Fran Kenyon and his sister Rita run their 200 acre dairy farm in Richmond, RI, and they've been there since 1954. Fran sometimes likes to say: "Maybe some day I'll leave home and get a real job." Well, dairy farming is already more of a real job than most people can manage, and Fran has no intention of leaving any time soon. And when he does finally leave, he plans to keep the farm in the family and run it as a family trust.
When you speak with Fran, you get the feeling of wisdom learned the hard way. He's worked the farm all his life, and he knows all things go in cycles. Says Fran: "Somehow, things always work out. You ride out the ups and downs of the market, be as efficient as you can, and keep working. Help always seems to arrive when you need it most."
And while Fran and Rita may need some extra labor now and again, like all New England farmers, they are independent and self reliant. Fran handles most veterinary tasks on the farm, fixes the chopper, bales the hay, and does whatever it takes. Rita does much of the milking and handles the books. And the Kenyon's are also part of a local group that sells Class 1 milk to merchants and schools in the area. First they sell all their milk to Agri-Mark, then they buy some back and market it under the label "Rhody Fresh." This is only the finest quality product, and it's in the best tradition of local farmers selling their product to the community.
Fran also likes to talk farming and share his knowledge with others. One way he does this is by working with the local high school and the department of veterinary medicine at the University of Rhode Island. They often send interns to him who work one or two evenings a week for a semester learning about dairy farming and helping out at the same time. Everybody wins, and Fran gets to pass on his lore to another generation.