Matt Staebner, his brother Hale, dad Craig, and his grandfather Ernest run the Blue Slope Farm in North Franklin, CT. Matt's great grandfather purchased the farm in 1940, and it's been a family affair ever since. Matt's grandmother Sandy and his mother Anne also pitch in to make it all work. Matt's sister Rebecca has moved to Fredonia, New York to start her own farm. The family milks 130 cows and has about 120 young stock. And the farm is quite an operation.
While the Staebners primary business is dairy farming, and they put in all the hours and do all the work that entails, they also have a goat meat and free-ranging veal business. They retail much of their product at Yale University's farmers' market and select retailers around eastern Connecticut, and Matt is largely in charge of that operation. They have an ag trucking business that Ernest, with son Jeff's help, is in charge of, and they carry grain, sawdust, compost, hay, and other ag related products throughout the state and beyond.
On top of all that, Sandy and Anne run a museum of agriculture and history as part of the farm operation; more than 2,200 visitors came in 2009, including age-appropriate school groups and special interest groups. The Staebners' four Belgian draught horses also provide wagon rides for farm visitors.
No day is ever the same for the Staebners, but some are more difficult than others. A few summers back their commodity storage facility caught fire and burned to the ground. They lost their tractor and other equipment, their grain, 600 bales of hay and, of course, the shed itself – just what they needed at the height of the season. But they took it all in stride, covered their new grain with tarps for temporary protection, and went about building a new facility. As Matt says, “Every farm faces challenges. This was just ours for that summer.”
All the members of the Staebner family are long standing members and supporters of the 4-H Club in New London County, as well as the state of Connecticut. They are also very involved in broader dairy, county, and state affairs, and are active in the New London County Farm Bureau, the Connecticut Farm Bureau, and the 4-H Extension Council for New London County, among others. They know that dairy farming doesn’t stop at their property line, and they make sure to add their voices and energy to support the industry and preserve open spaces wherever they can.
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