Central Vermont’s rolling hills make for comfortable pasture for the Jersey cows on the Bone Farm in South Rygate.
Named a Vermont Century Farm, the farm is operated by David Bone with assistance from his wife, Jennifer, his Uncle Walter and three of his four children. The youngest, Evelyn, is only seven months old, but looks like she wants to be helping soon as she rides on her mom’s back.
“The kids all have chores,” David said of his older children, Noah, Quinn and Genevieve.
Walter lives in the farmhouse he grew up in with his brother (David’s father) and sister. David and his family live right down the road from the farmhouse.
Neither David nor Jennifer work off the farm. “We live within our means,” David explained.
One of the ways becoming a Century Farm was possible for the Bones was that each generation turned the farm over to the next rather than selling it, David said. He started working with his uncle in 2000.
“He didn’t want to see the farm shut down, and I needed a career,” he said. His uncle turned the cows over to David in 2007. Walter still does the haying.
David and family milk 30 Jerseys and sell to Agri-Mark for Cabot Creamery. They use old-fashioned bucket milkers and are rated one of the cleanest dairies in the Cabot family, so they are paid a premium.
They also take such good care of the Jerseys they milk them for up to 12 years.
Although kept in paddocks part of the year, the cows wander the hills above the farmhouse in autumn since there will be no regrowth of grass before winter. When David, Jennifer and the kids climb the hill, the cows come to meet them, especially Maggie, a particularly friendly Jersey. At 12, Maggie is responsible for a good part of the herd — she is surrounded by granddaughters and great-granddaughters.
Even older is Betty, 14, who also meanders over for some petting.
“We take care of them, they take care of us,” David said. The dairying was started by his grandfather, his father brought in the Jerseys.
The Bones also cut timber on sections of the 165 acres they own and another 40 they lease.
Jennifer keeps a garden with spinach, lettuce, beets, carrots, chard, kale and tomatoes, as well as other vegetables. She sells them at a farm stand at their house and operates a small community supported garden with about 10 members in any given season. She also sells in farmers markets.
The family has been sugaring since World War II when they needed sugar to trade because of the wartime shortages. They boiled sap in a pan in those days. Walter bought the first evaporator.
They keep rabbits for meat as well.
David said about 90 percent of the farm income is from the cows, but the diversity keeps the farm healthy.
Because there are so many small, organic farms in the area, the Bones are working with a consultant on a website. They hope to eventually create an online farmers market.
“It’s a way for small farms to fill big orders,” David said. He said schools and hospitals will use organic food, but they place large orders at one time and individual farms can grow enough produce to meet them.
“We can survive if we don’t get too big,” he said. “And it’s a great way to have a marriage, working together.”