“So many young people want to be this movie star or want to be an astronaut, or something fantastic,” says the white-bearded man in the movie trailer for “Forgotten Farms,” a 2016 documentary about New England dairying. “Louis Escobar wanted to be a dairy farmer,” he continues, referring to himself. “I’ve lived my life’s dream.”
Since 1937, Escobars have farmed on Rhode Island’s beautiful Aquidneck Island. The island may be best known for its Newport mansions and yachts, but perhaps it should become equally famous for its award-winning Escobar Farm (and dare we say, movie star-farmer?), a repeat honoree for the state’s Green Pastures Outstanding Dairy Farm of the Year.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) recently announced the 2017 award, noting that Escobar Farm, owned by Louis and Jane Escobar, was selected to honor “the owners’ involvement in dairy farming advocacy and growth, community ties and commitment to farming best practices.”
“I’ve had farmers I looked up to who’d say, ‘This is what I’ve been doing for 40 years and this is the way I’m going to keep doing it,’” Louis says. “I’m never going to have that mentality. If you do exactly what you did the previous year, you’re not making progress; you’re spiraling down. Even at my age, about to turn 79 years young,” he chuckles.
Louis is only a year younger than the family farm where he grew up doing the work he loves and watching the landscape change around it. The couple milks 90 Holsteins and manages 95 acres with their full-time farm manager and some hired help. This has become more challenging since Louis became paraplegic after a tractor accident a couple years ago. “Some people would be disgusted, disgruntled, depressed,” says his wife, Jane, “but Louis knows you have to move on. He still troubleshoots really well. He has a power wheelchair and he’s all over the place. He wore the first set of tires right out. He’s even used it to chase down cows.”
Luckily, the cows don’t get out too often because the Escobars are plenty busy chasing down all the other pieces that keep their operation afloat.
Louis was instrumental in creating a line of RhodyFresh local dairy branded products that are sold around the state. The family also operates a very busy fall agritourism program with a corn maze run by Louis’s daughter, Lori; a pumpkin patch with hay rides and a festival the last weekend of September. In addition, they put on a big fireworks display every July 4 for the whole community to enjoy. To take advantage of the flow of tourists in the area, they also created an inn in a classic New England farmhouse across from the farm, which is run by a hired manager. “Every little bit helps,” says Louis. Plus, his wife adds, “It’s all about bringing people onto the farm and letting them see a real farm, see what goes into it.”
The Escobars are motivated daily by the legacy they inherited. “My father was an immigrant from the Azores,” Louis explains. “He came here when he was 12 and worked and sent money home. It tore his heart out when immigrants like him came to this country, learned the language, worked their way up to be able to buy a farm, educated their children, and then those children sold off the land for subdivisions. At a very young age it became very important for me to keep the farm viable so it could continue into the future for our family, the community and the state.”
Escobar Farm has a fun-packed fall schedule with the official pumpkin patch opening festival the weekend of September 30 this year. See what’s going on at Escobar Farm!
Watch the trailer for “Forgotten Farms” featuring the Escobars as well as Lorraine Stuart Merrill of Stuart Farm in New Hampshire, another co-op member farm.