Upstate New York Dairy Farm Celebrating 300 Years This Year
A dairy farm in upstate New York is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year — the first of two in the United States to ever do so.
Located in Palatine Bridge, the Dygert family farm is owned by Robby and Shannon Dygert, along with their four children. They are the 12th generation to run the farm, which began in 1723 and was deeded to them by the Queen of England.
The current Dygerts took over in 2009 after Robby Dygert’s grandfather rented it out for a while until Robby Dygert was able to graduate from college and come back home with his family. They began with 64 cows and currently have approximately 275. The farm is mostly Holstein cows, but Robby Dygert said a few years ago he bought a Jersey for his son, and so there are a few Jerseys on the farm now as well.
650 acres are dedicated to crops, and in 2019 the family began to build their own milk plant. In 2021 the plant was finished and the family processed their first bottles of milk. Currently, they process close to 3,000 pounds.
Reaching the 300 year milestone is exciting for the family.
“It seemed like it took forever but it actually came quickly,” Robby Dygert said. “One of our employee’s long-time girlfriend works at another farm nearby that is also reaching this milestone, so there are two of us in our county.”
Most importantly, the Dygerts work to show people how the dairy farming lifestyle works, often opening their farm up to visitors, along with having their own store.
“Dairy farming is not an easy lifestyle,” Shannon Dygert said. “It’s a family thing. We want to show people what it’s about so we invite them all the time. We want them to see how we work and want people in general to know how much work goes into it and why.”
Robby Dygert added on to this, saying in this day and age people have become more removed from the farm and they want people to know where their food comes from.
Besides reaching the 300 year milestone, one of the family’s proudest achievements is having four kids, all of whom are very excited to help work on the farm.
“We went out to Syracuse to accept the (tricentennial) award and we took the kids out of school for the day so they could come with us,” Shannon Dygert said. “They were all very excited.”
In the future, the Dygerts hope the farm will be able to continue to keep going, even when the overall dairy industry’s milk consumption is decreasing continuously. They are working on figuring out different ways to get their milk to consumers, including from their own milk plant.
A big hope for the family is to be able to get whole milk back in schools.
“We bottle our own whole milk, which is higher in butter fat,” Shannon Dygert said. “People like the taste. In schools it is required to be skim or fat free milk. If we can get whole milk back in schools, kids might start to enjoy it more and ask for it at home.”
Additionally, other difficulties for dairy farms besides lower milk consumption includes the increasing cost of labor, according to Robby Dygert.
Also in the future, the family hopes to be able to someday bottle all of the milk that they produce. They are considered a smaller dairy farm, so there is a concern that eventually because of the shortage of milk truck drivers there is a chance that it may come to the point where they will no longer be able to have their milk picked up. The family hopes to be able to bottle their own milk fully before that happens.
They also hope that their kids will take over the farm, but as the oldest one just turned 11 there is a long way to go before any of them decide what they want to do with their lives.
In the meantime, the family keeps their farm open to visitors so they can come in and see how a dairy farm works, and to see the family’s store.
Overall, the Dygert family hopes to be able to continue doing what they love for a long time to come.
“We are happy to be farming,” Robby Dygert said. “We love what we do. There are sacrifices we have to make, but it’s worth it. It’s a family lifestyle, and we hope to continue on.”