed out by that, but we explained the homogenization process and she was better. I was mindful during the visit of the respect we must give these hardworking beyond explanation people that do what they do for our food supply. How ridiculous that someone would consider heaping more tax on a farmer.....
Reagan asked on the way home if he is rich. My sister and I almost in unison answered..."If you call doing what you love rich..then he certainly is.


Allison said...

great post - you beat me to it. I've got mine all written, I just have to set aside a couple hours to get the pictures uploaded from my slow computer. It was a fun day, I look forward to us doing it again - lets hope Kyle sleeps in the car next time!

Jennifer W said...

Hey! ;-) They don't pay ANYONE what they are worth.

The Candle Wine Project said...

I think you miss understood how much milk they produce. Milk is measured in pounds, not gallons, when it comes to the farmer. Farmer Dan was probably thinking in pounds when he told you 7,000 every other day, which is about 800 gallons. We had 60 cows, and that's how much we produced every other day.