One of the most well-known small farms in Vermont is Molly Brook Farm, located on Cow Hill Road in West Danville. Owned by Myles Goodrich and his wife Rhonda Miller Goodrich, the 565-acre farm has been in the family for almost 200 years – a total of nine generations. Their current milking herd consists of 83 Jerseys with an average milk production of 50 pounds a day, as well as 32 youngstock.
When asked what makes Molly Brook Farm unique, Rhonda focuses on the word “resilience.” She explained how they have managed to maintain the land as a dairy farm for almost two centuries. “We started to look at the farm back in 2015. We care about the climate. Putting herbicides and pesticides on our land just didn’t make sense to us,” she said. “Organic fit. It fit for us in many different ways.”
Within the past 200 years, as times have changed, “the only thing that hasn’t changed is the care for the land and the cows,” she added.
They’ve been raising only registered Jerseys since 1917. Since around 1980, the sale of quality Jerseys became a focal point of the dairy. The Jerseys that Myles’s parents raised at Molly Brook brought international recognition to the farm – and it all started with a cow named Molly Brook Fascinator Flower, according to the farm’s website. Flower consistently put her stamp on her offspring. Today, descendants of Flower can be found on farms in Denmark, England, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Indonesia, Uruguay, Guatemala, Brazil, Japan, Canada and across the U.S.
With only three workers on the farm (Myles, Rhonda and one other employee), they are passionate about protecting the environment and were dedicated to transitioning to certified organic. During their three-year transitioning period (2015-2018), the main things that Rhonda found difficult were ending their relationship with their previous partner, Cabot Creamery, transitioning the land that they used for corn production, learning how to properly take care of their cows within organic guidelines and growing enough feed for winter without growing corn.
Through it all, Rhonda thanks Stonyfield for being an amazing business partner and helping them with the transition from conventional to organic. When asked how they avoided issues and losses during their transition period, she said, “Being proactive and really taking care of issues before they become issues has been really helpful.”
Overall, they did decide to downsize their milking herd once they became certified organic, from 120 cows to approximately 80 cows. This was for various reasons, including ensuring there was enough pasture for each cow, helping with water quality and making sure the land wasn’t overwhelmed with the amount of manure that was being produced.
One of the most impressive accomplishments of Molly Brook Farm is that they’ve been named Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year twice. Back in 1987, Myles and his parents earned the award, and in 2022 Myles and Rhonda earned the award. The couple was surprised and honored earning the award this past year. Rhonda stated, “It’s really been an honor. We were given the opportunity to share what we do and the importance of small farmers.”
As for the future of the farm, Rhonda explained they don’t currently have a successor to take over when she and Myles retire. They aren’t adamant that the business must stay in the family anymore, but are instead adamant that it is placed in good hands – someone who will take good care of the land and the cows, and keep the resilience of the farm going.
Whether run by the family or not, at the end of the day, Rhonda believes “the cows make Molly Brook.”
by Kelsi Devolve