When Chris and Sarah Ficken met as students at Cornell University, she was in her final semester and working all the time. “If I wasn’t at work or in class, I was in the library,” she recalls, “so Chris started hanging out with me in the library.” Today, the young farmers are equally busy working all the time, but in the very different venue of their 99-acre central New Yorkfarm. Along with caring for the herd of about 40 cows and running a small community-supported agriculture vegetable share program, the couple has two young daughters.
“We have built our farm from the ground up with the help of family, friends and neighbors,” Chris Ficken.
Focus on farming
Sarah grew up in suburban Long Island and earned her degree in natural resources and environmental studies, which makes her particularly aware of issues of sustainability. Chris came to Cornell from Wisconsin where his family fell into small-scale farming to support the kids’ 4-H projects. Hestudied animal and dairy science and always knew he wanted to become a dairy farmer. “From the beginning, I knew we were going to end up farming,” Sarah says.
Fork of fate
The couple found their farm after a long day of looking at farms that weren’t quite the right match.They took a detour home and, at a fork in the road, Sarah recalls, “Chris asked, ‘Left or right?’ and at the very last second, I chose right. That right turn led us to the farm that we now call home.” If the couple ever needs a reminder of why they are pursuing this path, they have only to look at their daughters. Hannah, the eldest, “absolutely loves going out to the barn,” says her mom. “Chris does chores with her almost every night. On the days when it doesn’t make sense for her to go, he has to sneak out and then she’ll worry the baby cows won’t get fed.”