(Above photo): The Vincent Family from left to right: Jaime, Steve, William and Elyssa.
By Michael Durante Jr.
Photographed by Steven Steele Cawman
To call Brookby Farm a family farm is an understatement. The fifth-generation dairy, owned by the Vincent family in Dover Plains since the early 1800s, is operated today by Steve and Jaime Vincent, along with seemingly every one of their kids, kids’ spouses and boyfriends, with a nephew or neighbor thrown in here or there. “It’s definitely a big, family collaborative effort,” describes Jaime. “Everybody does something.”
Though Brookby Farm had been a dairy since before the Civil War, the Vincents stopped milking cows in the ’80s. They were not alone. Steve Vincent recalls 13 dairy farms around Dover Plains when he was growing up; now theirs is the only dairy around. Brookby’s milking hiatus ended a few years ago when Steve and Jaime’s son, William, decided to learn the dairy trade at SUNY Cobleskill. With this new hope, the family began renovating their barn and buying calves. The couple visited dairies across New York and New England, selecting heifers from many different farms to build their herd.
“Jersey, Guernsey, Brown Swiss, Normandy,” Steve lists. “We have a little bit of everything.”
“We call it a menagerie,” Jaime adds.
The Vincents do well by these cattle. They are a pasture-based operation, feeding the cows growing grass in warmer months and hay in the winter; and they practice rotational grazing, which has become the norm for sustainably managed cattle operations. Farm visitors are welcome to stop by the tie-stall barn at 4:30 p.m. daily to watch the cows getting milked—or, if you prefer, at 5:00 a.m.
Once upon a time, visitors left the farm empty-handed. Visible from Route 22, the farm drew in all sorts of onlookers once they brought cows back on the pastures. Back then the Vincents were milking 30 head for the commercial market, but they could not legally sell their milk directly to customers without obtaining approvals through the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets. “It’s hard to tell people that I can’t sell you a gallon of milk,” Steve recalls. “They would say, ‘When you get your raw-milk permit, let us know.’”
When the commercial milk price tanked, they saw the opportunity to apply for a raw-milk license and sell directly to customers at an on-farm store. Since then the operation has only grown, and they now offer much more than milk.
Brookby Farm takes care of their customers, offering some of the most affordable pricing on sustainably raised meats and dairy in the Hudson Valley. The Vincents thank “a good local base of customers” for enabling their success and are grateful that people seem to care more and more about where their food comes from.
The farm supports other local food producers. William is a founding member of the Harlem Valley Farm and Food Alliance, a local group of food producers, many of whose products are available in the Brookby Farm store.
The Brookby Farm store is open for business every day but Wednesday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. They sell raw milk by the bottle, beef from grass-fed cattle, pork from milk-fed hogs, fresh eggs and an ever-growing variety of products from other local producers.
Keep an eye on their website, www.brookbyfarm.com, for information about on-farm events, including an intriguing Pancake Throwdown—with proceeds donated to the local VFW and American Legion—planned for June 9th. █