by Troy Bishopp
MUNNSVILLE, NY – One hundred ninety-nine years ago, a dairy farming legacy, borne of Honeoye soils and sacrifice, was started in the hamlet of Stockbridge along the banks of Oneida Creek in Madison County. In describing Lyman Farm’s historic and current journey, resilience and adaptation are key components in the lives of the seventh-generation organic dairy farm managed by Glen and Elaine and sons Jesse and Sam Lyman.
For the 2003 New York State Century Farm, and soon to be bicentennial farm, the Lyman family has a new distinction to mark their years of hard work, sacrifice and stewardship: 2022 Madison County Conservation Farm of the Year.
In paying homage to the past dairy families of Jesse Lyman, Charles Lyman, Irving Lyman, Glen Lyman and Lloyd and Betty Lyman, a poem saved in a family scrapbook from 1850 titled “Nature” signifies their contributions to the community of Stockbridge: “There’s grandeur in the aspiring hills/In air, and earth, and sky/Worthy the greatness of a God/Or angels’ minstrelsy.”
For Glen, who graduated from Cornell with an ag economics degree, carrying on the dairy tradition has always been about transition, with the constant of keeping the hills and valleys of their now 400 acres mostly in sod. Since the farm was founded, the land has produced quality forage to feed the high-producing, prize-winning “Lyman”-prefixed Holstein herds. “With our forage base and business model, my son Jesse and I saw a natural progression to organic production starting in 2013,” Glen said.
Shipping their milk to Organic Valley Cooperative from the 35-cow herd lines up well environmentally and financially while “simplifying and lowering expenses” on the farm. With the advent of more grazing time, cow traffic and nutrient management plan considerations, Glen and Jesse teamed up with the Madison County Soil & Water Conservation District to plan, design and build a covered bedded pack/manure storage facility, reinforced laneway and a heifer grazing system with portable water stations and stream buffer. Prior to this, the farm did their own strip cropping, water diverters, rock-lined waterway and paddock fences for the dairy grazing system.
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.
“Working with the Conservation District has afforded us the luxury of getting critical engineering expertise, an independent set of decision makers and financial support to improve our farm for the future,” Glen said. “Our family appreciates the recognition for the work our family has done for close to 200 years operating a small local dairy farm and its positive impact on our community.”
Glen and Jesse have also diversified into producing over 800 bales of organic hay which is sold locally to Plain community organic dairy farms in Madison and Oneida counties. When time allows, they have produced maple syrup while Elaine has developed a professional bakery business. Future plans may include selling grass-fed beef and compost to the community.
Glen echoes what his mom, Betty, said for years: “We’ve had to make sacrifices and adapt, which is done by working harder and longer as well as diversifying what we produce. It’s important to be happy with what you have. You don’t need a lot to be happy.”
“We appreciate working with the Lyman family to enhance the natural resources for all Madison County residents to enjoy while supporting the farm’s endeavors for a sustainable future,” said Steve Lorraine, Madison County SWCD district manager.
“As the District’s 41st awardee, we appreciate the Lyman Farm supporting our mission of enhancing wise use of county soil and water resources,” said District Board Chair Rick Barnes.
The Madison County SWCD Board of Directors congratulates the Lyman farm family on 199 years of dairy farming success and for their positive community impacts and volunteerism within the county. To learn more about the positive attributes of conservation planning and implementation, contact the Madison County SWCD at 315.824.9849 or madcoswcd.com.