Back To The Future Farm – a rosy picture of the future of farming

CE-MR-3-BTTF1by Judy Van Put

Scores of family, friends, neighbors and well-wishers gathered at the O’Dell Dairy/Back To The Future Farm just off County Route 6 near Middletown, NY on Sunday, July 13, to celebrate the ribbon-cutting and grand opening of the “Ole Mother Hubbert Creamline Milk” on-site creamery.

The gathering began at 11:30 a.m., with the ceremony beginning at noon, followed by a chicken barbecue. Various Cooperative Extension agents and representatives as well as legislators and assemblypersons were on hand with letters of commendation, plaques and awards and hearty congratulations to Mike O’Dell — and Rose and Lee Hubbert, for seeing their dream come to fruition.

In addition to being the first fluid milk processing facility in Orange County, New York, in more than 40 years, what was most exciting was the positive boost for agriculture in Orange County — as evidenced by the fact that the dairy farmer, Mike O’Dell, has just turned 21 years of age — and demonstrates great promise for the future of agriculture and young farmers in the area. And, paves the way for dairy farmers to process and sell their products directly to consumers.

Mike O’Dell grew up on the family farm, and said from the time he was a baby in a stroller, his Dad (Roland O’Dell Jr.) would bring him into the barn. He grew to love helping out with feeding the calves, shoveling silage, riding on the tractor and fostering the dream of someday owning his own dairy farm — until his father sold the cows when Mike was about nine years of age. Mike worked at other dairy farms through the years, and after graduating from high school, he attended SUNY Cobleskill Ag and Tech school and learned how they ran their dairy farm. Mike began to research just what it would take to run a dairy farm, and then sought and received permission from his father “to put cows back on the farm.” He was successful in applying for and getting an FSA loan, and said “I got started on April 21, 2012”, remarking that it was amazing how everything came together so quickly. “My father and family stood behind me on the good days and on the absolute worst days… I give credit to all my family and friends. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Mike started out with 43 cows, and now milks about 50 Holsteins and Jerseys. His love of the farm is evidenced by its neat and tidy appearance, the carefully tended lawns and fields around the barn.

The second part of this remarkable story has to do with Rose and Lee Hubbert. The couple decided to expand on their “Back To The Future Farm,” and was looking for a good project that would benefit young farmers and encourage the younger generation to pursue a career in farming. They called upon Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Orange County Livestock Educator, Audrey Reith, for assistance in coming up with an idea that would be a good ‘fit’ — a project that would benefit the young farmers in the dairy industry. After 18 months of painstaking research and a good deal of enthusiasm, they settled on a business of pasteurizing milk right on the farm, using the “LiLi” Pasteurizer from the Bob-White Systems out of Vermont. LiLi stands for “Low input, Low impact” and pasteurizes milk without homogenizing or separating, allowing the cream to rise to the top and maintaining its full nutritional value. The goal is to process 300 gallons per day; and so far in the few weeks of its inception, Back To The Future Farm and O’Dell Dairy Farm has been processing 80 to 90 gallons per week. The milk is currently being labeled as “Ole’Mother Hubbert Creamline Milk” and has just begun to be sold in Orange County’s farmers markets as well as local farm stores. The plan is to expand the outreach and marketing of the milk to the New York City Greenmarkets, as well as other local markets and grocery stores, and to add products to include (in addition to the current products of whole milk and chocolate milk) egg nog, milk soaps, and cheese.

The ceremony included well wishes from Ron Rausch, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture & Markets, who read a letter from Governor Andrew Cuomo, congratulating Mike O’Dell and the Back To The Future Farms for their vision and initiative and stating that “it’s the small industries that are the key to keeping everything on track in New York State.”

NYS Assemblyman James Skoufis thanked Mike O’Dell and the Hubberts for “making Agriculture back in vogue again!” And Rob Schreibeis, of the Orange County Legislator’s Office reminded all present that this O’Dell Dairy Farm’s milk processing plant is the first in Orange County in over 40 years, as he presented the Distinguished Service Award.

Rose Hubbert was very appreciative and extended hearty thanks to all who helped, especially CCE of Orange County’s Audrey Reich, who was so instrumental in helping to come up with ideas for the Hubberts and getting the project up and running. Josh Hubbert, Rose and Lee’s young son, also spoke — saying “we see how hard you’ve worked” and presented Mike O’Dell with “a small donation for you to help young farmers and support Back To The Future Farm — it’s all about young people!”

Mike O’Dell again thanked his family and friends for all their help and support and especially his father, who he said allowed him to do what he wanted to do, and encouraged him to have goals and dreams. His father answered “You made me proud!” A great afternoon for one and all present!

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