Paul Percy and his wife Lee own two dairy farms located within a few miles of each other in Stowe, Vermont. Their son Ryan helps manage the operation. They have an active maple syrup business in the spring, run a corn maze next to the Stowe bike path, manage over 600 cattle, and milk about 375 of them. That's a lot of work, and it takes a capable team to get it done.
When asked about daily life on the farm, Paul will tell you that farming is not quite what it was fifty years ago. Says Paul: “You need to think through problems and solve new challenges every day. You need a broad understanding of animal husbandry, mechanics, and business. Hard work alone won’t do the trick.” Then Paul paused when asked why he’s remained in farming all these years. He knows the answer, but it’s not always easy to convey to an outsider the joys, the challenges, and the sense of accomplishment dairy farming offers. Says Paul: “This is a great way of life. Loving what you do is a big part of a satisfying life. I love dairy farming, and I know it helps the community.”
So, what are the challenges? Paul pauses again and then patiently runs through a list of things like herd health, getting good help, bad weather, the occasional power outage, milk safety, good nutrition for the cattle, and much, much more. But like most dairy farmers, Paul is then forced to focus on the dreadful state of milk prices. “I won’t complain, and I’m not going anywhere, but current market prices are just unsustainable. Things have to improve or we are going to lose more and more farms.” And that seems to be the one common element across the industry. Says Paul: “You can love the life, work long hours, and not regret a minute of it. But dairy farmers have to make enough to cover their costs, and it’s just not in the cards right now.”
Of course, Paul had to view dairy farming from a broad perspective as a member of Agri-Mark’s Board of Directors for more than 30 years, finishing up in 2011. He has been making sure his own farms are successful while also doing his best for the cooperative and industry as a whole for a long, long time.
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