It was just three years ago that Walt Trombley, now 81, fully transitioned the family’s small dairy farm over to his son, Walt, Jr.
To avoid confusion, Walt, Jr. has always gone by Ricky or Wally, depending who’s talking. But their name is not the only thing father and son have in common. They both love North Star Acres farm, which is located in Ellenburg Center in northern New York state not far from the Canadian border; it has been in the family of Walt, Sr.’s wife and Ricky’s mom, Anne, since the early 1940s.
The love for animals has been handed down through the generations at North Star Acres, where a pair of father-son farmers has worked together for decades. Read more: #CabotFarmers #CabotCheese #FarmLove Click To Tweet
For decades, the pair of Walters – dad and son – worked together, splitting morning and afternoon chores between them. “I’ve been involved since I could walk,” Ricky says. “It’s in my blood.” These days, even though Walt, Sr. has technically retired, “he still comes to the barn every day and helps where he can,” his son says.
Working with his father has been both a blessing and, occasionally, a challenge, like any close family working relationship, Ricky acknowledges: “We’ve learned from each other.”
Even though his dad still helps out regularly with the milking herd of about two dozen Holsteins and Ayrshires, “I’m so used to him being around all the time,” Ricky says, sometimes he’ll find himself surprised not to see his father in his usual spots. “I’ll look around and see the empty space where he always was,” Ricky says.
When Ricky’s own daughter, Jennifer, was growing up, he worked a second off-farm job and volunteered as an EMT with the local fire department, where his dad was also a volunteer firefighter. It didn’t leave him a lot of free time.
These days, it makes him happy to see Jennifer’s two kids, now 14 and 7, come to the farm where they keep and train their 4-H show calves. “I have more time now,” Ricky says, “to go to my grandkids’ ball games and things like that.”
He does have fond memories of going fishing with Jennifer on Father’s Day when she was a little girl. “We’d go to the brook and bring home freckled trout to cook up,” he says.
Father’s Day on the farm usually means a big family barbecue with Ricky, his three siblings, their kids and a pack of grandkids. In addition to steaks, hot dogs and burgers on the grill, there are the traditions of Grandma’s maple-sweetened baked beans, macaroni salad and taco salad.
Whether the menu includes freshly caught trout or Grandma’s baked beans, time spent with family is treasured. “When you’re a dairy farmer,” Ricky says, “you take care of two families: your dairy herd and your family of kids and parents.”