Farmer Friday: Tollgate Farm


Tollgate Farm
Ancramdale, NY

Jim and Karen Davenport run a 60 cow, 600-acre tie-stall dairy farm with 130 purebred Holsteins and Ayrshires in Ancramdale, NY. The 140 tillable acres provide all the forages for the herd as well as hay to sell as a cash crop.

So, what’s Jim’s day like? He grins as he starts the list: “I walk in the barn at 3:00 a.m., sanitize the milking system, push feed in to the cows, clean-up behind them, and start to milk by 3:30 a.m. I then feed the calves, wash the milking system, and head to the house for breakfast.” The middle of the day includes crop work and servicing machinery, buildings, or the milking system. And the list never quite gets done. Says Jim: “The goal is to be home for dinner and family by 7:00 p.m.” And Jim is content with the long hours, but when milk prices are low, the best he can hope for is to break even. Fortunately, Karen is an agricultural science teacher in nearby Connecticut, and her income keeps the wolves from the door.


The entire Davenport family is actively committed to promoting the dairy industry. Daughters Kristen and Laura were Columbia County Dairy Princesses. They spoke with elementary school children and many civic groups about the importance of dairy in a healthy diet and about dairy farming generally. Each spring the entire Taconic Hills kindergarten came to the farm for a day of fantastic experiences. In 2008 Kristen became the New York State Dairy Princess, and her responsibilities extended statewide. Given the Davenports’ passion for education and excellence, it came as no surprise last year when Karen was awarded the Kapteyn Prize, a prestigious award which recognizes Excellence in Education. Over the years the Davenport family has also organized Cabot tastings in New York, Connecticut, and Florida at supermarkets, open houses, and banquets.


Jim feels it is critical for consumers to know how much labor, money, and care go into getting quality milk to the creamery. To this end, the Davenports have earned Agri-Mark’s “Top Quality Award” four times this decade. They have also won the National Dairy Quality Award, being in the top six herds nationwide three times. And anytime the Davenports have the chance to inform the public about dairy, they take it. A few years back, Jim received a call on Thursday afternoon from a Fox Business News producer to be interviewed with the Pennsylvania Commissioner of Agriculture on the terrible financial condition of dairy farming. He appeared in Manhattan at 8:30 the next morning for a live network interview and was back at work by 11:00 a.m. Just one more thing on the list.


In addition to being one of the farm families who own Cabot, the Davenports also supply milk to Hudson Valley Fresh for their award winning cream, milk, yogurt and sour cream.

Jim and Karen recently talked through our Farmer Friday interview questions over Karen’s birthday dinner. They said they had fun discussing the questions and even after 30-plus years of marriage, it was very enlightening to hear each other’s answers. Happy belated birthday Karen and thanks for agreeing to be featured this week.

What is your favorite thing about being a dairy farm family?

The sense of accomplishment we get from producing a high quality, nutritious milk for our customers and our own family to enjoy.

What is your family’s favorite meal?

Here’s one that we love. It’s really easy, and the family loves it!

Tollgate Balsamic Bruschetta Chicken

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4



2 large chicken breasts

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

½ Tbsp olive oil

¼ tsp minced garlic a pinch salt & pepper


4 medium Roma tomatoes

½ medium sweet onion (Vidalia)

1 tsp minced garlic

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil to taste

Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup shredded Cabot cheddar, try any of our different varieties!


Trim the excess fat from the chicken breasts and cut each piece into two. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and pound the pieces down to one inch in thickness (use a rolling pin or heavy pan to pound).

Place the chicken pieces in a container or zip top bag along with ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, ½ Tbsp olive oil, ¼ tsp minced garlic (or one clove if using fresh), and a healthy pinch of salt and pepper.

Mix everything around to make sure the chicken is coated in the marinade. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Prepare the bruschetta topping. Finely dice the onion and tomatoes. Combine them in a bowl with the minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Stir well, taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking (I like generous salt in this mix, about ½ tsp).

Grill the chicken until cooked through. Turn the oven on to broil and adjust the rack so that is about 6 inches below the heating element.

Place the grilled chicken pieces on a baking sheet covered with foil. Top each piece of chicken with about ¼ cup of the tomato bruschetta topping and about ¼ cup of shredded cheese. It’s okay if some falls off, you can scoop it onto your plate along with the chicken. Place the baking sheet in the oven under the broiler. Cook just until the cheese is fully melted (5-10 minutes). Serve hot.

What is your least favorite farm chore?

Picking stones out of fields! Picking stones from the fields we use to grow feed for our cows. It is necessary to remove all stones larger than a baseball as they will damage our planting and harvesting equipment. We seem to always be picking stones on the hottest, most humid days of the summer. We come in dirty, tired, and really thirsty but with an amazing feeling of satisfaction.


What is your favorite time of year on the farm?

Each season of the year brings new and exciting events on the farm; but the Fall is our favorite time of the year because we see the fruits of our labor. Full silos of feed and a mow full of hay are the results of many months of preparing, cultivating and harvesting the highest quality feed possible for our cows. The air is crisp and clear, the sun is bright and the leaves on the trees are turning gold and red. This is surely a time of wonder and awe.



What is the one thing that you would like people who have never experienced farm life to know?

Farm life is unique and we wish everyone could experience the amazing, positive and sometimes challenging times we experience daily. We would love for the folks who enjoy our products to know that in order to produce the highest quality product possible and pay our bills requires hard work, attention to detail and intelligent decisions.

We provide our cows with well-balanced diets, comfortable well-bedded mattresses upon which to rest, veterinary check-ups, regular hoof trimming and haircuts to keep them cool. We love what we do, we love to watch our kids grow up with calves and kittens and learn about life in a very real way. We are proud to produce a wholesome food which you can consume with confidence in its quality and safety.



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