Carey Farm and six generations of the Carey family have called the dairy farming town of Burke in Northeast New York home since 1891. Located near the northern foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, the property is just 12 miles from the Canadian border. Today, the farm is under the care of Matt Carey, who oversees the herd of 122 Holsteins. Even though Carey Farm dates back to the 19th century, under the direction of Matt, it has become quite the modern operation.
In 1984, when Matt was a senior in high school, he started working on the farm full-time. At that time, his father Donald co-owned the business with Matt's grandmother, but just as Matt was entering his senior year his father became sick with a respiratory disorder known as Farmer's Lung, making it impossible for him to keep up with his daily responsibilities. The burden of running the farm fell solely to Matt, who had to make an arrangement with his school in order to take care of the farm work while completing his senior year. "I had to do everything," says Matt, "but it worked for me. I proved I could do it, both to myself and to my father. When I graduated, my family made me an offer to become a partner."
When Matt's grandmother passed away in 1989, she left her share of Carey Farm to Matt, making him a 51% owner. That's when Matt began to modernize the farm.
In his first year running the operation, he increased milk production by 70% by switching the animals from baled hay to silage. The same year, he built the farm's first silo, and added a second in 2003. Over the years he also upgraded the milk pipeline and added a new 800-gallon tank; outfitted the barn with new windows and siding; upgraded the barn's roof; installed a new vacuum pump and compressor; and dug a new well.
"The improvements have helped us become as efficient as possible for our size," says Matt. "We always stayed fairly small because of my father's health. This way, I could handle the entire operation on my own with little help in case he became too ill to help out."
Matt prides himself on being a hands-on guy. He raises all of his own cows, breeding about 18 calves per year, and while he'll hire a hand or two to help bale the farm's 12,000 squares per year, he milks all of them himself.
Matt's biggest helper on the farm is his girlfriend Shannon Barber. They met in a caf̩e in Plattsburgh while Matt was attending a speed-dating event. After having no luck with "dates," he struck up a conversation with Shannon, who ironically was just sitting at the bar. "I asked her out, and we've been together for eight years," says Matt. "She quickly became enamored with farm life, and loves working driving the tractors." Matt's mother Nancy also helps out by keeping the books.