Elm Farm has been in continuous operation in the Peckham family since 1885 when Matt Peckham’s great-great-great grandfather, Amos, bought the prime farmland in Woodstock, CT and began dairy farming. Back then the Peckhams sold their milk and cream in neighboring towns and as far away as Boston.
In 2004, Matt Peckham and his wife Chrissy took over the operation of the farm from his grandfather, Robert. Since that time they have nearly doubled the size of their milking herd to 150. These cows are all descendents of the original stock, purchased more than a century ago.
In spite of the long and rich history of Elm Farm, Matt and Chrissy have focused their energy and dreams squarely on the future, implementing innovative sustainable farming practices and increasing the size and scope of their barns.
One of the hallmark signs of their commitment to an environmentally conscious way of doing business is their new 14 million gallon manure pit. “It collects all of the runoff from the farm, so nothing goes into the local waterways. It has also significantly reduced our use of commercial fertilizers by allowing us to spread our own manure. That, along with minimal tillage practices, helps to conserve our land and resources,” explains Matt.
There are four more reasons that the Peckhams work so hard to grow and modernize their farm. Their names are Caleb, Grace, Graham, and Tucker, the seventh generation of Peckhams to live and work on Elm Farm. Matt explains it this way: “Chrissy and I work hard so that our children will be in the best possible position to continue dairy farming when it is their turn to take over.”
“I’m proud to carry on the Peckham name and tradition as a sixth generation dairy farmer,” notes Matt, “but I’m even more proud to be raising the seventh.”
We asked a very busy Matt Peckham to answer our Farmer Friday questions. Check out what he had to say:
What is your favorite thing about being a dairy farm family?
My favorite thing about raising a family on a dairy farm is that our kids are never bored! No matter what the size of the farm, for children there is never a dull moment on a dairy farm. We are able to raise our children the way we were raised a generation ago, playing outside, learning to take care of the animals (the kids have chickens and pigs as well as their cows), and becoming responsible young people. Chrissy home schools the children, so they are with us all the time. Besides their studies, everything at the farm is part of their education.
What is your family’s favorite meal? Care to share a recipe?
Our favorite meal is Macaroni and Cheese – Cabot style. It’s a family favorite! It’s great with cheddar cheeseburgers on a hot day, or as a nice warm supper after a hard winter day at work. Chrissy prepares it for church suppers and potlucks as well, everywhere we go people ask for the recipe. We love telling them that the key is our own Cabot Cheddar!
What is your least favorite farm chore?
I know it might sound crazy, but my very least favorite chore happens in the summertime. In the summer farmers take soil samples in their cornfields, referred to as “June nitrates.” These samples are very important to help us fertilize our corn properly, but it is a hot, hot, hot job. Every field requires taking a dozen soil samples, and I have never managed to find a day below 90 degrees to get them done. That means I walk 180 acres of corn taking hundreds of samples while baking in the sun. It makes winter seem not so bad.
What is your favorite time of year on the farm?
Fall is my favorite time of the year on the farm. When the corn is harvested and in the bunks, and the hay is piled high in the barn it is a great feeling going into the winter months. When the feed is put up for the animals, and there is no more worry about hurricanes, rain on hay, or frost hitting the corn, we can breathe much easier. The farm looks so pretty in the fall colors, and the cornfields have winter cover crops growing in them. It’s almost like a reward for getting through another year of hard work.
What is one thing you would like people who have never experienced farm life to know?
I love sharing the story of our farm family, our children are the seventh generation of Peckhams to farm here in Woodstock, and hopefully there will be many more generations to share in this lifestyle we live. It’s hard work, but like any of the other 1200 farm families that make up the Cabot Cooperative, we are proud to bring you the freshest Cabot cheese and dairy products that we can.
To take a Virtual Tour of Elm Farm, click here