“Jersey cows give the richest milk and have the sweetest personalities. They are like dogs— they love attention.” So explains Becky Fullam who, with husband Joe and 15-month-old son Sam, run Old Ford Farm, the only farm in Gardiner that sells raw milk.
Becky and Joe’s venture began in 2008 when they were in college and negotiating with Penny and David Rossetter for the use of part of their land to establish a farm. The Rossetters have loved having the farm, have been very supportive and, as Joe remarked, “have been extremely good landlords who have left the farming decisions to the farmers.”
The Fullams began with two cows, figuring they would just produce milk for their own family and a few friends. There was no electrical power or well, so they milked their cows by hand on the driveway and took the equipment home for cleaning. Obtaining electrical power was tricky due to the layout of the property, requiring months of work and easements from neighbors. Until that finally happened, neighbor Carmine Castaldo gave them permission to run a hose and extension cord from his house. The well was installed a year later.
As time went on Becky and Joe decided to expand their operation and build a certifiable milk house. The milk house was equipped with a sink and hot water heater, and they no longer had to transport the equipment home for cleaning! A bulk milk cooler replaced cooling the milk in ice water. Finally, a dishwasher was added to sanitize the jars prior to sale.
Although they sell vegetables and meat also, the business took off because of the milk. Their customers recognized the incomparable taste and nutrition of pure, grass-fed unpasteurized milk (with the cream floating on top!)
With the onset of hurricanes Irene and Lee, and the two months of rain that followed, the Fullams wondered if they should scrap the dairy operation. The pasture was so saturated the cows’ hooves turned all of the sod into muck. Their feet were constantly coated in mud and they had no green pasture on which to lie down. Becky and Joe decided a barn was well overdue; they converted a 40 foot trailer into a tie-stall barn by cutting out one long wall and building stalls.
Today the farm has five cows and two heifers. (A heifer is a female who hasn’t given birth yet, after which she becomes a cow.) There are about 60 to 70 regular customers, with other sporadic ones. The cows are grass-fed, eating fresh pasture in the summer and hay in the winter. Last year was the first summer that their pasture could support all of their animals without supplementing with hay. The soil was poor when they arrived, but it was slowly improved by frequent mowing, application of chicken manure (they raise 300 laying hens, along with 500 meat chickens and 100 turkeys each year), and rotational grazing (confining the cows to a small slice of pasture and moving them daily). Now the grass sustains their whole operation during the grazing season. In fact, the land can now support more cows.
Becky and Joe are licensed to sell raw milk and a state inspector comes once per month to take samples. New York authorizes the selling of raw milk only on farms, not at farmers markets or retail stores. About half of the states in the U.S. do not have a licensing procedure and therefore cannot sell raw milk at all legally.
So those who appreciate raw milk are very lucky to have determined farmers like the Fullams. For more information, email Becky and Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Are they in it for the long term? You bet.