Alexa Kayhart was only five years old when she landed upon her life’s passion. “My grandmother, Pat Kayhart, was the calf feeder on our farm,” Alexa, now 22, recalls. “I did chores with her every day and I just loved it.” At age 11, Alexa was saving money to buy a horse by doing chores after school and on weekends. “I just never stopped working on the farm,” she says happily.
By the time she was 15, Alexa was working closely with her dad, Steve, at Kayhart Brothers Dairy in West Addison, Vermont, which he and his brother, Tim, had bought from their parents. She moved from working with the calves to the cows and her dad showed her to do physicals, give vaccines, diagnose many common ailments and develop treatment plans. “He taught me the foundation of everything I know today,” Alexa says.
As college approached, Alexa applied to schools with strong pre-veterinary programs. She had spent quite a bit of time with family friend and local veterinarian, Dr. Joe Klopfenstein, riding along on his visits to other farms and clients. “I always knew I wanted to work with cows,” she reflects. “I also fell in love with medicine and decided I wanted to become a vet.”
Alexa credits Dr. Klopfenstein’s mentorship with helping her eventually figure out that veterinary school was not the best fit for her. “He explained that the field has changed,” she says, “that nowadays farmers do a lot of the diagnosing and the treating and that vets play more of a consulting role. It’s more talking and less doing.” Alexa realized that she would be more fulfilled in a daily active role involved directly with a herd. “I love the cows and want to be working with them every day,” she says.
Where exactly she would do that, however, was less obvious to her. While Alexa knew she could always come home to her family’s farm, she also knew that she needed to stretch her wings. “My dad always said everyone’s got to do their own thing,” she says. “And I’m adventurous. I want to see the world. This is my time to see what’s out there.”
Through the Cabot co-op network, Alexa posted her interest in a herd manager job and a couple opportunities immediately presented themselves. “It’s such a tight knit community,” she says. “Everybody’s got each other’s back. We all share the hard work, dedication, commitment and passion. It’s cool to know we all have that in common.” She ended up accepting a position with Laurelbrook Farm in East Canaan, Connecticut starting at the end of May last year. “It seemed like the perfect place for me,” she says. “They’re good people, so welcoming. The cows are happy and it’s a nice facility.”
Managing the milking herd of 1,200 not to mention the young cows, along with 12 employees might appear daunting to most 22-year-olds, but Alexa dove right in. “It’s been a learning opportunity,” she says. “I’d never managed people, only cows, but I enjoy working with people and it’s been a great challenge to learn how to communicate and work effectively with them.”
In addition to developing her professional skills, Alexa notes that her new job also landed her an unexpected bonus. His name is Austin Jacquier, a fourth-generation member of the Laurelbrook Farm family. “We started hanging out in August,” Alexa says, “and we’ve been dating since.” It might complicate things a bit, she admits. “My plan has always been to go home. It’s another piece of the puzzle. But my dad always said, ‘You’ve got to have faith in the bigger picture. Take things day by day.’”
Alexa Kayhart benefited from the mentorship of a family friend, local veterinarian Dr. Joe Klopfenstein, who she shadowed on and off through high school and college.
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