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Follow organic dairy farmer Jonathan Gates as he reports weekly from his Vermont family farm. Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy farm, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farmer members who supply the milk that goes into making Stonyfield's yogurts and smoothies. The entire family pitches in on this third-generation farm. Check out some of the happenings on his farm and post your comments. Jonathan loves to get feedback from readers.

MEET JONATHAN, KAREN, BENJAMIN, JUSTIN, NOAH, HOWARD, MARY AND, OF COURSE, THE COWS

Hi, my name is Jonathan Gates and my family and I operate Howmars Farm, a certified organic dairy farm, located in Franklin, Vermont. The town of Franklin is in the northwest corner of the state with its northern border being Canada. The farm has 235 acres. Forty five acres is open pasture land, and the remaining acreage consists of hardwood and softwood woodland and wetlands. I am a third-generation dairy farmer. I run the farm with my wife, Karen, our three sons, Benjamin, Justin, and Noah, and my parents, Howard and Mary. My mom moved here in 1943 when she was 8 years old. Her father, Hugh Towle, operated the farm until his death in 1966. He normally milked 15-20 cows, first by hand by lantern-light, and later with vacuum-powered milking machines and electric lights. Tractors replaced horses in doing the field work, and a bulk tank was cooling the milk by 1960.

In 1967, my parents decided to begin operating the farm. They purchased a mixed-herd and began milking in the original dairy barn. In 1970, a new steel-framed free-stall barn was built with a double-three herringbone milking parlor. Through the '70's, we milked 30-35 cows, gradually transforming the herd from a mixed Holstein-Jersey herd to an all Jersey herd. (Learn more about Jerseys.) In 1983, I graduated from the University of Maine at Orono and began working on the farm full time. That was also the year Karen and I were married. The herd of purebred registered Jerseys has increased to 60 milkers and 30 replacement heifers. We also have 5 Black Angus cows and 6-8 Black Angus steers for our organic beef operation. This gives us a total number of head of 105.

During the grazing season the milking herd, beef animals, and older replacement heifers feed on lush green grass provided by managed intensive grazing (mig). The forage source for the winter months is long stem baleage from plastic-wrapped round bales and dry square bales. The animals also recieve a pelleted grain concentrate year-round, along with free-choice kelp meal, trace mineral salt, minerals, and clay. All 45 acres of pasture on the farm is incorporated in the grazing rotation. We purchase all our stored forages from another farmer in Franklin, and most of our feed concentrates come from Morrison Feeds in Barnet, Vermont. All the feed for our animals has to be certified organinc. We have been a certified organic dairy since October, 1997.

Our main source of income is from the sale of organic milk. We belong to CROPP, a farmer-owned cooperative based in LaFarge, Wisconsin. (You may be familiar with the cooperativeís products under the Organic Valley brand of milk and cheese, etc.) They work with our local farmer-owned cooperative, St. Albans Cooperative Creamery in St. Albans, Vermont.

Our farm produces approximately 850,000 pounds (about 100,000 gallons) of milk per year. The majority of our milk is sold by CROPP to Stonyfield Farm for yogurt production. We also sell organic beef, organic meat chickens and turkeys, maple syrup, compost, Christmas trees, logs and firewood. These other facets of our farm mesh very well with the operation of the dairy since they all have their season: Maple syrup production in the spring; compost, chickens, and turkeys in the summer and early fall; beef in the fall; Christmas trees, logs, and firewood in the winter.

I hope this brief overview of our farm gives you an idea of what goes on here at Howmars Farm. The diversity of the farm makes it very interesting and challenging. Hopefully, this description of the farm will generate some questions directly, and in my daily entries I will probably go into more detail regarding specific parts of the farm.

óJonathan, Howmars Farm


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