Debora and her husband Doug Erb operate Springvale Farms and Landaff Creamery in Landaff, NH with the help of one full-time and two part-time workers. They have some 300 acres and milk about 100 cows, and since this is a relatively small farm, everybody has to do everything. On this day, Deb had to feed the calves, move the milk to their farmstead creamery, and do the afternoon milking. Tomorrow she’ll do the morning milking and then deal with whatever comes up during the day.
Deb and Doug are second generation farmers, but they both tested other career paths before they took over Doug’s family farm in 1989. Their three children are following the same path. Their daughter works for Central Connecticut Food Coop, their first son is an Army helicopter pilot, and their second son is a fire fighter/paramedic in Florida. Says Deb: “They are all doing other things now, but someday they may come back to the farm.”
And the Erbs have more than a farm. They also make artisan cheese. Landaff, NH traces its roots back to the Bishop of Landaff in Wales during the reign of King George III. With this rich tradition, Deb and Doug decided to learn cheesemaking using recipes and processes that date back countless generations in Wales. In fact, Doug went to Somerset, England and studied under third generation Welsh cheesemakers Chris Duckett and Jemima Cordle. He then brought the fabulous formula back home to New Hampsire and got to work. The Erbs use their own cows and, of course, they call it “Landaff Cheese.”
In addition to farming and cheesemaking, Deb is a member of Agri-Mark’s Board of Directors, and their farm is a founding member of a New England coop called New England Family Dairy Farms and the “Keep Local Farms” initiative. Their goal is to support local farmers, keep open landscape in New England, and enjoy the many other gifts that local farmers bring to the community such as hiking trails, snow mobile trails, hunting areas, and beautiful scenery. Says Deb: “You know, milk is one of the healthiest and most nutrient dense foods you can eat. We need to make sure people understand that milk is safe, and all milk is antibiotic free. Each time we lose a farm, we lose so much more in open space and rural character.”