First Generation farmer Kevin Breene caught the farming bug early, but it took time and hard work to establish Breene Hollow Farm. About four decades ago, he raised his first calf in a converted chicken coop. After graduating from the University of Connecticut in 1977, he built a more traditional barn to house 24 cows on his parents’ property. Four years later, Kevin moved the herd to a nearby farm where the family has been since.Kevin Breene raised his 1st calf 40 years ago in his back yard and now he's the proud owner of Breene Hollow Farm. #FarmerFriday Click To Tweet
Over the years, the farm has grown to over 300 acres of crops and managed forestland, most of which has been preserved to ensure a farming future on the land. Kevin’s family has also expanded, with his daughters, Melissa, Rebecca and Hillary, and son, Steven, all growing up on the farm.
Steven is currently serving in the Marines, Rebecca is a high school teacher and Hillary studied Agricultural Business and now works for Cargill, a farm services company. Melissa, like her father, attended the University of Connecticut and is now working on the farm full time along with her husband, Matt. They have a daughter, Kenzie, who already has a strong love of cows and represents a strong – and adorable – 3rd Generation at Breene Hollow Farm.
The farm sits on Rhode Island’s border with Connecticut, where they milk 60 registered Holstein, Jersey, Ayrshires and Lineback cows (see our cow infographic for details on each breed). They were named Rhode Island Outstanding Dairy Farm of the year in both 1988 and 2009 and they are showing no signs of slowing down.
Breene Hollow Farm is one of just eight remaining dairy farms in Rhode Island, but as the number of farms has dwindled they have found even more support from their neighbors. In addition to being one of 1,200 Cabot Farm Families, Breene Hollow Farm is a member of the Rhody Fresh Co-op, offering fresh, local milk, cream, cheese and butter in most grocery stores throughout Rhode Island.
In 2009, Melissa was elected as her region’s Representative to the Agri-Mark Young Co-operator (YC) Program. In a time when the average dairy farmer is over 55 years old, the group serves as an opportunity for young farmers to get more involved within the Co-operative. After seven years of leadership in the program, Melissa will finish her term as YC President at next week’s Annual Meeting.
Becoming involved in the Young Co-operator Program gave Melissa the opportunity to attend several National Conferences around the country and even visit with legislators on Capitol Hill to discuss issues like the Farm Bill and Immigration Reform. She has also served as a delegate to New England Dairy Promotion and has remained involved as a leader in her local 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) groups.
“The YC program has given me so many great opportunities to expand my knowledge of the dairy industry, to network with farmers throughout the country who are facing similar challenges and opportunities, and to become a better leader”, says Melissa. In true Co-operative fashion, she shared extraordinary amounts of knowledge, passion, pride and enthusiasm with the group.
Farmer Friday Interview
This week, on her last Friday as YC Program President, we thank Melissa for taking the time to share her experience on the farm and in the Community. It’s safe to assume that Melissa will be a leader in the Co-operative for years to come – and the future Cabot and Breene Hollow Farm looks bright plaid!
My favorite thing about being a dairy farm family is being able to spend so much time with your family. I get to see my Dad every day, which is not something most people can say. I also get to take my daughter with me to the farm every day. She loves the cows and loves helping me feed the calves.
My husband Matt also works on the farm so we get to spend more time together too. Melissa and her husband were married on the farm. It was a beautiful day and you can’t beat the scenery. It is who we are.
Favorite time of year on the farm
My favorite time of year on the farm is the spring/summer. I love the heat and watching everything turn green. It’s just a beautiful time of year to look out into the pastures and see the cows grazing.
Our whole family is involved in the 4-H. I run the Dairy show at our local fair but before me, it was my father running it. We also allow kids to manage and show our animals at fairs. It’s a great way to connect people who have never been on a farm before with the responsibility it takes to care for a calf or a cow. My Father was the town council president for many years before becoming a state senator and eventually the West Greenwich town manager so we are very involved with the community.
Favorite Meal: Baked Macaroni & Cheese
Our family’s favorite meal is a Baked Macaroni & Cheese that we call ‘adult mac & cheese’. It’s a modified version of my Mother’s (previously) secret recipe.
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 pound Cabot Sharp Cheddar, shredded
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 bunch chopped scallions
- 1-1/2 cups diced ham
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs
- 1 pound cooked cavatappi
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
Heat milk, cream, mustard, salt and cayenne pepper on the stove. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add the cheeses, tomatoes, scallions and ham. Add the hot cooked pasta and stir well. Pour into casserole dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes
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