by Katie Navarra
The owners of Land View Farm, LLC in Eagle Bridge, NY, have made strategic business throughout its 61-year history. With careful planning, the growth has been controlled and deliberate allowing the farm to thrive. Today, the farm owns 1,225 Holsteins and maintains 2,100 acres of field crops.
The early years
In 1952, Roland Walker relocated a 60 cow, Brown Swiss dairy known as RR Walker and Sons from Rutland, VT, to Route 68 in Eagle Bridge, NY.
Gradually the herd transitioned away from Brown Swiss to Holsteins and by 1966, the herd size doubled to 120.
When Roland was ready to retire, his son Roland, known as Rody, and his wife Jane, bought the business. Rody and Jane purchased the farm in 1982 and decided it was also time to change the name.
“Rody’s father was into watching soap operas at the time and he got the name Land View Farm from a soap opera,” Jane reminisced, “he suggested that’s what we call the farm and so we did.”
For the next decade, Land View Farm operated with 300 cows.
Inspired by a dairy tour
Inspired by a dairy tour in Western New York, Mark Anderson, then a Cooperative Extension Agent said to Rody, “if you go up to 400 cows, I will come to work for you.”
Rody purchased more cows and Mark worked the evening milking shift. At the same time, Rody’s son Randy (Roland) graduated from SUNY Cobleskill’s Ag-Business program and was also ready to join the farm.
Eager to bring the herd up to 1,000 cows, Mark and Randy were considered the farm’s potential.
“Before getting into a massive expansion, I had them get their feet on the ground and commit to working here for 5 years before expanding that much at once,” Rody said.
Instead, the herd was modestly increased to 600 and the heifers were moved off the farm. A custom heifer grower was used for replacement cows. “This allowed for expansion without needing to add another building,” they said.
The inception of a custom harvesting business in 1992 allowed the trio to purchase equipment that would eventually be needed to support the size of farm they were striving towards while generating a revenue stream to pay for the equipment until it could be capitalized.
Today, they have limited the custom harvesting to two neighboring farms. “We provide feed for a couple of farms,” Mark explained, “there is no their feed, our feed. It’s an incentive to put up good feed for everyone.”
The controlled growth worked very well for the farm. On Jan. 1, 1999, an official partnership was created between Rody, Randy and Mark and the name was changed once more to Land View Farms, LLC.
An eye on expansion
Motivated to reach a 1,000 cow herd while limiting the need for financing, Land View Farms, LLC found ways to modify the existing buildings while simultaneously creating additional revenue sources.
“In 1997 we had to increase our storage room and it was going to be $100,000,” Rody said, “instead we put the bulk tank on wheels and it has worked really well for us.”
Randy and Mark also sought ways to grow their equity outside of the Land View Farms, LLC partnership and in 2007 they created a satellite dairy in Cambridge, NY.
“We established a partnership with a third person and called it Venture Dairy,” Rand explained. Now owned solely by Randy and Mark, Venture Dairy is 11 miles away from the main farm and houses between 325-350 dry cows.
Plans for expansion eventually included bringing calves and heifers back to the farm. Randy dedicated hours to researching labor efficiencies and designing a heifer barn that allowed the farm to bring home 650 heifers in October 2012 without adding any additional labor expenses.
“The whole barn takes us 1.5 hours to feed and 45 minutes to walk through and heat detection,” Randy said proudly.
Between both farms we are up to 1,225 cows total.
The farm needs diverse talents
A significant part of the farm’s success lies in the diverse talents of the owners.
With a background in agronomy, Mark specializes in the planting and harvesting of crops. He has an interest in soil health and techniques that can be used to improve soil health.
“We try our best to work with nature to improve growing on every acre,” he said. Using a combination of one pass tillage, conventional tillage, cover crops and the incorporation of manure, he is pleased with the uniformity of their crops. “This has been our hardest spring yet with the weather,” he said, “but our corn is pretty uniform.”
Randy on the other hand, most enjoys nurturing the relationships necessary to keep the farm operating smoothly. He manages the dairy and the staff. “We have very low employee turnover and have very good, qualified help,” Jane said proudly.
Randy and wife, Rebecca, have three daughters. Madeline (11), Molly (9) and Mary (5) who have all been active showing goats, horses and calves at the fair for the past few years.
Rody loves the challenges. “I consider myself the visionary of the farm because I am always interested in growth,” he said. He has a particular interest in succession planning and establishing trusts. He has worked very hard to ensure all members of the partnership are equally protected.
The next generation
Only time will tell if Randy and Rebecca’s daughters will have an interest in working on the farm one day, “but two out of the three already have a love for animals,” he said.
This year will be the first year, all three of their daughters will show calves at the Washington County Fair. Madeline, the eldest, has shown goats, horses and calves for several years and her sisters will join in her showing calves.
It has become a tradition to pick a theme before naming calves to take to the fair. This year’s theme is “food and drinks”. The girls named their calves Peppermint Patty, Oreo Cookie and Sour Patch in honor of their favorite candies.
“The girls come down every night to practice leading their calves and to clean them,” Rebecca said, “they do really well in Showmanship because they spend so much time practicing.”
by Katie Navarra