Three generations of Coons currently work on the family dairy in the bucolic Smithfield Valley about 100 miles north of New York City. Since the farm began as Smithfield Guernseys, Dirck Coon and his sons, Peter and Dave have been joined by Peter’s sons, Isaac and Amos, who work together with other family members and employees to milk about 350 cows, care for another 250 young stock and raise a variety of crops. It takes careful management and pragmatism. “We love the life and the work,” says Peter. “But this is a business too, and you have to plan for everything.”
It was the early 1960s when the Coons first teamed up with the local Conservation District to find ways to reduce soil erosion and they have continued to build on that leadership with a long list of awards. Dirck has served as a director on the Conservation District Board and the Coon Brothers enrolled early in the USDA’s Long Term Agreement, enabling them to identify all highly erodible land and establish a conservation farming plan. Coon Brothers was also one of the first demonstration farms for the Governor’s Agricultural Environmental Management program. Half of the 400 acres owned by the farm is protected from development.
In addition to shipping milk through the co-op that owns Cabot, the Coon Brothers are part of a small group of farms whose milk is sold in the New York area under the brand Hudson Valley Fresh. They also grow corn, hay, soybeans, straw and wheat and are proud to raise ninety percent of the feed their cows need. The more they control, the better quality the milk, Peter believes: “People have to know they are getting the best product possible from us.”