Family. Everyone would agree that is a pretty important word—one that deserves some attention today. Our East Hill blog has focused on several members of our creamery ‘family,’ but we have yet to feature a blog on any members of the Burley family (besides an introductory blog about Gary and Betty). We (Gary and Betty) have five children. Our oldest (Holly) is part owner of and manages our second dairy (Graceland Dairies, LLC). She and her husband, John, live in Dansville, NY with four month old daughter, Daisy. Our oldest son (Rollin) is serving our country in the US Army. He and his wife, Adelle, live in Alabama with grandchildren, Annabelle, Olive, and Raleigh. Our youngest son, Kyle, lives in Warsaw, NY and spends his time working between our two dairy farms and driving semi hauling feed, manure, etc. Our youngest daughter, Diana, lives at home and handles calf raising and bookkeeping at East Hill.However, this week we are so proud to feature our middle son, Ryan, who is such a big part of our farm and the creamery, but is far too humble to ever tell you that. So, East Hill followers….’meet’ Ryan Burley!
Ryan and his wife, Megan, live near East Hill Farms, where Ryan works every day. He said with a chuckle that he does “a little bit of everything.” He grew up milking cows, but now they have some really good help that does that and he oversees them. He helps get things ready for vaccinations and other parts of the cow care, and he makes sure the guys always have what they need to do a great job with the cows. He does field work, mechanical work, plumbing, and electrical work…just to name a few things. Oh, and Ryan is the guy who cut all the basswood shelves for our cheese to age on! So, you can thank him when you are enjoying that delicious East Hill Cheese.
BOCES, a trade school that is offered to high school students, is where Ryan got started in becoming so good with hands-on work. After high school, he was employed by a general contractor who did masonry and carpentry where he worked for 4 ½ years. During this time, he also worked part-time on the farm. He has been full time at East Hill Farms for 4 years now. Ryan really gets enjoyment out of working with people. It was easy to tell in the conversation with him how much he truly cares for the guys who work under/with him. He was eager to say that it makes his day when people enjoy their job and enjoy working for East Hill Farms. It’s quite obvious that some of the Hispanic labor looks up to him, and he tries to be a good example to them. Things like picking stone out of a field are not fun tasks, but Ryan is never too big or important for any job, and he will gladly do this sort of job with the guys just to make sure they have fun doing it. He also built a calf barn with the farm crew, and he loved getting to see them work together setting the trusses for the barn roof. As he put it simply and so humbly, “I just want everyone to enjoy themselves.”
When asked about his parents building the Creamery and wanting to make cheese, Ryan said that he thinks it’s a good idea and a step in the right direction. He said it is a huge challenge, which is probably why most farmers don’t do it (take a raw product and market it direct to the consumer). One may think that helping with the Creamery building and working full time on the farm are quite the workload, but life doesn’t slow down for Ryan when he gets home. He is the proud father of a now 4 month old, Judson. Ryan and his wife, Megan, also have Burley Berries with 1 acre of pick your own strawberries, and this was the first year that the community could come pick.
Passion and care for people runs deep in Ryan and Megan’s house, because she works 3 days each week as an extension educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County, with a focus on beginning farmers. She has been putting her time and energy into a program called ROOT (Refugee Onsite Occupational Training), where she helps refugees from countries such as Burma, Nepal, and Congo, acquire jobs. She recently helped 35 of them get jobs in the Eden Valley on produce farms. She applied for and received a grant to help get these refugees out of the city of Buffalo and onto farms in the country working with produce and animals, similar to occupations they had in their native countries.
It is a breath of fresh air to get to know people like Ryan and Megan who care so much for the people around them. Also, we find it comforting to know that the staff at East Hill who report to Ryan are truly cared for and definitely enjoy their job, whatever it may be. We are proud to call them our son and daughter-in-law, and we hope that you will get a chance to meet Ryan and Megan at some point during one of your Creamery tours or at an event we will host. If you have any questions for Ryan, please send them our way. Thanks for reading today!