by Katie Navarra
In two years, Fogarty’s Dairy Farm in Melrose, NY, will celebrate its centennial birthday. Established in 1916 by John Fogarty, the 200 acre farm has specialized in milking dairy cows. “He was milking by hand back then so 20 was probably the most he (my grandfather, John) could milk,” Bill Fogarty, third generation owner/operator of Fogarty’s Dairy Farm, said, “he also had work horses for planting and harvesting the crops.”
The Fogarty family immigrated to the United States from Ireland in the late 1800’s and settled on land a few miles down the road from the current Fogarty’s Dairy Farm. John, Bill’s grandfather, left the original family homestead and purchased land of his own for $9,300. “When we remodeled the house, we found the original, hand-written deed to the property in a drawer,” Kathy, Bill’s wife, said.
As John’s family expanded, his son Gerald (Bill’s father) became actively involved in the day-to-day operations. When John retired, Gerald took over fulltime and expanded the herd to 30 cows. In 1982, an addition to the barn was built to allow for further expansion.
The herd grew to 60 milking cows and has remained the same size ever since. “At that time we were thinking small, we should have thought bigger,” Bill said, “we have always stayed about the same size since then.”
Fogarty’s Dairy Farm totals 140 cows, which includes milking cows, dry cows and young stock. “We used to raise and sell replacement heifers,” Bill explained, “but we stopped doing that a few years ago.”
Each morning and every night, Bill spends 2 1/2 to 3 hours in the stanchion barn milking. The barn and the equipment has remained pretty much the same as when it was installed 20 years ago. “It takes me a bit longer than it used to,” he said.
In between morning and evening chores, the cows spend their time on pasture. “Right now they are out eating grass and getting grain so their production is around 60 pounds per cow,” Bill added.
The family plants nearly 200 acres of crops on their own land to feed the cows, they also rent another 100 acres. “We bale all our own hay and grow our own corn,” he said, “we hire out the chopping because it saves us a lot of time.”
Though Bill and Kathy’s three children, Kandis (Freer), William II (nicknamed BJ) and James have not followed in the family’s footsteps, they all help around baling time, “whether they like it or not,” Kathy laughed.
“James works on the farm part-time and BJ’s middle child, Lily, is the little farm girl,” she added. Lily, turns three this summer and enjoys helping grandpa. She eagerly jumps aboard the 4-wheeler to round-up cows at milking time, she is proficient at mixing the powdered milk for the calves and is developing strong muscles while bottle feeding the hungry calves.
Kandis, while not involved with the farm, maintains her ties to agriculture working as an educator for the Rensselaer County Cooperative Extension. She also coordinates an annual field trip for 2nd graders from Hoosick Valley School District.
“It used to be kids from the city would come out to the farm because they had never seen a dairy farm,” Bill reminisced, “now they’re bringing kids from Schaghticoke, (Hoosick Valley a rural area) because they have never been on a farm.”
The second graders take a tour of the farm and are introduced to different aspects for farming. “We have a weeding station and a station where they can learn what is made using potatoes,” Kathy said, “and then they get a hay ride and that is their favorite part about the trip to the farm.”
“You have to be a jack of all trades,” Bill noted, “we do the best we can to keep the place looking respectable and we’re still here.”
by Katie Navarra