There’s no mistaking that Tim and Steve Kayhart are brothers with their similar builds, smiles and almost-matching beards. Like many siblings, the Kayharts admit they didn’t always get along when they were younger. But since each left before returning as adults to the West Addison, Vermont farm on which they were raised, the brothers have developed a close and appreciative working relationship.Vermont Breakfast on the Farm is all about sharing the story of dairy. On July 28, enjoy a free farm breakfast and the chance to see firsthand how fresh, local milk is produced at Kayhart Brothers Dairy in West Addison, Vermont… Click To Tweet
In 2010, the pair officially took over full responsibility of the family dairy farm from their parents, Lee and Pat, and named it Kayhart Brothers Dairy. Since 1979, the family has grown the operation gradually to milk 950 cows and crop about 2,200 acres in both Vermont and across the lake in New York. “Both of us feel extremely fortunate,” says Tim. “I know it makes us a better farm because we work together.”
That said, the brothers don’t always agree on everything. A few years ago, when the co-op first approached the Kayharts with the idea of hosting an open farm event, Tim was unsure about inviting a bunch of strangers onto the farm. He’s since come around, recognizing the importance of sharing firsthand with the community all the hard work and care that goes into creating fresh, local dairy.
The average member of the public, Tim realized, “has no idea of the science of farming, or the business of it.” Today’s farmers must work smarter as well as harder, he points out. “The margins are so thin. We can’t afford big mistakes,” Tim explains.
This summer, Kayhart Brothers Dairy will host what may be the biggest farm open house of the year as the site of a Vermont Breakfast on the Farm on July 28. The annual tradition is supported by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets along with several other farming and food organizations. The event—which includes a pancake breakfast and a self-guided farm tour with activity stations designed for all ages—is completely free, but attendees must register for organizer planning purposes.
“Breakfast on the Farm is a phenomenal event that brings the community together and helps connect Vermonters to agriculture,” says Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets. “It builds awareness of the importance of farming, and allows an up-close look at real farm practices. We are so proud to support Breakfast on the Farm, and are grateful to all the volunteers who give their time and talent to build support and appreciation for the importance of dairy farms in our community.”
At Kayhart Brothers Dairy, Tim and Steve will be proudly showing off their newest barns and milking parlor set between expansive views of the New York Adirondacks to the West and Snake Mountain to the East.
“The job of farming brings both immense challenge and accomplishment,” Steve says. “I appreciate working side-by-side with family every day,” adds his brother. “I feel a sense of pride when I see a seed grow into a plant and feed a cow—the whole lifecycle.”
Their new free-stall barn was designed both for ultimate cow comfort as well as energy efficiency, the brothers explain. They worked closely with Efficiency Vermont on the project. Fan sensors slow down the equipment when a natural breeze is detected and a sophisticated central system controls wall curtains and roof vents to maintain goal temperatures throughout the seasons with as little energy input as possible.
Breakfast on the Farm visitors will be able to learn about the whole operation in person. They will see behind-the-scenes: from the always-adorable calves to the new facility’s efficient LED light bulbs. Activity stations will show how the manure from the herd is recycled to create comfortable bedding for the cows and how the Kayharts carefully manage their fields with cover crops and reduced tillage to minimize run-off and soil erosion.
Tim serves on the board of directors of the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition, which strives to help farmers implement agricultural practices to improve economic resiliency and environmental stewardship with the goal of improving and maintaining the ecological integrity of Lake Champlain and its tributaries.
Heightened public awareness of water-quality issues, while not exclusively an issue caused by agriculture, the brothers point out, “has forced farmers to tell their story more,” Tim says. In today’s age of consumer interest in where their food comes from, this can be a good thing, he acknowledges.
“The goal is to help our customers meet us and establish trust, to have them feel good about what we’re doing here,” says Steve. Adds Tim, with a chuckle: “I hope they’ll see we’re not just a couple of hillbillies with a pitchfork.”
Looking to the future, the Kayharts see a bright horizon. Three of their five children are pursuing careers in dairy including Steve’s son, Andy, who works with his dad and uncle on the family farm and helping out with farm events. “I would like visitors to see that there’s a future for the dairy industry, that we’re not all en route to going out of business,” Steve says. “Is it going to change? Yes, everything changes. But we believe that for our working life—and for our children’s, too—there is opportunity.”
Kayhart Brothers Dairy is hosting Vermont Breakfast on the Farm on Saturday, July 28. Tickets, which include breakfast and self-guided tours with activity stations, are free but you must register for one of four time slots (from 8:00 to 11:30 am start times) here.
Breakfast on the Farm would not be possible without more than 100 volunteers. If you’d like to help, click here now.
If you can’t make it the Vermont Breakfast on the Farm for free pancakes, try one of these delicious recipes:
For a special weekend morning: chocolate-chunk pancake recipe with raspberry maple syrup
For a lovely light texture (and gluten-free option): lacy, cottage cheese pancakes
To power up for an active day: protein-packed peanut butter, banana whole grain pancakes
To get more breakfast and brunch ideas, click here.