Organic dairy farm family expands by partnering with socially responsible farmland company.
By Kevin Egolf
As of October 15, 2013, the Richards family now has room to expand their organic Holstein herd after teaming up with Iroquois Valley Farms. Iroquois Valley Farms, a socially responsible farmland company that started in 2007 in Iroquois County, Illinois, purchased 163 acres in Washington County, New York through the Company’s Young Farmer Land Access program to support Erin and Dan’s growing heifer and dairy business. The farm, which will be named Taconic Ridge Farm highlighting the picturesque location in the Taconic Mountains between the Green Mountains of Vermont and Adirondack Mountain range in New York, represents Iroquois Valley Farms’ first entry into the Northeast and brings the total funds committed to the Young Farmer Land Access Program to over $7 million.
About Iroquois Valley Farms’ Young Farmer Land Access Program
The program is dedicated to providing long-term land access solutions to young farmers looking to grow more nutritious, healthy and local foods. Access to farmland is increasingly expensive and difficult and the Young Farmer Land Access Program was established to specifically address this problem among young farmers. Since 2012, Iroquois Valley Farms has purchased over 1,000 acres that have gone into the program. For more information on Iroquois Valley Farms or the Young Farmer Land Access Program visit Iroquois Valley Farms’ website, www.iroquoisvalleyfarms.com.
Erin and Dan Richards, now with the help of their one-year old son Mason and recently born twins boys, Jack and Randy, operate an organic dairy in Washington County, New York. They started farming in 2003 on leased land and switched to organic in 2007, but really established themselves with the 2008 purchase of their main farm, 110 acres in Argyle, New York, approximately one hour northeast of Albany. At the time, they were the only organic dairy farmers in the area, but they viewed that as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Their dedication to sustainable operations and quality milk paid off and has allowed them to grow their farming operations over the last several years. In addition to the owned land, the Richards grow feedstock on another 200 leased acres in the area to support the growing organic Holstein herd. For the past year, the Richards had been reviewing options to further expand the existing business while still maintaining their high operating standards–plenty of pasture and quality feedstock.
That is where Iroquois Valley Farms was able to step-in. Iroquois Valley Farms uses private capital to buy farmland that is then leased to local and organic farmers. Iroquois Valley Farms, as a socially responsible farmland company, adheres to a buy and hold strategy and a vision statement to ‘Never sell the land, except to the farmer’ and ‘Keep the farmers, mostly young, on the land and indefinitely renew their leases.’ Early this year, Dan Richards was able to connect with Iroquois Valley Farms and learn about the Company’s sustainable farmland ownership model. When asked to comment on Iroquois Valley Farms, Dan highlighted the importance of having the right partner. “If I do not own the land, it is extremely important that the owner has the same values and goals as my family and it is even better when I know the owner is 100% committed to supporting my farm business,” he stated. After reviewing several farms for sale in the area, the Richards and Iroquois Valley Farms were able to strike a deal on an under-utilized old farmstead in Cossayuna, New York, ten minutes down the road from the Richards’ main farm. The Taconic Ridge Farm will provide the Richards new barns for the young heifers, more pasture, and good crops fields which are often difficult to find in the area. David M. Miller, the CEO and Co-Founder of Iroquois Valley Farms, commented on the process by saying, “we are extremely excited to have Erin, Dan, and family join the Iroquois Valley Farms family. We wanted to impact young farmers in the Northeast and we could not have a better farm family this land.”
A side benefit of the farm purchase, the Taconic Ridge Farm has an old farmhouse that the Richards will purchase from Iroquois Valley Farms in two years, providing plenty of space on which the three Richards boys can GRAZE around.
Kevin Egolf is the Director of Business Development at Iroquois Valley Farms and is an advocate for supporting local and organic farmers. He can be reached at email@example.com.