Family farms are located throughout the countryside of New York and if you live in Fabius, you may have heard of Barbland Dairy. Having grown from a small herd in 1950 to 1,800 dairy cows, 4,000 acres of cropland and 40 employees today, the goal of making the cows a top priority has remained the same over the years. Currently the farm has three partners: Chip Engst, Luke Huysman and Bret Bossard. With multiple partners and multiple generations involved in the farming operation, each person can specialize in an area of expertise, which allows Chip to be the office manager and the third generation to handle daily operations. Luke manages the crops and equipment, while Bret oversees the animals. Check out a video that NYAAC produced highlighting Barbland Dairy.
We recently had a chance to talk with Bret and his wife, Johanna, who is the high school agriculture teacher at Hamilton Central School District. Here is what Bret had to say about life on the farm.
Why do you farm every day?
Farming is in my blood. I grew up being involved in 4-H and Junior Holstein Association (both agriculture youth organizations) and it’s simply part of my life. It’s what I know and it’s what I love. Chip and Luke are the same. We were all raised around dairy cows. It’s our legacy and it’s our future.
What are you doing on your farm that leaves a positive impact?
Our farm believes in outreach to our neighbors and our community. Our doors are open and we want to answer their questions, which is why we have an active Facebook page and create a bi-annual neighbor newsletter. And because of the growing disconnect so many people have with agriculture and our farm, we host several farm tours throughout the year. Check out our Facebook page to contact us to schedule a visit!
What is the biggest challenge you face in dairy farming?
Like many businesses, our greatest challenges are the things that are out of our hands and that we have no control over. The price of milk is volatile and the weather is unpredictable. The next time you’re at the grocery store buying a gallon of milk, remember that what you pay for that gallon doesn’t go directly to the farmer. The price that the farmer gets changes all of the time, which makes our daily management decisions even more challenging.
Can you explain what you do on your farm that impacts the future of the industry?
Our crop program has improved over the years and we’re always looking for more enhancement practices. We implement conservation methods that allow us to protect the soil from erosion and we plant winter cover crops. (Note: Winter cover crops are crops that grow through the winter after being planted following harvest. Cover crops improve nutrient utilization and the health of our soil.)
What do you see as the biggest opportunity on your dairy farm?
We take pride in not only the care and comfort of our cows, but the sustainability of our land and our business. It is our responsibility to uphold that opportunity to continue to grow a sustainable business for the next generation. (Note: Check out the Barbland Dairy LLC Facebook page for a glimpse into the next generation!)
If you could tell consumers one thing about what you do on your farm, what would it be?
Every decision we make is centered around how it impacts our cows, our people and our land.
Bret wanted to add that he hopes consumers continue to be aware that all dairy products are safe to consume and to not get caught up in “fear marketing” while at the grocery store. His family shops at the same store, eats the same food and drinks the same milk that you do, which is why it’s important to reach out and ask questions when you don’t understand.