When all four of Paul and Rosemary Gingue’s sons wanted to join the family dairy business, the family was presented with a problem. The business wasn’t big enough to support the livelihoods of all four sons.
So they made room for the two youngest as they reached adulthood, helped the two oldest buy another dairy, then helped merge both operations just two years later. It all went according to plan … the second one … or maybe it was the third.
The point is, the Gingues put their heads together and made the necessary adjustments. As a result, they all work together these days on a dairy that’s weathered some tough times and seems stronger for it.
Paul’s two older sons, Dan and Shawn, then in their late 20s, formed Gingue Brothers Dairy in 2008, leasing another farm in Fairfax, Vt., about 70 miles away—as the tractor rides—from St. Johnsbury, where the original family farm is located.
As originally planned, the new farm was to be a mostly separate operation. “After they started the farm in Fairfax, the business plan was all put together, and it looked rosy. Then,” continues Paul, “milk prices tanked just six months into when they started the operation.”
“I started sharing equipment with them so they could save on their custom work,” Paul says. “Going back and forth and helping them on the farm, I just kept thinking to myself, ‘We can’t continue doing it this way.’ I figured if I’m going to invest this much into that farm, it’s probably a pretty darned good opportunity to put another business plan together and have all four boys become members.”
The two farms still work semi-autonomously, with family communicating via text and conference calls. They also bridge the gap by sharing one main tractor, a Massey Ferguson® 8660.
As a result of its increased road speed as compared to their older tractor, the MF8660 reduces travel time by about 40 minutes. It uses less fuel too, both on the road and in the field.
Using the MF8660 to work their silage bunk, pull a liquid manure wagon and tiller—among other tasks—Shawn says they save as much as half of the fuel used by their other comparably sized tractor.
The original transition strategy may have needed a few tweaks, but one thing that has gone as planned was the family’s efforts to begin the transition early.
Paul started handing over responsibilities while the boys were still young, allowing them to learn by doing. “Dad started a good 10 years ago allowing us to do more things,” says Dan. “We’d screw up a few things, but that was probably the best way to learn,” he adds with a smile. “That’s helped us and helped him as well, and we really respect him for that.”
For the full story, visit http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/farm-fusion/.
Also, share with us how your farm has adapted to change.
The 40-acre Windmist Farm’s location—on the busy corridor between Boston and the suburbs of southern Connecticut—makes it ideal for many of the Northeast’s discerning foodies. The cars on North Road will often slow down just a bit to take in the view.
But it’s the food the farm produces that is worth stopping for.
George and Martha Neale’s herd of “Belties,” more than five dozen head of Belted Galloway, is eye-catching to the tourists, but it’s a genuine draw for Windmist customers. A coarse, shaggy outer coat makes it well-suited for the chilly New England climate, without the layer of back fat that usually keeps cattle naturally warm. The result is not only lean meat for the customer, but efficiency for the producer; carcass weights are often 60% or more of live weights. At Windmist, Belties are exclusively grass-fed, offering yet another healthy advantage for the foodie customer.
Windmist’s location also allows the Neales to take advantage of an innovative, local process scheduling system. Martha says their beef-processing cycle is the envy of neighboring states, and could serve as a model for others who retail their own beef.
Over time, much of the infrastructure for beef processing has shifted to the Midwestern U.S., leaving fewer and fewer USDA-inspected processing facilities behind for the smaller producer. Rhode Island’s answer to such a shortage is the Rhode Island Raised Livestock Association (RIRLA). Founded in 2005 and supported by grants from USDA and other fundraising efforts, RIRLA partners with meat-processing facilities for a soup-to-nuts option for farm retailers: Deliver an animal, receive meat products from said animal already Cryovac®-sealed and frozen. “In other words, ready to sell!” says Martha.
Farmers’ markets and direct sales to chefs and grocers through web sites, such as Farm Fresh Rhode Island (www.farmfreshri.org), help the Neales clear inventory and sell niche products. “On the weekends I list what I have available, chefs and grocers place their order on Monday, on Tuesday I get my list of what sold, I pack for delivery on Wednesday, and the restaurant has it on Thursday.” Plus, she says, “it’s great to see our farm’s name on a menu.”
All of this, and the farm continues to expand. Their home garden, for instance, has turned into a year-round functioning greenhouse, thanks to USDA’s seasonal high tunnel program. The Neales’ 1,200-square-foot greenhouse extends their growing season by weeks on either side for vegetables, while providing shelter for greens in the winter.
Meanwhile, other farms in the area help create something of a “slow-food district” on the island. The Neales credit their neighbors with raising grass-fed beef years before they did, and a farmstand across North Road sells fresh vegetables; all the more reason for weekenders to slide down that Newport Bridge ramp and pick up a little something for the week ahead.
Read the full story and learn why a great experience with a Massey Ferguson tractor—and a great deal—helped the Neales decide they “won’t be going back to John Deere.” http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/a-farm-with-a-view/
Tell us what the “slow-food” movement means to you. Is your farm serving the local food movement?