A Family Farm in the Economic Sweet Spot

Just outside the tiny township of Strykersville, N.Y. sits Fontaine Farms, the highly regarded dairy operation run by brothers Jim and Steve Fontaine. In March, the snowbanks around the barn haven’t quite thawed, and for Jim and Steve, the colder...

May 2, 2016 by FarmLife

A Family Farm in the Economic Sweet Spot

Just outside the tiny township of Strykersville, N.Y. sits Fontaine Farms, the highly regarded dairy operation run by brothers Jim and Steve Fontaine. In March, the snowbanks around the barn haven’t quite thawed, and for Jim and Steve, the colder...

Just outside the tiny township of Strykersville, N.Y. sits Fontaine Farms, the highly regarded dairy operation run by brothers Jim and Steve Fontaine. In March, the snowbanks around the barn haven’t quite thawed, and for Jim and Steve, the colder it is, the better: the fresh milk cools quickly and helps maintain the quality of the product for which the Fontaines are known.

Last winter, the business was coming off three straight years as a National Dairy Quality Award winner, and until this summer, they were riding a streak of more than 70 months straight of somatic cell counts (SCC) below 100,000. It’s an impressive run, for sure, in a region where dairies are numerous and competitive.

There’s a lot of white stuff in these parts year-round. The brothers’ Strykersville farm sits in a region rich—and getting richer—in milk production. New York is the country’s third-ranked dairy state, and Wyoming County is New York’s top-producing county, and a top 20 county in the United States.

Annual output in the area is more than 1 billion pounds of milk. Everything milked here is shipped somewhere else for processing, much of it to neighboring counties where cooperatives churn out high-quality dairy products that ship worldwide. The Fontaines, with the help of shop full of AGCO solutions, pool their milk with the 350-farm-strong Upstate Niagara Cooperative, which produces beverage milk as well as yogurts, dips, cheese and butter.

“We ship 7.5 million pounds a year,” says Jim, “and we have three full-time guys: my brother, my son [Jacob] and me.”

As dairies in New York and nationwide either get much bigger, generating bulk product, or much smaller—crafting specialty, added-value “farmstead” goods—the Fontaines have found that their herd-size comfort zone is an economic sweet spot too. In fact, they count on their ability to manage quality as a way to manage income. The cash premium from Upstate Niagara for product of the Fontaines’ standard is significant, adding tens of thousands to the bottom line each year.

“I think the way we’re set up now, we’re running as efficiently as we can,” says Jim. “Our accountant says keep doing what we’re doing. I guess we’re doing something right.”

“We’ve done it ourselves for so many years,” Steve says. “And we see no reason to change that now.”

For the whole story, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/a-family-farm-in-the-economic-sweet-spot/.

Leave a comment.

  • No comments yet. Use the form to start a conversation!

Stay Connected. Follow AGCO