When people think of dairy farms, they imagine flat, open pastures. The Corse family farm, located in Whitingham, Vermont, doesn't fit that convention. "We're hill farmers," said Leon Corse. "We're all the way up at 2000 feet. We farm differently."
Leon, his wife Linda, and their daughter, Abbie, farm in the foothills of the Green Mountains on land that has been in the family since 1868. In 2013, the Corse family conserved the farm with the Vermont Land Trust. They milk an organic herd of about 60 cows – mostly Holsteins. The sweeping vistas and lush, green slopes are a beautiful, albeit challenging, setting for dairy farming.
According to Leon, “farmers like flat, wide-open land. Most would cringe if you asked them to farm land like this. But it’s ours, and we wouldn’t trade it.”
“I fell in love with the land instantly, even before I fell in love with Leon,” Linda says. “There’s just something about this place.”
Linda and Leon raised three children on their hilly, beautiful farm. Abbie has two brothers, named Caleb and Henry. All three left for college, without any promise of returning. When Abbie came to Leon and Linda and expressed an interest in joining them on the farm, full time, they were both surprised and thrilled. Of their three children, they felt Abbie was the least likely to return. She’s always sworn she would never be a farmer. But after pursuing a career in journalism and spending some time in related jobs after graduation, she realized she wanted to do something more personally meaningful.
“I never pushed my kids into farming, I just wanted them to be happy,” Leo maintains. “Linda and I are thrilled Abbie has made this choice, but even more importantly, we are thrilled she is happy. That is what matters most to us.”
Abbie was instrumental in the Corse’s decision to become an organic farm. They began the lengthy process in 2005, and became certified organic in 2008. Today, they members of both the Agrimark and Organic Valley Cooperatives. Their hilly landscape happens to be a good setting for growing the organic clover and grass their cows love to graze on in the pasture. “Our certification coincided with the 140th anniversary of the farm,” Leon said. “It was a very significant moment in the farm’s history.”
In addition to the family land, the Corses also lease land around Whitingham. “We rent from 26 local families, which means we have 26 landlords,” according to Linda.
Today, Abbie, Leon, and Linda share farm duties. When they are not busy with chores, they are enjoying time with Abbie’s young son, Leon. “As I look back at each generation, I can see what each did to ensure the farm’s future success,” said Leon. “For us, I feel the decision to become certified organic, and to conserve the farm, are what will ensure this place will continue.”
“Farming is our way of life,” added Linda. “We can’t imagine living any other way.”