by Pat Malin
HAMILTON, NY — Everyone leaves a footprint on the environment, but we can choose to diminish our impact before we pass the torch to future generations.
That’s how Bruce and Nancy Rivington of Kriemhild Dairy Farms LLC approach their business. They have a respect for their animals, the land and their community in Madison County.
The Rivingtons hosted a “pasture-enhanced, sun-infused tour” of EFS Red Gate Farm to acquaint the public with their low-impact farming methods and their plans to open a creamery on State Route 12B, just a few miles from Colgate University. Lindsey Jakubowski, general manager of Kriemhild Dairy Farms, joined the guests on a tour of the hilly pasture. They then walked across the street to observe the cows in the New Zealand-style milking parlor.
They topped off the tour by showing guests the building down the road that will be renovated into the new creamery. There, the visitors were treated to a brunch consisting of locally-sourced foods prepared by LoFo, a Syracuse pub, with music by the Williams Road band.
“It is the company’s mission to produce quality, healthy foods in a manner that is cohesive with and unburdensome on the environment,” said Jakubowski, a former Cornell Cooperative Extension agent in Madison County who joined Kriemhild Dairy a year ago.
The Rivingtons came to Madison County from their native Canada in 2000. They now graze 600 head of cows on 730 acres of pasture and woodland in the Town of Lebanon. The cows are a mix of Holsteins, Brown Swiss, Jerseys and Ayrshires. They are dry from Christmas through March and freshened in spring.
EFS Farm operates seasonally, “so we can get the bulk of our milk from pasture-fed cows,” Bruce Rivington explained. Roughly 550 acres are reserved for pasture. The rest of the land, both owned and rented, is used for growing hay for their animals.
Pastures on both sides of the state highway are linked by underground tunnels. Rivington doesn’t use herbicides. He said his cows enjoy munching on a variety of weeds, including plentiful burdock. He and Nancy, along with their sons, Brian and Jamie, and a few employees, rotate the cows every 12 hours.
To start the tour, the visitors slowly climbed to the top of a breezy 1,325-foot hill which provided a great view of Chenango Valley’s autumn landscape.
Across the street, the pastures behind the barn are more than 200 feet lower. The old Chenango Canal threads it way through this section, so this pasture retains more water than the hillside.
The “open air” New Zealand-style swing parlor, with 44 machines per side, is uncommon in this area, said Jakubowski. Basically it’s free stall, no stanchions. The cows can go in and out of the barn at will.
The Rivingtons got the idea for their farm thanks to off-season travels to Ireland, New Zealand and Australia to study pasture-based dairy systems.
In addition to Jakubowski, Kriemhild Dairy Farms (KDF) has another full-time employee and two part-time employees. Students from Morrisville College are hired as interns from March until the end of the school year in May to do the third milking. Milking is reduced to twice a day in summer.
Meadow Butter was first produced in 2010. Rivington originally had three other partners in the creamery, but he has since bought them out. “We started (the business) through Cooperative Extension to bring economic development to Madison County,” he explained.
Another goal was to pay dairy farmers a premium for milk from grass-fed cows. “We sell the milk at commodity prices, but we buy back the butter and cream at premium prices,” he added.
Since she came aboard in October 2012, Jakubowski, a graduate of Syracuse University’s Environmental School of Forestry, has focused on marketing and it’s already paid off. Kriemhild Dairy’s Meadow Butter is not only available in local stores, but throughout the Northeast. It can even be found in upscale retail markets in New York City and Brooklyn.
Queensboro Farm Products in Canastota takes milk from KDF and uses 80 percent (3,200 pounds a week) for Meadow Butter. Although Rivington gave high praise to Queensboro, he said he expects to have more quality control by processing Meadow Butter, their own buttermilk and sour cream on site.
According to Jakubowski, locating the creamery adjacent to the farm has many advantages. The creamery will be able to irrigate the fields with waste water. It will reduce milk hauling fees, as well as CO2 emissions from trucks. KDF further plans to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by investing in solar thermal energy and installing solar panels on the creamery.
Rivington said it will take an estimated $1 million to renovate the building and install used and new equipment. Although New York State and the county’s Solarize Madison program provide grants to encourage businesses to use solar power, he wants to use as much of his own money as possible.
“We will probably use one grant, but we will use consolidated funding grants,” he said. “I want to limit the use of grants.”
by Pat Malin