Herb and Bev Hodge own the Farmer Hodge's Dairy, and it's quite an operation. It's a Century Farm that has been run continuously by the family since 1846, and it is also a "Dairy of Distinction," an honor awarded by the Vermont Department of Agriculture to the most attractive farms in the state. They have also received numerous Agri-Mark quality awards. Herb and Bev, now in their 80s, have been married for over sixty years and are still working on the farm. Their daughter Cindy and son-in-law Russell, however, now do much of the heavy lifting. Herb and Bev's grandchildren, Mark and Maegan, Cindy's two children, are also on call and always willing to lend a hand when needed.
For the Hodges, dairy farming also means being entrepreneurs. The family has a large roadside stand where patrons come from miles around to purchase their maple syrup, Vermont crafts, hanging flower baskets from their greenhouse, and, of course, Cabot cheese. Bev runs the roadside stand with Priscilla Jorgensen, a close family friend who has been working with her for four decades. Says Bev: “At this point Priscilla and I pretty much know each other’s way. It’s great to have somebody you trust so much working with you.” And that’s not all. The family also has a Christmas House where they sell handmade wreaths and other Christmas decorations in November and December. They sell Christmas trees to local Vermonters, and they ship large batches of their products to customers all over the country. The holidays are not a time for the Hodges to take it easy.
Dairy farming is always a rigorous, dawn-to-dusk, seven-days-a-week job. And things don’t always work out perfectly. For example, the Hodges had two large greenhouses where they grow the fruits, vegetables, and flowers they sell at the roadside stand. During a particularly severe ice storm last year, one of the greenhouses collapsed. The other survived, however, and says Bev: “Things could have been worse. We saved one of the greenhouses and consider ourselves fortunate for that.”
The farm itself is about 115 acres, and the Hodges have some 70 milkers, 60 young stock, one old horse, and many barn cats. Cindy has been an equestrian all her life and still enjoys working with horses. The operation is a family matter, and all hands pitch in. Even though finances are tight and farming is hard work, the family remains joyful. Says Herb: “We are very blessed on the farm. It’s a beautiful place with two lakes surrounding us, and it’s a great place to raise the family.