The community around the Adirondacks in the state of New York are at the edge of this wave of really smart entrepreneurial, creative young farmers who are coming into farming at a time when it seems like most people are trying to exit farming. The components of a strong farming community were not there when they started farming. There were no expectations to farm a certain way which is why the young farmers got creative really quickly. Having the freedom to explore what sort of farm they want to have, without being told what to do, has given them an independent spirit. A lot of them have worked on farms in the area as farm hands and are then inspired to start their own farms.
After graduating in 2006 Ashlee Kleinhammer worked on numerous farms across New York and Vermont. She started by working on educational farms but soon learned her real passion was "hands-on-teats" farming. She learned how to milk cows by hand and make cheese on farms in Vermont about eleven years ago. She and co-founder Steven Googin started North Country Creamery to make raw cheeses, frozen yogurt, yogurt and raw milk. She now loves the idea of being able to incorporate all the couple's own ideas on their own farm. Ashlee says it is really fun to connect with consumers around the food that they eat and the stories they can tell about how it was produced. She says almost none of the young farmers around inherited farms. Their farms are all mostly in their infancy.
Four years ago the couple, both in their early 30's, signed a lease-to-buy contract on their 112 acre farm and started producing raw milk, yogurt and half a dozen cheeses. Former owner and award-winning cheese maker Sam Hendren was hired as their mentor for their first year of cheese production. North Country Creamery is a 100% grass-fed, Non-GMO, & Animal Welfare Approved and the cows receive the utmost care through the use of tinctures, essential oils, and homeopathic remedies, if ever they are in need. Steve and Ashlee are very proud to see the Animal Welfare Approved logo on their products in recognition that they are making a conscious effort to treat the cows with love and respect. The AWA's standards are currently the strictest in the US. Some of the requirements are that the animals must be on pasture, they must be family farms and they can't have duel farm system. This is where one group of animals is treated better than another on the same farm. With the highest standards and strict inspection system customers can feel good when they purchase AWA approved products.
One of the reasons why there are so many young farmers coming into the market is because of the rise of the direct market model.
They are able to set their terms and set their price and that is making farming more economically viable than in the previous generations. The recent trend of food awareness includes an increased preference towards locally grown foods and a holistic approach to farming is convincing people to return to the trade.
Audio: Steve and Ashlee are interviewed by NCPR (source)
Interactive Map: Where can you buy raw milk in New York state? (source)
North Country Creamery: