Spring: The Season of Change, Part 1

 

This week has been abuzz with new life as signs of spring have come to the surface. As the green grass grows richer and the roads get muddier from farm tractor and truck traffic, we are reminded how thankful we are for the seasons in Western New York and praying that we have seen the last of old man winter. Spring fever is upon us all, and just the same there are also many jobs to be done on the farm, to which the Burley’s are no exception to this rule. April has been especially busy, as spring calving is underway and the cows are being turned out to full pasture for the season.

With this season of change in mind, this week I had the opportunity to visit Holly Moore, Gary and Betty’s daughter who co-owns Graceland Dairies in Dansville, NY. Holly has been operating this farm since 2007, where it formerly was a hog operation. Taking care to show me what is happening currently on the farm, I got a first-hand look at all of the young calves in the barn as I arrived near the end of calving season.

Spring Calves
Spring Calves

The calves get fed twice a day, and were enjoying the comforts of barn living in the early stages of their life. After 6 weeks of age, they will be put outside for the rest of their lives and never again be confined to a barn. This is a major difference from the traditional dairy practices in most of Upstate New York. Holly agrees that although they do not see the high volume of milk in their cows as barn confined operations, they do see higher qualities in the cow’s health and milk. Stewardship of the land and prioritizing animal care and health are of utmost importance to the Burley family, and it can be seen in the values they hold in their farm practices.

Calf at the water trough
Calf at the water trough

After observing the calves feeding for the evening, we went to visit the cows at the milking parlor. Holly explained that she has a dedicated work staff, that despite the challenges of hiring labor, her business could not operate without their vital work ethic and reliability. Noting the conversation about the possibility of a minimum wage increase, she realizes that her business model might need to modify to adjust for these increased labor costs. But despite these challenges that may come ahead, you can see where the education, experience and background Holly has gained in her young tenure has enabled her to react and thrive in a difficult profession. She has learned what hard work was from her parents, perspective from working abroad on dairy farms in New Zealand, and business acumen from her leadership role at Graceland Dairies. If anything was clear to me that day, it was that Holly and the Burley family are involved in agriculture not because it’s easy work.  It is a part of them and they enjoy working with the animals and the land and they are conscious about of the quality of our food chain.  They are concerned about the origins of food sources for the next generation, and how food production affects health and quality of life for humans and the animals that are a part of it.

Check back next week to read more about my visit to Holly’s farm!