The Van Vorst family has farmed just south of Saratoga Springs for more than 200 years. “You don’t see that too often, but we don’t shout about it all the time,” says Andrew Van Vorst, who now runs the farm with his daughter, Emma, the tenth generation. “To know they endured all the hardships through the years but kept at it, that makes you want to keep going.” Andrew never really considered doing anything else, although he did spend a couple years away from the home farm working in Australia, where he met his wife. They didn’t expect their only child to become a farmer. “She surprised us that she wanted to go into agriculture,” her dad says.
To hear Emma Lewis-Van Vorst tell it, however, there was never any doubt. “I always wanted to join the farm from a really young age,” she says. “I was always so proud of how old the farm was and all the people that came before me. My goal is to preserve the land that has been passed down in our family.” She acknowledges the challenge of balancing her own young family and the needs of about three dozen milking animals and an equal number of heifers. As if she isn’t busy enough, she also raises eggs and makes highly sought-after jams like cranberry-apple and ginger-pear, which she offers through a couple stores and at the local farmers market. The Van Vorsts also raise some Angus beef and crop more than 200 acres of animal feed with no additional employees, although Andrew’s dad, an active 80-something, still helps out with some chopping and raking. Like his father, Andrew doesn’t see retiring. “I don’t know if I’d like Florida,” he jokes.
Andrew believes strongly in the value of the small family farm, even as many others lament its demise. “I think there is always going to be a place for the smaller farm,” he says. “It’s about quality. That’s what it’s about. People stop me and tell me they’re happy we’re still here.” But, he recognizes the challenges are also very real. “We have to make it interesting for the next generation to take over. There are so many things luring them away,” he says. “Like for Emma, she has to feel this is where she can make a good living and have a good life.”
So far, it seems Emma has been convinced and she, in turn, sees the opportunity to do the same for the next generation. “My biggest reward is getting to wake up and work in a barn my great-grandfather built and milk cows my grandfather bred,” she says. “My husband and I enjoy watching our kids spend each day learning and exploring on the farm. Really my job in the long run will be encouraging my children to love this life as much as I do and hopefully they will want to become a part of our long family history.”