Ned Ellis was raised on the family farm in Hebron, Connecticut, and he and his wife Renee live in the original family farm house that dates back to 1821. The Mapleleaf Farm has 600 acres, 235 milkers, and about 220 head of young stock.
Ned is quick to show his passion for dairy farming, and farming generally has been in the family for over two centuries. He and Renee raised their three now-adult children on the farm, and Ned says, “Raising the kids on the family farmstead was great. Among other things, they learned responsibility, developed a strong work ethic, and have a love of the land.” And while the children have chosen different career paths for now, the lessons they learned will serve them well in whatever careers they pursue. Life on a dairy farm is dominated by the milking cycle for the cattle, although as Ned notes, “No day is ever the same, and you’re never quite sure what you’ll be doing from one day to the next. One thing is for sure, however, and that is that there’s no time to get bored– there’s just too much to do.”
And while Ned loves dairy farming, he does not love the wild fluctuations that milk prices undergo. When prices were historically low, he helped combat them by joining with a group of other local dairy farmers to form their own business, called “Farmers’ Cow.” People like to know where their food comes from and how it’s produced. They also like to support local farmers, and Farmers’ Cow does just that. The farm families of the cooperative invite the public to their farms; they sell a portion of their milk and other dairy products to local outlets; and they support the community while the community supports them. It’s a great idea: everybody wins, and selling locally helps the farmers fight the wild swings of an unpredictable market.
And while dairy farming is a dawn to dusk proposition, Ned finds a way to stay involved in the community in other ways as well. He actively promotes the preservation of open spaces and farm land because, as he says, “once you build a development where a farm once stood, you’ve lost that land forever.” He meets with legislators and public officials to protect this precious resource and make sure our farms will still be here for future generations. Says Ned: “It’s just part of the deal. We all have to think outside the boundaries of our property line to make sure the industry remains strong.”