by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
Lorelle and Eric Sherman of Headwater Holsteins, Lewis County, NY say it was a great move, settling into a strong farming community such as theirs is.
“We moved here in 2005 from Delhi, NY in Delaware County,” explained Lorelle. “We out grew our rented barn and rented house, so we looked for farms all over the state and found this one.”
The biggest challenge, of course, is the financial one, “having no money ever.”
“We’re on this farm as a first generation,” said Lorelle, “so we started with nothing, had to buy our cows, equipment and farm, all on borrowed money from a bank.”
However, she says her family have been dairy farmers for nine generations and are great mentors.
“We are lucky enough that my entire family are farmers, so we have a lot of support and good advice — or at least have someone to talk about things with. We all like talking cow stuff so it is fun that way.”
Lorelle says she feels that the gap between consumer and farmers is growing and there are opportunities that folks can take with social media to promote the dairy industry.
“Some more creativity needs to be implemented on our behalf,” Lorelle said. “Like pop-up ads on Facebook, a go-to milk advertising image or ‘mascot’ that appears on all dairy products like in the ‘Geico’ commercials, something that triggers a response from people. We are always caught behind manufacturers rules, how do we get around them? As a farmer I am always feeling beat down by this.”
Lorelle said for farmers to go to the grocery store and start a conversation with a consumer about food.
“There are so many conflicting points of view, it is tough to get your point made with so many sources of misleading or down right wrong articles, news casts, or conversation out there today.”
She believes that all media should get on board to get the word out about farms, farming and where the food comes from, to the general public.
“The mom in the grocery store needs — and deserves — to know the truth about what is best for her family and their health.”
Not surprisingly, Eric and Lorelle’s children are also involved in agriculture.
Thirteen-year old Ella, an 8th grader, participates in the local dairy promotion program as a Dairy Princess Ambassador for Lewis County. She is also a 4-H member, Jr. Holstein Club member and “a dedicated farmer.”
“She knows every cow in the barn,” reported Lorelle. “She can milk, do chores, feed cows and calves. We are very proud of her capabilities — and she can handle a lot of responsibility.”
Carl, 16-years old, helps out with farm work like chopping corn and has a few registered Jerseys he keeps with the main herd. He also holds membership with the 4-H and the Jr. Holstein Club.
“He is passionate about his Jersey cows,” said Lorelle, “and he has the biggest love for life.” She explains that he has overcome serious, early-life medical issues. “He continues to amaze us every year.”
Eighteen-year old Ethan is a freshman at SUNY Cobleskill, with a major in Ag Engineering. He also holds membership with the 4-H, Jr. Holstein Club, FFA, and sits on the NYS Jr. Executive Committee. He participated in the Junior Dairy Leader Program, and, Lorelle reports, he is a “major help with crop work on the farm, loves fixing things and is a wonderful welder.”
“Our herds prefix is Headwater Holsteins and we attend the Lewis County Fair,” said Lorelle, adding that occasionally they also attend the Great New York State Fair.
Headwater Holsteins offer local youth an opportunity to learn about showing by “leasing” calves to them for the show season. “This past year we had six kids with calves.”
Shermans are also well known for their involvement in supporting the community youth and farm programs by hosting clinics, such as judging and clipping clinics. They are 4-H leaders and members of the 4-H advisory committee, and take an active role in Lewis County Dairy Promotion Dairy Princess program, Lewis County Holstein Club, NY Farm Bureau and are FSA committee members.
“Our local towns have everything we need,” remarked Lorelle. “And our local economy is very dependent on our farms — so you can guess these past years have been harder for Lewis County towns and farms.”
Sherman’s farm about 80 acres of corn and 130 acres of hay, producing nearly all of their own feed.
“We like to make our milk off of a high forge diet and not a lot grain,” commented Corelle. “We pay attention to our herds genetics and focus on big framed cows with good udders, longevity — and cow families matter. We have a BAA of 109.5, and sell some bulls to neighboring farms.”
Headwater Holsteins is currently milking about 75 and has a herd size of around 100, 100-percent registered Holsteins.
“The best part of having a small family farm,” said Lorelle, “is I get to raise my kids. I am so proud of them!”
by Elizabeth A. Tomlin