Walter and Anne Trombley own the North Star Acres Farm in Ellenburg Center, NY where they have about 250 acres and a Holstein herd of 45 milkers and 35 young stock. They pasture the cows on about 70 acres of open land and grow haylage and alfalfa on the rest of the land for the winter months.
Walt and his son Walt Jr. (who goes by Ricky,) do most of the work and have toiled together for decades. Dad takes the morning shift and Ricky does the evening chores. Anne’s grandfather, Charles Moore, bought the farm initially and then sold it to his son. Anne grew up on the farm, and she and Walt purchased it from Anne’s dad over 40 years ago. The Trombleys raised their four children, two sons and two daughters on the farm, and says Anne: “This is a wonderful place to raise a family. The kids get fresh air and exercise every day, learn to love the land and the animals, and become responsible at an early age. And now, our grandchildren are learning the same lessons.” Their ten grandchildren have close ties to the farm and several work there every chance they get.
Dairy farming never stops, and the cows don’t take a break. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Trombleys can’t find time for their community. Walt Sr. was on the municipal fire department for many years, and Ricky was a volunteer for 18 years where he also qualified as an EMT and provided emergency medical services for ten years. Their pagers would go off any time of day or night, and the Trombleys were always front and center, ready to answer the call.
Weather in upstate New York is a challenge for dairy farmers, and it was never worse than during the infamous ice storm of 1998. The Trombleys’ farm is located in a beautiful but remote area of New York, and when the ice storm hit, few people in the area had back-up generators. The Trombleys were ahead of the curve and had ordered one shortly before the ice storm arrived, but it didn’t get there in time. For ten long days during the storm, the Trombleys couldn’t milk their herd, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway since the milk tankers couldn’t reach them in the first place. All production was lost, the herd was at risk, and all the family could do was work to keep their cattle healthy and alive. Of course, the generator they had ordered earlier arrived the day after the electricity was restored. Says Anne: “Those were a few hard days. There are many up times and a few down times in dairy farming, but that ice storm was one of the worst things we’ve ever experienced.”