As early as the mid 1960s, Albany County, New York farmers were feeling the pressure of development. Up until 1966, George Ziehm and son, Frank, farmed a parcel of land purchased from George’s aunt Clara. The father/son operation grew vegetables and later milked 40 registered Ayrshire cattle.
“Our father, Frank, and our grandfather, George, purchased the property in Buskirk because of a water shortage,” said Stuart Ziehm, a managing partner in Tiashoke Farms, “they also felt the land in Washington County would be more productive.”
Over the past several decades, the family has transitioned the herd from Ayrshire to today’s mix of Holstein, Jersey and Holstein/Jersey crosses. “There are 800 Holsteins, 70 Jersey and approximately 150 crosses,” said Eric Ziehm, a managing partner. The milking cows reside on the main farm in Buskirk and 960 head of young stock are raised on property located on Route 40 in Easton, NY.
Comprised of two divisions, Tiashoke Farms and Tiashoke Properties, the two divisions encompass a total of 2,200 acres of land spread across four locations. “Tiashoke Farms is the cattle and machinery side of the business and Tiashoke Properties is the real estate side,” Stuart said.
Brothers Brian, Eric and Stuart are equal partners in the business alongside their father. Each specializes in specific chores best suited to their talents and interests. Brian manages the crops and the crew responsible for planting, maintaining and harvesting the crops. Eric handles the cattle and performs all the herd work and Stuart oversees the daily operation and farm staff. This summer the Ziehm family welcomed Dave Green, owner of Evergreen Farm in Petersburg, NY. “We felt as if by adding another partner we could grow the business to provide for the lifestyle we all desire,” Stuart said.
“We all worked off the farm during or after college, but we saw the farm as an opportunity for us each to grow and achieve our potentials,” Stuart explained, “you can’t get the same flexibility or the benefits of working with family when you choose a career across the country or off the farm.”
Dedicated to continuing the long-standing family tradition of farming, the Ziehm family strives to find a careful balance between preserving tradition and embracing new practices to improve efficiency and productivity.
A recently completed refrigeration system instantly chills collected milk to 36 degrees and pumps the fresh milk directly onto Agri-Mark Co-Op tankers that are picked up daily and used to transport the milk to the processing plant. “It eliminates bulk tanks and the worry of having enough storage and having to clean the tanks,” Eric said, “it’s like having an endless bulk tank.”
Tiashoke Farms also received grants from NYSERDA to install solar panels. The energy collected from the solar panels is used to heat water needed for washing.
The family also uses a unique approach to raising their calves. Calves are housed in groups based on age and provided access to an endless supply of acidified whole milk stored in 50 gallon drums outfitted with agitators to regularly mix the milk. A row of rubber nipples are available on both ends of the pen so the calves can “nurse” at will. “We have had great results raising our calves this way. They’ve been healthier and its lowered the number of calves with scours,” Eric said.
While the Ziehm family knows the importance of being progressive, they have a deep-rooted appreciation for the past and a reverence for the land. The family conserved 500 acres of land through the Agricultural Stewardship Association guaranteeing that the land can never be developed. “What’s exciting is that it’s a win-win for the community,” Stuart said, “when you’re conserving farmland, you’re looking out for agriculture and when you have strong agriculture, you have strong communities.”
In protecting those 500 acres, the Ziehm family also preserved an important part of the region’s history. “This was Indian Country. The Civil War came through here too,” Frank noted, “when you get up there in some of the hills back there you wonder how people traveled through these areas so long ago.”
Local Native American history inspired Frank and wife, Terry, to name the farm Tiashoke. “We wanted a name that was meaningful,” Frank concluded, “When Native Americans lived in the area, they named a 4,000 acre block of land along the Hoosick River Tiashoke, which meant meeting of the waters and it seemed like a fitting name for the farm.”