Somber News… Or a New Beginning?
May 2, 2018, the last day that Carman Brook Farm operated as a family dairy operation. The fall prior we decided that a change was needed in how we do business, the changing landscape of the dairy industry left us at a crossroads. To continue or pivot in a different direction. Through much thought and careful consideration, our family decided that going forward our focus would center on our maple operation as we transition from the 4th generation to the 5th generation.
Daniel has been living and working on the farm all his life, and since 1989 Karen has been there side by side. The farmhouse where we still reside was his first home and the home of his father, and grandfather before him. All through these generations, dairy farming has been at the core of the farm at the end of Fortin Road. These decisions were not arrived at without recognizing the gravity of the past. Last fall he announced that by spring he would be ready to retire from dairy farming, with the intention to start enjoying other activities and travel more often.
Dairy Farm Auction
After exhausting all our available options to disperse the herd and equipment, we settled on the course to have a dairy farm auction. To facilitate operations, Daniel and I hired Wright's Auction to manage the process. Immediately, all hands had to be put into action for preparation, Ron Wright and his very competent and helpful crew were integral to the entire operation. Working together, the cattle were prepared, and our equipment was staged throughout the grounds of the farm. We jokingly (slightly sadly I might add) referred to the area holding the equipment affectionately as “the Boneyard”. Laying it all out to be sold, you begin to realize there is a lot more stuff to get rid of than you may have realized. The gallery at the end of this post has some photos of this included.
Our veterinarian, whom we have had a relationship for many years, completed the final herd health clinic and the auctioneer finalized the auction booklet. All the cattle were inoculated for shipping fever ensuring they would arrive at their new home healthy.
One of the jobs Daniel most enjoyed throughout his lifelong career as a dairy farmer was working with his cattle, particularly the young stock. Year after year he cultivated a new, happy and healthy group of heifers, this year being no exception. The quality of the herd was so obvious that one selling point our auctioneer said several times was, "Dan has managed this herd right up to the end like he's going to continue dairy farming". He never let the details of caring for the animals slip after he decided to have an auction.
So, after six weeks of preparations, farmers from far and wide traveled to our auction to bid on advertised items in the Boneyard, make cattle purchases, and to spend the day socializing with friends and peers. Some even attend dairy farm auctions just to socialize with other industry members and enjoy the food truck, serving great hamburgers and French fries. To cap it off, for whatever the reason, we had a beautiful blue-sky day and above average attendance numbers.
Post Dairy Farm Auction
Often with a somber tone, I am repeatedly asked how I feel about being retired. For me, not much has changed, I am still working full-time in the sugar-house. The production and shipping of maple syrup and products, managing the paperwork, and setting up the Farm Fresh News calendar must continue. The dairy farm auction really wasn't about me.
Daniel, on the other hand, is enjoying activities that are not quite as urgent as was previously required being a dairy farmer. He keeps busy every day conducting maintenance or facilitating some previously neglected project. For the first time in years, the work benches in the tool shop are organized and clean. Additionally, we discovered tools and other things we did not even know we owned. The large closet by our home entrance, previously known as the “Barn Closet”, holding set after set of work clothes has been cleaned out and dubbed the "Activities Closet". Permanently stained clothes swapped out for sailing, kayaking, and hiking gear.
One of the benefits of time is you realize new interests, Daniel has always wanted to learn how to sail; now, with his barriers removed, he has done just that. We purchased a secondhand sailboat and a couple of sailing books, coupled with YouTube, you can teach an old dog new tricks. As of this writing, we have sailed the Missisquoi Bay twice. Granted it was only in a mild wind, but we look forward to many more opportunities.
As we keep repeating, this is not sad news, we are just changing how we do business, and plan on continuing our tradition as stewards of Carman Brook Farm for generations to come.