The House of Hayes dairy farm is located in North Granby, Connecticut, a stone's throw from the Connecticut-Massachusetts border. The eighth-generation operation is owned by Stanley and Dorothy Hayes, and run with the help of their three children: Daniel Hayes, Samantha Hayes, and Ellen Whitlow along with her husband Brian, who also works off the farm.
The Hayes family farming tradition goes back as far as anyone can remember, all the way to the 1820s, when their ancestors had a small herd of milking cows. In the 1920s, Harold Hayes milked around 30 Guernsey cows under the name Brookside Farm. In 1935, Harold's son Gerald took over, and later started testing with DHIA, eventually becoming a big leader in bringing artificial insemination services into Connecticut. In the 1950s, Gerald and his son Roger bought land adjoining Brookside Farm, and moved to the family's current location, renaming the operation the House of Hayes Farm. Here they built a six-stall side-opening parlor and milked 50 to 60 Guernsey cows.
In 1979 Roger built the current milking parlor and an attached a 120 cow freestall barn. In the 1980s, Stanley and his wife Dorothy joined the farm and the herd increased to 150 milking cows. 20 years later, as the next generation began showing interest in joining the business, the family realized they needed to either expand or diversify.
In 2005, the family started the Hayes Corn Maze, which they keep open from Labor Day through Halloween. Between 2008 and 2009, the cow herd was decreased to 65 milking cows, and a facility was built to milk Saanens dairy goats and process their own milk products under the name Sweet Pea Cheese. Over the years, House of Hayes Farm has expanded to produce a number of farm fresh cow's milk and goat's milk products. Customers who stop by the farm or local farmers markets during the summer, can purchase whole pasteurized milk and chocolate milk, yogurt and Greek-style yogurt, as well as 10 different flavors of chevre and feta. Farming is a family activity for the Hayes, who divide the chores and split their time selling products at the local markets. On a typical day, Daniel feeds the cows and tends to the crops; Ellen or Samantha feeds the calves and cleans the barn; Dorothy milks the goats; Stanley works in the processing room and pays bills; Jean– an employee of 15 years – handles most of the morning milkings; and afternoon milkings are done by Stanley, Ellen, or Daniel. Extended family members also pitch in as needed throughout the year with crops, farmers markets, and in the processing room. With the addition of the next generation Amelia Louise Whitlow in June, Ellen’s role in the farm has changed as she learns how to be a mother and a farmer at the same time.
House of Hayes Farm has been recognized with the Green Pasture Award in 1999, several silver medals at the Big E Cheese Competition over the past few years, and was named a Harford County 4-H Honor Family in 2007.
As the Hayes business, and their family, grows, they hope to increase production of their dairy products. Eventually, the family would like to build an aging cave so they can begin making hard cheeses.
“A farm is a great place to raise a family and we want our future generations to have that opportunity,” says Ellen. “I love farming because it means I get to work with my family and no matter how hard it may seem there always seems to be some sort of reward like watching a calf you raised grow up to be a cow. The advice I would give someone interesting in farming is to go for it. That said, they have to understand farming is not a job, it is a lifestyle, and there will be hard days. But the good ones always seem to outnumber them.”
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