YORK, Pa. — Dairy farmers spend a lot of time taking care — of their family, their land and, of course, their cows.
“A cow has no clue what the price of milk is, so if you take care of her, she’ll take care of you,” said Kevin Phillips, of North Point Farm in Waynesboro, Virginia.
The Phillips family was one of four recognized for their stewardship and milk quality at the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association annual meeting on March 28 at the Wisehaven Event Center.
The co-op recognized two producers of the year and two finalists for the award. The winners spoke in videos shot on their farms.
Dave and Marie Graybill are the producers of the year for Federal Orders 1 and 33.
At Red Sunset Farm in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, they milk 58 cows and farm 400 acres.
First-generation farmers, the Graybills rent the farm from Washington, D.C., landlords.
“One of the big reasons why I wanted to farm was for the lifestyle, to introduce our children to hard work and responsibility,” Marie said. “I’ve enjoyed that very much.”
The Graybills have two adult children, daughter Heidi and son Corey.
Field rep Janae Klingler said the Graybills stand out for excellent herd management, milk quality and use of conservation practices.
The Graybills use no-till techniques and have a manure pit with a leak detection system, a compost facility, buffer strips, a barnyard runoff system, and 16 honey bee colonies.
“We want healthy plants. We want clean water. If you have clean water, your animals will be more healthy,” Dave said.
Dave chairs the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s Natural and Environment Resources Committee.
Wes Kent of Winding River Farms in Weyers Cave, Virginia, is the producer of the year for Federal Orders 5 and 7.
Kent, a first-generation dairy farmer, has 110 dairy cows. Robotic milkers allow cows to set their own schedule, and they track cow performance data that Kent can use.
The cows live in a composted bedded pack barn.
“I feel we get more longevity out of cows because they have more freedom and more comfort where they lay versus maybe a freestall,” Kent said.
Kent also has an Angus cow-calf herd, a small feedlot, and two turkey houses producing about 100,000 birds a year. He farms 650 acres.
Kent uses no-till and cover crops, and he has fenced off his waterways.
The Phillips family of North Point Farm in Waynesboro, Virginia, is the producer of the year finalist for Federal Orders 5 and 7.
Four generations work on the three-farm operation, which has been in the family since the 1800s.
The Phillipses have milked cows for 75 years and have shipped milk to Maryland & Virginia for 55.
The family milks 1,200 cows and farms 3,500 acres. One herdsman oversees all three dairies, and the milking procedure is consistent across all three farms.
“If I have to move help between dairies, they know what to do,” Kevin Phillips said.
The Phillipses have used no-till since the late 1960s and have fenced off most of their streams.
The Steel family of Steam Valley Farms in Dover, Ohio, is the producer of the year finalist for Federal Orders 1 and 33.
John and Paula Steel are the third generation to work the land since John’s grandfather bought the farm in 1939. Their sons and their families are also involved in the dairy and maple syrup business.
“There’s nothing better than to get to work with your children and the grandchildren. It just makes it worthwhile,” Paula said.
The Steels milk 140 cows in a double-seven herringbone parlor. They got improved production and cow health by switching from rubber mats to deep-bedded sand.
“We are caretakers of what we have been entrusted with, and we want to be good stewards,” John said. “We really do.”