Dairy famers are incredible people! They are some of the most hard working, compassionate, innovative, patient and persistent people on the planet. (I should know – I married one!) Here’s your chance to learn a little more about some of the dairy farmers here in New York. To accomplish this, we are asking 20 questions of 14 dairy farmers in New York State. Their answers will be honest and forthright. Ready? First up…Bill Banker!
1. Why are you a dairy farmer?
BB: Dairy farming is something I have wanted to do as long as I can remember. I love being my own boss, working with the cows, planting and harvesting the crops, and working outside. (Except, of course, when its minus 20 degrees with a wicked wind!)
2. How would you describe your farm?
BB: Our farm is called Blue Hill Farm and located in Morrisville, NY. We have 130 cows in free-stall style barn and milk them in a parlor along with my wife and brother.
3. If your cows could talk, what would they say about you?
BB: That I am punctual, and reliable! And they would say they can always count on me to give them a hand when they need it.
4. What is your favorite thing to do on the farm?
BB: Working in the morning. I get up at 2:30am to feed cows and get things rolling. I have the whole world to myself!
5. How many hours do you typically work in one week?
BB: I work between 60 and 80 hours, depending on the season.
6. Did you go to school to be a farmer?
BB: Sure did. I have two years of college and my wife has four years in Animal and Dairy Science. My brother has two years of college as well in Ag Mechanics.
7. What do you for fun off the farm?
BB: For many years, we would go to our kids’ soccer games. Now that they are grown, our “fun time” consists of visiting our kids. We’ve been to San Diego and Colorado in the last couple years, and our daughter is looking at a semester abroad in Australia, so we are trying to figure out if we can make that work.
8. What personality trait makes you a better farmer?
9. Is your glass of milk – half full or half empty?
BB: Half full. “It will always get better tomorrow.” is the farmer mantra, I think, and “next week will be warmer than this week.”
10. What challenges you as a dairy farmer?
BB: Weather, for sure, and milk pricing. Two things I cannot control.
11. What is one thing you are most proud of in regards to the farm?
BB: As farmers, we have worked very hard over the years to improve the health and overall comfort of our cows. But the biggest thing we are proud of is the job the farm did in helping us raise three great kids, who will be there to help at the drop of a hat and who have a great work ethic.
12. Do you do anything special for your cows or calves?
BB: There are lots of things we do for our cows and calves. For example, the food they eat is called a TMR (Total Mixed Ration) and that is balanced so that every bite is the same and highly nutritious. We balance their diets to the amino acid level, meaning they eat better than many humans. Also, when the weather cooperates, our cows are able to go outdoors and stretch their legs and lay on some grass.
13. What is one thing you recycle, reuse or repurpose on the farm?
BB: We recycle the local college’s horse bedding. We mix the bedding with lime to kill any bacteria and use it for bedding in our barns. Once it has been soiled there, it is pushed into our manure pit where we are able to capture the nutrients in the manure to reduce the amount of commercial fertilizer we use.
14. What do you usually wear to the barn?
BB: Normally, I just wear jeans and a t-shirt or sweatshirt and work boots. But in the winter, I wear many layers to the barn, including sweathshirts, vests, Carhartt coveralls, a jacket, a hat, gloves and Lacrosse-style insulated pac boots. Sounds like a lot – it is! I have weighed my winter layers and it is over 20 pounds of additional clothing!
15. What color tractors do you drive?
BB: We drive red tractors around here.
16. Where does your milk go?
BB: We sell our milk to AgriMark, which is the same company that makes Cabot Cheese and other dairy products.
17. Do you have a nickname for your cows?
BB: Some of them get a nickname based on their personality, but all of them have a number for identification. Just like people, each cow is very different. Some are shy. Some are very friendly. Number 21 was a family favorite. She was a very slow moving cow – but had an awesome personality! Every day, she would stop on her way to the parlor, chewing her cud, and peer in as if to check on us. And if we ever did a surgery on a fellow herdmate, 21 was always the first one to come over and observe. She was curious and sweet, hanging her head on the rails, chewing her cud and drooling – her signature trait.
18. What is your favorite dairy product?
BB: Ice cream! Favorite flavor? Chocolate almond.
19. What is the last thing you do on the farm before calling it a day?
BB: I walk through the barns to make sure everything and everyone is OK.
20. What do you want everyone to know about you – the dairy farmer?
BB: Being a dairy farmer is a great way to live and raise our family, even on the worst of days. We are also very passionate about taking care of our cows.
You can learn more about Bill and his wife, Corinne, and the daily grind at Blue Hill Farm by following them on Facebook.