When she was growing up on her family’s East Montpelier dairy farm, Clara Ayer often rode her horse up the hill to a beautiful stand of tall pines where she later got married. Now, after earning an agriculture degree from Cornell University, Clara has returned to work full-time on the farm where she still treasures the special spot on the hill even though she doesn’t have quite as much time to get up there.
Clara, her brother Ricky, and their first cousin, Tucker Purchase—who also both graduated from Cornell—represent the third generation of family dairy farmers at Fairmont Farm.
Tucker, along with Clara and Ricky’s parents, Richard and Bonnie Hall, are the current principal owners after gradually taking on ownership responsibilities beginning in 2005 from Richard’s parents, John and Donna and their partner and family friend, Austin Cleaves.
To support all the family members, they have grown the farm to include three different locations in East Montpelier and Craftsbury, across which they milk 1,400 registered Holsteins; crop 3,000 acres and have built a breeding program. “I’m most proud that we’ve been able to provide an exit plan for the older generations and make room for next generation,” says Richard, noting that his father has earned the time to focus on writing his farm-based novels.
Each of the younger family members spent time working off the farm in different aspects and scales of agriculture before they came home to the farm with its signature cow weather vane-topped cupola. “Deep down I always dreamed that maybe I’d end up here, but I didn’t know how much room there’d be,” says Clara. “It’s just really nice to be able to work with family. I love the animals, love being outside. You really feel you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day.” Her brother Ricky adds, “I just love working with the cows. It’s rewarding to see animals grow from birth.”
Fairmont Farm also plays a strong role in the community, providing employment for about 30 people and sharing their love of farming and the land through educational field trips, hosting a 4-H Club and offering a farm summer camp. Much of the land is conserved with the Vermont Land Trust and the family has transitioned to a no-till cropping system. This method of raising crops eliminates tilling of the soil, which can help build soil health by increasing moisture and nutrient retention as well as living organisms while reducing erosion.
"Sustainability has always been important to us at Fairmont. Right now we are really focused on water quality and soil health.”
Being part of the Agri-Mark co-op also means a lot to the family. “We are big cheese-lovers,” says Clara. “I like contributing to a really good product we can be proud of.” In turn, she adds, “Cabot is really proud of their farmers and that does feel good.”
Visit us: Fairmont Farm, Inc