Friday, January 13, 2017

Last Working Dairy Farm in Weathersfield to Sell Off Cows

Weathersfield, VT
by Taylor Young
January 9, 2017

Vermont is known for its picturesque pastures, red barns and grazing cows. But that scenery is getting harder to find.  A state that once had thousands of dairy farms now has just over 800 and another one is about to close. This weekend a farm in Weathersfield is saying goodbye to its cows forever.

David Fuller has owned a dairy farm in Weathersfield since 1977.

"Since I was a kid I've had cows and I just like them," said Fuller.

And over the past 40 years, he's sold over 50 million pounds of milk.

But even for this small, family-owned farm, the amount of work put in isn't worth the decreasing amount of money coming out.

"We could never afford, ever, to just simply farm," said Fuller.

What Fuller saw as a promising career in the 1970s is now an industry many like him are leaving due to a 40 percent drop in milk prices.

"There comes a time when to stop and that's here," said Fuller.

So, he's hanging up his farmer hat and saying goodbye to his cows.

"That's Susie and we have Susie's daughter which I can't remember her name right now," said Fuller.
During our interview, he couldn't seem to take his eyes off his grazing herd of Holsteins.

"They do get in you and it makes it a lot tougher," said Fuller.

The selling of this farm not only marks the end of an era for the Fuller family but also the town. In 1980, Weathersfield had more than 10 farms. After this one is sold, there will be none.

"It seems like this is the way it is," said Peggy Ainsworth.

Ainsworth is the co-owner of Westlands Farm in South Royalton and serves as a delegate on the Windsor County State Farm Bureau.

She says the drop in milk prices are affecting dairy farms across the state including her own.

"We do somewhere around 1 million pounds a year. So, for every dollar decrease that's about a $10,000 less cash flow than we have," said Ainsworth.

Since Wednesday, milk prices have dropped $8 since 2015, so for the Westlands Farm that means $80,000 less a year. Ainsworth says that lack of money affects the ability to repair equipment and pay for extra labor.

"If you don't have the labor and you're doing it all yourself, you can only go for so long. Me and my husband are both in our 60s and who knows how much longer we have left to do it," said Ainsworth.
As for Fuller and his farm, his next step is to make sure his cow families are auctioned together to a new home.

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