100 years and counting: Miller Farm hosts centennial celebration

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VERNON, VT. — The centennial anniversary of the Miller Farm seems reason enough to celebrate, according to farm co-owner Art Miller.

"We recognize we're part of the community," Art said, inviting the public to an open house on July 17.

Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the event will feature hayrides, kids games, walking tours, refreshments and a petting zoo. More information can be found on the Miller Farm's Facebook page.

A talk by Holstein Association CEO John Meyer will begin at 1 p.m. The farm has one of the oldest and continuously operating Holstein-registered herds.

The farm recently entered into a contract with Stonyfield Yogurt. Starting in July, all of the farm's organic milk will be shipped to the company. The arrangement is an exclusive three-year deal.

Previously, the Miller Farm provided milk to Agrimart. The company owns Cabot Cheese. Before that, the farm contracted with the New England Milk Producers' Association.

"We've never tried to market our own milk," said Art.

Dairy farming operations began on the property on July 17, 1916, and have remained that way under the Miller family ever since.

"Our history goes back to the Walker Farm," said farm co-owner Paul Miller, whose grandfather started the Vernon farm.

The Walker Farm received a grant back in 1770 to assist with its startup in Dummerston. Paul's father, one of eight boys, first bought a farm in West Brattleboro but then moved to Vernon.

"My folks lived in this house," Paul said, pointing to the residence at 1732 Fort Bridgman Road. "My dad managed Bunker Farm in Dummerston for a few years."

Paul's father also helped started the elementary school in Dummerston.

Manual to machine

Farming has "changed tremendously" over the years, according to Paul.

"We went from manual to machine labor," he said. "We've expanded under my generation. We were milking 55 to 60 cows then I got up to 135 cows or so."

Currently milked at the farm are 160 cows out of a herd of 320. Of three dairy farms in Vernon, the Millers' is the smallest.

The farm became a certified organic producer in 2009. Conventional milk prices could be unpredictable. Organic seemed to maintain steady prices, said Art. Other benefits were seen since the move to organic.

Now, the goal is to figure out how to keep the farm within the families.

"It's going to be a dilemma for us," said Keith Franklin, who is not part of the family but was asked to be a co-owner and has worked on the farm for 28 years. "It's certainly on our mind how to move the farm to our kids."

Although machinery has restructured how the farm works, chores are still very time-consuming. There's milking, feeding and cleaning the barns for the animals. That roughly three-hour process happens at both ends of the day, Art said, meaning 4 a.m. and 4 p.m.

"Farming is what we do between chores," Franklin said.

But other family members will lend a helping hand with the chores.

"Some days," laughed Franklin. "All three families are very involved."

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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