Brian Donovan grew up in suburban Connecticut with no family connection to farming—or any connection to farming for that matter. He had a dog and a cat growing up and he liked animals, he says, but that was it. Brian was considering becoming a plumber until he took a short-term summer job after high school graduation. “I thought I was just going to paint this guy’s barn,” he says with a chuckle, “but he had dairy cows and they seemed interesting to me. I kept working for him and eventually ended up buying his cows.”
At the age of 23, Brian had 110 cows but no farm to put them on. Then he found Tim Marshall, a dairy farmer about an hour away in New York who’d sold his herd but was still cropping his land and was happy to rent him a barn, milking equipment and 60 acres of pasture. “I bought the cows and by the end of the week I had moved them to Bos-Haven Farm,” he says. A dozen years in, Brian has around 150 milking cows with about the same number of dry cows, calves and heifers. His herd keeps the turn-of-the-20thcentury barn humming and he leaves feed production up to Tim, whose ancestors have farmed in the region since the early 1800s.
Most of the milk from Brian’s herd and that of a handful of other local dairies is marketed as Hudson Valley Fresh, a premium, local milk. It is in high demand in the New York City area about two hours away. “I’m fortunate to be where I am. Consumers here really appreciate the local milk,” Brian says. “It helps us be a sustainable business.”