by Troy Bishopp
CAZENOVIA, NY – Most people see dirt. The farmer sees a living soil of potential.
Over 150 years ago, 18-year-old Kendall Cody saw great possibilities of starting a farm in Madison County on the rich Honeoye soils in the town of Fenner within the Chittenango Creek watershed. Kendall’s true grit, hard work and skillful artistry for growing hops and raising horses put him on the map in 1868 as one of the largest operations in New York State. He lived through the powdery mildew fungus that decimated the New York hops industry and quickly transitioned the farm to cows. And just like milk helps to build strong bones, the Cody family built a strong foundation for their dairy farm operation of today.
Kendall’s legacy lives on through the Cody lineage and family stories. The only tangible existence of Great-Grandad Kendall exists in the well-laid wooden buildings with crop notes on boards that he constructed. Now in the third, fourth and fifth generations of farm life, the 150-cow dairy operation working over 500 acres of healthy soil represents a community-based focused ideal where the farming lifestyle isn’t just about animals or crops. “It’s about beliefs and values passed down through generations, ensuring things are left better for those yet to come. It’s about our heritage and our future,” said Bill Cody.
“The land gives us our livelihood and provides for our family. We’re mindful that we not only cultivate the land underneath our feet, but care for fields far from the farmstead. That’s why everything we grow and create has the environment in mind. Our farmstead is a respected partnership between us and nature,” said Ken, Jane, Bill and Monica Cody.
The Codys provide their passion and milk to the Dairy Farmers of America Marketing Cooperative and have garnered many “Super Milk” distinctions for producing high quality, tasty, nutritious milk.
The Dairy of Distinction Farm and 2019 Heritage Farm Award honoree has been proactive in building soil and animal health and installing and managing water quality conservation practices while being good neighbors in the community. The Madison County Soil & Water Conservation District recognizes this commitment to a collaborative approach in implementing common sense conservation practices that include a comprehensive nutrient management plan, a precision dairy feed management program, strip cropping, a milkhouse waste system, a silage leachate control system, roof water management and animal waste management systems. These measures have enhanced water quality throughout the property using the family’s resources and sweat equity along with program funding and technical assistance from the Madison County SWCD, the New York State Agricultural Environmental Management Program, the NYS Environmental Protection Fund and the Finger Lakes-Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance.
“We appreciate working with Ken, Bill and the whole family to create proactive farming systems that enhance the natural resources for all Madison County residents and supporting the farm’s endeavors for the future,” said Steve Lorraine, Madison County SWCD district manager.
Bill and Monica Cody and their five children have diversified into Farmstead 1868 LLC (at farmstead1868.com) with the mission of bringing wholesome products from their fields to local families and beyond.
“As we look to the next century, we are proud stewards of the Farmstead. The past was filled with hard times and good times, land acquisitions and sales, births and deaths, crops and cows. Farming is not an easy lifestyle – only 1% of our great country does it. But farming is a choice we have wholeheartedly made because it is an experience like no other. It is our family legacy. With five kids, and plenty of cows and livestock to take care of, one would think, ‘How do you find time for something new with all that needs to get done?’ Well, we’re farmers. Growing is what we do. It’s in our heritage.”
In addition to their dairy farming prowess, the family is leading a nonprofit project in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension, from the Literacy Coalition of Madison County, which cultivates the next generation of farmers through the “Growing Minds to Feed the Future” initiative. “The initiative brings agriculture and literacy together to place agriculturally accurate books in Madison County libraries and school districts,” explained Monica.
The Madison County SWCD Board of Directors congratulates the Cody family on 153 years of success and for their positive community impacts and volunteerism within the county. To learn more about the positive attributes of conservation planning and implementation, give the Madison County SWCD a call at 315.824.9849 or visit madcoswcd.com.