“His family tells this story about when Greg was a little boy,” his wife Lisa Porter recounts, “and how he was so excited to be in the barn with his dad that he went out with him really early at around 5:30. By 8 am he was so tired, he went and laid down—just for a minute. They found him later fast asleep in the utility room.”
Now with three adult kids of his own, Greg is the third generation on Porterdale Farms, and he has never wanted to be anywhere else. “It’s all I’ve ever enjoyed,” he says simply. “I like the animals. I like the outdoors. I liked working with my parents.” He did manage to tear himself away from the northern New York farm to attend college. “I always figured you needed a Plan B, just in case farming didn’t work out…and I had to find a wife,” he adds with a chuckle.
Luckily, Greg hasn’t needed a Plan B and he did successfully find a wife at Cornell University in Lisa, who was also raised on a dairy farm, but in western New York. “We met in farm finance class,” she recalls. “He was very smart so I decided I should sit next to him.” The two became friends but not an item until after they graduated from school and Lisa’s work brought her near Porterdale Farms. “We realized that our fathers had been fraternity brothers at Cornell together,” Lisa says, “and then it turned out our grandfathers were both New York grange members and knew each other. Our wedding was like Old Home Days. Everybody knew everyone.”
Porterdale is now a 2,000-cow dairy with 4,500 acres of leased and owned crop land and a team of a few dozen employees. Greg’s dad, David, still helps out and Lisa took over the books from Greg’s late mother, Judy. The Porters’ two sons have gone into accounting and education but their youngest, a daughter, is studying agriculture at Cornell and they think she might come home to farm. “That’s what she tells us,” Lisa says. They’re also very happy to have a young cousin, Stephen Porter, working with them on the farm.
Lisa and Greg love what they do with all its ups and downs. “When you’re having a bad day, you’ve got to step back and focus on the idea that you’re helping to feed the world, that you are one of the stewards of God’s creation,” Greg reflects. Every day brings treasures, Lisa adds: “The miracle of seeing a calf born, of putting a seed in the ground in the spring and seeing the corn that comes up, the hay that grows back each year, the meadows in bloom.”
Porterdale has been recognized as a New York State Conservation Farmer of the Year for its work on stream bank protection and the Porters take stewardship of their animals and their land very seriously both for business and ethical reasons. “Happy cows are profitable cows. Land that’s taken care of will reap rewards,” Greg observes. “If you don’t take care of your resources, you won’t have any left.”