NEW WOODSTOCK, NY – “Faith and family” sums up the mission of the 2023 Madison County Conservation Farm of the Year. The multi-generational Brink Family Farm LLC dairy operation is “dedicated to the call of enlarging God’s Kingdom” and “exists to support, encourage and equip the marketplace community to utilize biblical principles in their everyday lives while being good stewards for the environment, animals, consumers, employees, vendors and the community.”
Their farming story is a similar narrative of many dairy families. After a lifetime of dairy farming in Tioga County, NY, Gary and Carolyn Brink needed to branch out to accommodate the next generations on the farm. They ended up finding a tidy dairy farm in 2011 to call home along Route 13 in Madison County, formally owned by the Allan Shoemaker family.
They brought their herd of 70 milk cows and started to build out infrastructure and land needs. The expansion also precipitated a formal partnership and LLC in 2012 with sons Dylan, Justin and Patrick, who all work on the farm in various capacities from herdsmen to cropping and mechanic duties.
“We work very well together,” said Dylan.
It takes many hands and hours to take care of their now 200 milk cows and 165 dairy replacements along with 550 acres of owned and leased, predominately loam-inspired soil resources within the Limestone Creek Watershed, to grow hay, corn, pasture and cover crops to feed the microbes and the animals.
A new free-stall barn with adjacent manure storage lends itself well to two Lely® robotic milkers which help on the labor front. “I like the concept of being on the leading edge, not the bleeding edge (which is overly risky), with our dairy farming pursuits,” said Dylan.
Their high-quality milk is sold to the Preble Milk Co-Op Association with the farm receiving numerous Super Milk Awards.
The farm started a partnership with the Madison County Soil & Water Conservation District team upon arriving in 2012 to install pasture fencing, a stream buffer and begin the all-important, comprehensive nutrient management plan which “paid huge dividends during the recent spike in fertilizer prices,” said Dylan.
Over the next 12 years, the Brink family has implemented myriad common-sense conservation measures including a barnyard with associated treatment system, an animal waste storage system including multiple waste transfer systems, crop rotation, cover crops, a wetland restoration project, an improved access road for cattle and equipment, a reinforced stream crossing, a diversion to eliminate erosion on cropland and a cattle stream exclusion project with adjacent buffer on a tributary to Limestone Creek.
Funding for these projects came from the Brink family, the NYS Environmental Protection Fund, the Finger Lakes-Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance and the NYS AEM Program.
“It’s an honor to have been selected for this award. We believe that humanity has been given the directive by God to care for His creation. The designation reflects our goals of doing projects and adhering to farming practices that ensure that our farmland will be here for future generations,” said patriarch Gary.
“Working with the Madison County Soil & Water Conservation District team and the Farm Service Agency has been a pleasure, along with appreciating all the businesses that partner with us on these endeavors. They have worked with us to design and engineer the projects and approve practical wetland restoration while helping us secure cost-share funding to bring our animal health and environmental goals to fruition. This award is a great encouragement to us. It lets us know that the responsibility we feel to care for this creation is not ours alone, but is felt collectively within our society,” he continued.
“We’ve enjoyed working with the Brink family and helping them achieve their business and environmental goals through our AEM planning and implementation program,” said District Manager Steve Lorraine.
Madison County SWCD Board Chair Rick Barnes added, “It’s great to see my neighbors and fellow dairy farmers receive this honor for all their hard work and inspiration in protecting and enhancing our soil and water resources while feeding a community and taking care of the next generations.”
On hand for the celebration event were Gary and Carolyn Brink; Dylan and Corrina Brink and daughter Norah; Justin and Michele Brink and children Eliza, Cady and Micah; Patrick and Deanna Brink and children, Declan and Evelyn; grandmothers Marien Klett and Patricia Brink; and family members Charles and Paula Petit and Carolyn Devoe, in addition to friends and supporting agri-businesses.
For more information on conservation planning and implementation, contact the Madison County SWCD at 315.824.9849 or madcoswcd.com.
by Troy Bishopp