Graywall Farms is located in the historic farming town of Lebanon, Connecticut. Its lush, green fields of grass and corn have been under the ownership of first-generation farmer Robin Chesmer for nearly 25 years. Today, he and his son Lincoln co-own the operation. "I wasn't born into a farm family, and did not spend my childhood on a dairy farm, but I feel like farming has always been in my blood," says Robin.
Originally from England, his family moved to Canada, then Connecticut, when he was a child. He studied Business Administration at the University of Connecticut, and over the years has worked in a number of fields, including marketing and construction. Graywall Farms started operations in 1989 when Robin leased a 185-acre dairy farm, also purchasing the business's mixed herd of 80 Holstein and Brown Swiss dairy cows. The development rights for the land were later sold to the State of Connecticut, and in 1992 the Chesmer family officially purchased the farm. Over the years, Graywall Farms has grown to include 940 acres of owned land, with more than 700-acres protected by Connecticut's Farmland Preservation Program.
Today, the Chesmer's herd of 500 dairy cows is milked four times each day. "One of my greatest rewards is working alongside my family," says Robin. His son Lincoln is the General Manager of Graywall, overseeing the herd, crops, and the farm's 12 employees. Lincoln majored in Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, and has utilized his skills in the planning and design of a number of structures and facilities on the farm. He and his wife Amy have four kids; Sage, who is studying agriculture at SUNY Cobleskill; Willow, a high school student interested in becoming a vet; Grant, who wants to eventually work with his dad and grandfather on the farm and Braddock who is almost two and enjoys toddling around the farm. Robin also works alongside his son-in-law David Hevner, who manages the Graywall's 520 calves and heifers. David is married to Robin's daughter Lisa, who along with her mother Kathryn operates the family's popular retail gift business The Hoot. David and Lisa have one child, Indigo who loves to help out at farm events and inform visitors about the farms young calves. Graywall Farm has received a number of honors and awards since it was founded in 1989.
The farm was selected as a Connecticut Dairy Farm of Distinction in 1991, and was named the Connecticut Dairy Farm of the Year for the New England Green Pasture Program in 1998. The Chesmers hosted a visit from Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman in 2002, and recently hosted the Celebration of Connecticut Farms, Food, Wine & Art event to raise funds for farmland preservation with honorary chairs Meryl Streep, Faith Middleton, and Jacques Pepin. Graywall Farms values opportunities to host tours and events that showcase the diversity and values of local farms and sustainable agriculture. In addition to being members of the Agri-Mark family, Robin Chesmer is also a managing member of The Farmer's Cow, a cooperative of six Connecticut family-owned farms who have branded their milk, creams and other local products including eggs, apple cider and ice cream. The Farmer's Cow brand of 'Fresh Connecticut Milk' was launched in October of 2005. Their products can be found in stores and restaurants across Connecticut.