by Enrico Villamaino

Started by Lewis Fraser Chase, Chase’s Organic Dairy Farm has grown and prospered in Mapleton, Maine, for over 80 years.

Founded in 1935, Chase’s began milking cows in 1955. The entire family is involved in caring for the land and the cattle, and today is owned and operated by Vaughn Chase and his wife Laura Chase.

Vaughn explained that his entire life has prepared him to be a dairy farmer. “I grew up on a dairy farm. My father started shipping milk in 1955, the year I was born. I worked other jobs off the farm, in sales, at different times over the years but always seemed to end up back at the farm. My dad passed the farm to my brother. When he was ready to retire, I purchased it from him.”

Explaining why the farm is over 84 years old, but has only been milking for the past 64, Vaughn added, “My father, Lewis F. Chase, bought the farm in 1935. For many years it was a potato farm. Our goal is to be able to work together as a family, take good care of the cattle and the land and be able to keep the bills paid. It’s a way of life that requires many long days full of hard work, but we appreciate being able to spend that time with family, and appreciate the beauty of the land we take care of.”

Chase’s has approximately 100 head of cattle. The majority of these are Red & White Holsteins. The farm usually rotates the herd and milks 50 to 60 head at a time. The farm itself is comprised of approximately 600 acres. Roughly half is forested, and the other half is dedicated to pasture and hay fields.

Vaughn explained their dairy products have a wide distribution. “We don’t have any on-farm sales. Our milk goes to a farmer-owned cooperative, Organic Valley. We are among over 2,000 small family farms that produce organic milk for the Organic Valley label. And Organic Valley distributes nationwide.”

Very much a small, family operation, Chase’s only has one full-time, year-round employee who is not a member of the family. Vaughn said, “All the family works at the farm. Our son Lewis works full time. Our daughters, who both have full-time jobs off the farm, work on weekends and busy times. Finding reliable, hardworking seasonal help during the haying season is always a challenge.”

When asked about the challenges he faces, Vaughn was very forthcoming. “Farming is always a challenge,” he said. “Currently, lower prices for organic milk are affecting our bottom line. With some consumers choosing non-dairy beverages, demand has dropped and prices have dropped. We wish people better understood that milk is naturally a superfood and that imitation ‘milks’ are not nearly as nutritious or natural.”

Quality being a longstanding priority to the Chase family, Vaughn is committed to operating an organic facility. “We believe strongly that organic farming is a better way to produce good, healthy food for people in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. It’s not just about producing a healthy product, but doing so in a way that causes no harm to the soil, the earth,” he said. “Our particular farm has not used pesticides or herbicides for more than 30 years.”

Vaughn said his next goal for the farm is an ecologically responsible one. “We are continually doing things to improve our farm, working with the National Resource Conservation Service and others to improve our soils, lessen soil erosion, improve living conditions and the health of our herd and the overall environment,” he stated.

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