Richard Woodger of Granville, Massachusetts did not come to dairy farming in the usual way. He was not raised on a farm, and he can’t trace his roots back through generation after generation of family farmers. In fact, his dad was an aeronautical engineer for Pratt & Whitney who spent more time flying over farms than working on them.
But Richard always felt a kinship with the land and with farming, and he followed his heart. He graduated with a degree in agriculture from Stockbridge College and set out to make his mark as a dairy farmer. He borrowed some money, purchased some cows, rented some land, and began his journey. He started from scratch as a young man and has lived a farmer’s life ever since. That was over forty years ago.
Richard, his wife Mary, and his son Doug work the farm. Their son Dan and family live next door and help with mechanical repairs, excavation, and other chores on the farm. Their daughter works as a civil engineer. She and all the grandchildren, however, visit regularly, and recently Richard’s granddaughter said to her father: “Daddy, someday I’m going to run this place.” She’s already caught the dairy farming bug. The Woodgers have about 500 head of cattle and milk some 300 of them. The days are long and filled with challenges, but at the close of each day, Richard can see all he’s accomplished over the years right in front of him. He sees the cattle, the home, the barn, and the hills, and he knows his work brings safe, healthy food to the world. It’s a satisfying life.
And Richard is an expert on dairy farming from a broader perspective as well. He knows the farmers in his community and the challenges they face, and he knows the industry from the east coast to the west. He understands the economics of dairy farming inside out, and he knows the havoc that low milk prices are creating for an industry that is already volatile, where the downswings seem always to last longer than the ups. He knows all this because he had to. As a former member of Agri-Mark’s Board of Directors for some fifteen years, Richard had not only has to look out for his own farm, he has had to do everything possible to make things just a little bit better for all the farm families in the Agri-Mark Cooperative.