Five Mile Farm has been in the Akins family since the mid-1800s. Today, the fifth, sixth and seventh generations work together on the farm with an eye to future generations as well. All new efforts on the farm, explains Mark Akins, have at least a 30-year outlook. “We ask ourselves, ‘Are we doing this for immediate satisfaction, or are we building this for the future?’” he says. “Everything we do has to be sustainable.”
Mark works closely with his parents, Dean and Betty, as well as his son, Ryan, a Cornell graduate like his father. Mark’s wife, Becky, is a teacher and their daughter, Allison, works for an agriculture credit and financial services provider. Ryan’s fiancé, Emma Carver, is also a teacher and helps out on the farm during the summer. The Akins are constantly refining their approach. “Sustainable management practices to me are not about what will necessarily make us money this year,” explains Ryan, “but about how we’ll make a living on this farm every year for the next several generations.” Additionally, Five Mile Farm continues to update their facility and equipment and just added a 50 cow rotary parlor to improve the efficiency of the operation.
Looking forward also means appreciating the past. The family’s maple operation started back in the early 1920s and a wall of the sugarhouse bears the first date of the boil and gallon yield for every year since. Dean and Betty set about 1,000 taps and run an old-school, wood-fired evaporator to boil the tree sap down into syrup. “Everything goes with maple,” says Mark.