John George and his son John III run the George Family Farms in Interlaken, New York. The farm sits on a hill overlooking Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region of the state, and visitors often remark on the 'million dollar view' the farm enjoys. The George family has about 400 milkers and 380 young stock. They grow 380 acres of corn sileage and 380 of alfalfa, and they rotate the crops every few years to maintain the health of the soil. William George, John II's father, started the family farm in 1957 after finishing his service in the Marine Corps. This was a surprise choice since William had no prior experience as a dairy farmer. He did, however, have a big heart and a burning desire to work the land, and set off on a venture that would leave his son and grandson to follow in his footsteps. John II took over the farm in the 1980s, and he then formed a LLC in 2008 with John Jr. John II's wife Lucinda does much of the bookkeeping for the farm.
The Georges decided to expand the farm in 2009 from 150 to 300 milkers shortly after John Jr. joined the operation, and the timing could not have been worse. Milk prices spiraled downward that year and hit a historical low just as they were doubling the herd size. It was a big blow for the operation, but like most dairy farmers throughout the years, the Georges set their jaw and just worked that much harder. They weathered the storm, survived the tough patch, and are now thriving once again. They eventually managed to expand to 400 milkers. Says John III, "My dad taught me everything I know about dairy farming, and during that downturn, he taught me by his example to keep going no matter what. He's probably the hardest working farmer I know, and his hard work paid off."
Since the farm is only 400 yards away from Cayuga Lake, the family pays extra close attention to make sure there is no water run-off from the barn or the property to the lake. They redirect all water from the barn to a large leach field, and they make sure all the water stays on the farm. They also collect the cow manure and use it as fertilizer, and they often give some away to other farmers in the area. Like all good farmers, they rotate crops regularly to prevent soil erosion and ensure good soil health, and says John III, "We are always in touch with conservation principles and feel a responsibility for the land. After all, I hope to pass it on to my own kids someday as well."
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