Farmers tend to keep to themselves. It’s part of the territory. They typically farm in remote areas, enjoy working out in the fields on a tractor alone, and when they are around others – the others tend to be the non-talking type – cows. So imagine my delight when I received our next farmer’s responses to the 20 questions and he said, “I hope I didn’t write too much.” I love hearing the back-story of dairy farmers – how they got their start, who got them hooked on cows and what their favorite moments on the farm are. There is so much pride in dairy farmers, that all I can do is listen. Hope you enjoy learning about our next dairy farmer, Steve Palladino.
1. Who are you?
My name is Steve Palladino. I am an upstate New York dairy farmer from Lansing. I have been married to my wife, Ellen, for 26 years this month. We have 5 children: 4 daughters and 1 son. Their ages range from 25 to 18. I have considered myself a farmer since I was 8 years old when I got my first heifer calf.
2. Why are you a dairy farmer?
Plain and simple, because I am truly blessed! I was fortunate enough to be raised on a farm in Pompey, NY. My grandfather, Nunzio Palladino, an Italian immigrant, had dairy cows in Italy. After coming to the United States, he purchased our home farm. My grandfather introduced me to the world of agriculture and the important role it has in everyday life. Being around cows at a very young age, he saw my love for animals and my ability to work with them, and fostered that in me. So from very early on, I knew cows and land were going to be part of my life.
3. How would you describe your farm?
Our farm is a larger than average family farm that is owned and managed by the Chapin, Fleming, Hardie and Palladino families. We have 1,420 cows and 1,250 heifers and calves. We work approximately 1,900 acres of cropland used to grow feed for the cows.
We are what I would call a “progressive” dairy farm, trying to keep up with latest technologies and implementing them if they make sense on our farm. One of the greatest assets of our farm is our team. Everyone who works here is a team player and makes it enjoyable to come to work every day.
4. If your cows could talk, what would they say about you?
Believe me, I have tried to have this conversation with many of them, and I don’t get much of a response other than a curious stare, a “can’t talk with my mouth full, can’t you see I’m chewing my cud” look or a big ole lick on the arm or face with their sandpaper-like tongue.
If they could talk, I think they would say, “We have kicked him, poo pooed on him, knocked him over in the manure, and trampled him in a trailer. So either he is really dumb or he really cares about us.“ (It is the second one.)
5. What is your favorite thing to do on the farm?
I love to just walk the barns and watch the cows, heifers and calves to see them do those “goofy, only cows can do things”.
6. How many hours do you typically work in one week?
My workweek ranges between 55 and 60 hours.
7. Did you go to school to be a farmer?
I actually went to school as a pre-vet student, but Cornell’s dairy program is what made me decide owning a dairy farm was what I really wanted.
8. What do you do for fun off the farm?
I enjoy hanging with my family, playing and watching soccer, gardening, and traveling for mission trips.
9. What personality trait makes you a better farmer?
Patience, and as a previous farmer mentioned, being a “cow whisperer”.
10. Is your glass of milk – half full or half empty?
Definitely half full! As I mentioned in question one, I am very fortunate to be blessed with the life I have.
11. What challenges you as a dairy farmer?
What challenges me more now than anything is the growing gap between the farming community and consumers. It is so easy today for consumers to be misinformed about modern agricultural practice and become skeptical about the food they eat, how we treat our animals and how we treat the land. So I need to do my part to educate anyone I can about the care we give our animals and land.
12. What is one thing you are most proud of in regards to the farm?
I take great pride in knowing that all of our practices on the farm are for the benefit of our people, cows and land.
13. Do you do anything special for your cows or calves?
Our cows either have a waterbed (literally) or a beach (bedding with sand) to sleep or relax on at their leisure. I don’t even have that luxury!
14. What is one thing you recycle, reuse or repurpose on the farm?
We recycle bedding from Frontier Fibers. This is a bedding material used on the cows’ waterbeds made from recycled paper products. It is very soft and absorbent, keeping the cows’ bed surfaces comfortable and dry.
15. What do you usually wear to the barn?
I’m tired of cold and wet, so I’m going with warm weather here. My daily attire consists of Wrangler jeans, short sleeve button-up shirt with our farm name on it and Merrell hiking shoes, because of all the walking I do around the farm.
16. Where does your milk go?
Currently, our milk is marketed through Dairy Farmers of America and could go to many different processing plants. This fall, hopefully, our milk will be going to Cayuga Milk Ingredients in Auburn.
17. When was the last time you took a true vacation that didn’t involve a farm meeting – and where did you go or what did you do?
January of this year, I took a vacation that I had been planning for a while in my head. With all my kids getting older and starting to venture out in their own lives, my wife and I wanted a kind of last hoorah for us as a family. We went to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was fantastic!
18. What is your favorite dairy product?
This is a no brainer, ice cream! An ice-cold glass of milk is a close second.
19. What is the last thing you do on the farm before calling it a day?
There is a spot on the farm where I can stand at the end of the barn, near the cows, and look out over the valley to see the land. If I can do that at the end of every day, even after some of the toughest days, it always makes it a great day.
20. What do you want everyone to know about you – the dairy farmer?
I’m just a normal guy that strives to do my best every day for my family, our employees, our cows and our land. It is a hope of mine that every consumer that has questions about modern agriculture takes the time to ask a farmer.
To contact or follow the daily activities of Steve and his partners on the farm, be sure to check out their Facebook page.