Sweet Pea Farm
At the House of Hayes
North Granby, CT
The House of Hayes dairy farm is located in North Granby, Connecticut, a stone’s throw from the Connecticut-Massachusetts border. The eighth-generation operation is currently owned by Stanley and Dorothy Hayes, and run with the help of their three children: Daniel Hayes; Samantha Hayes; and Ellen Whitlow along with her husband Brian who works off the farm, but helps out when needed.
The Hayes family farming tradition goes back to the 1820s, when their ancestors had a small herd of milking cows. Fast forward to the 1980s, when Stanley and his wife Dorothy joined the farm and the herd increased to 150 milking cows. 20 years later, as the next generation began showing interest in joining the business, the family realized they needed to either expand or diversify.
In 2005, the Hayes Corn Maze was born, an annual event open from Labor Day through Halloween. Between 2008 and 2009, the cow herd was decreased to 65 milking cows, and a facility was built to milk Saanens dairy goats and process their own milk products under the name Sweet Pea Cheese.
Farming is a family activity for the Hayes’s who divide the chores and split their time selling products at the local markets. On a typical day, Daniel feeds the cows and tends to the crops; Ellen or Samantha feeds the calves and cleans the barn; Dorothy milks the goats; Stanley works in the processing room and pays bills; Jean – an employee of 15 years – handles most of the morning milkings; and afternoon milkings are done by Stanley, Ellen, or Daniel. Extended family members also pitch in as needed throughout the year with crops, farmers markets, and in the processing room.
As the Hayes’s business, and their family, grows, they hope to increase production of their dairy products. Eventually, the family would like to build an aging cave so they can begin making hard cheeses.
“A farm is a great place to raise a family and we want our future generations to have that opportunity,” says Ellen. “I love farming because it means I get to work with my family and no matter how hard it may seem there always seems to be some sort of reward like watching a calf you raised grow up to be a cow. The advice I would give someone interesting in farming is to go for it. That said, they have to understand farming is not a job, it is a lifestyle, and there will be hard days. But the good ones always seem to outnumber them.”
If you are going to be in the Granby, CT area on September 6, be sure to visit Sweet Pea Farm at the House of Hayes – it’s Open Farm Day, a day that offers a glimpse behind the scenes at about a dozen farms in Granby, Connecticut: See the fields where your food grows and the facilities where milk turns into cheese. Watch a horse-training clinic and a sheep-shearing demonstration. Take a wagon ride, taste a new wine or the first apples of the season, try out spinning some wool, or take your photo on a tractor. Check out their website for more information.
We asked Dorothy to answer our Friday Farmer questions. Here is what she had to say:
What is your favorite thing about being a dairy farm family?
We love being able to work with our family. We currently have 4 generations working together on the farm.
What is your family’s favorite meal?
Mac and Cheese with Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar and some of our own goat cheese too!
What is your least favorite farm chore?
No one likes cleaning up after the cows. It’s a poopy job, literally.
What is your favorite time of year on the farm?
Fall is probably my favorite time of year, when all the crops are in and the leaves are still beautiful. It is a time when we can stop, take a breath and appreciate everything we have accomplished during the year.
What is one thing you would like people who have never experienced farm life to know?
We would like everyone to know what a rewarding job it can be to farm, from watching a calf grow to a milking cow, to watching crops you planted grow in the fields. It is hard work, but most days it is worth it. I think everyone should spend a day at the farm to truly appreciate the food they eat and where it comes from.