Reestablished in 2004, Milky Way Farm in Ira, Vermont is run by Rob Clark and his Dad, Bob, along with their helper, Melinda Laben. They have 125 acres and grow haylage for their herd of 65 milkers and 75 young stock comprised entirely of Jersey cattle. Mary Sacenic-Clark, Bob's wife, pitches in and was an elementary school teacher for many years before retiring.
In the early years before the family temporarily closed the farm down, Bob ran the operation and Robbie helped out as a youngster. In 2004 Rob decided that he wanted to operate the farm full-time again and turn it into a substantial operation. It’s been full speed ahead since then. Robbie had just graduated high school, got a loan from the bank, purchased two milkers and two calves, and was off and running. The family hasn’t looked back since. Says Mary: “Robbie has a natural touch with the animals, and the herd grew to its current size almost overnight. At one point, we had 20 female calves in a row, which is remarkable, and there’s been no looking back. It’s great to work side by side with my family, and we are grateful for it every day.”
The Milky Way Farm is more than a dairy farm. Mary never lost her passion for teaching or her love of children. She still brings those traits to the farm. She runs an education center on the farm and does AgriTours throughout the year. She designs programs for kids, produces pamphlets and other handouts about food and dairy farming, and teaches the kids where their food comes from. Says Mary: “We’ve had visitors from all over. From Germany, Spain, Mexico, and all over the world. It’s wonderful to see the interest in the kids’ eyes, even though some of them may not even speak English.”
And as if that weren’t enough, the Clarks are a family of entrepreneurs. For years they had a full-fledged maple syrup business on their land. Now they rent it out in season so others can tap the maples. Mary also runs a small country store from their house where they sell local crafts, maple syrup, locally grown jams and pickles, and books and pamphlets about farming. Most recently they set up a small composting business, and they sell their products to local nursery owners, garden enthusiasts, and greenhouse owners. Says Mary with the wisdom earned from many years of dairy farming: “This is never an easy business. We love working together, but nothing comes easy. It’s good to have these other businesses to even out the wild swings of milk prices. Plus, we never get bored.”
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