It was 1970 when Steve Taylor and his wife Gretchen bought a pair of calves and ten sheep and set them to graze on their grown-over hill farm in central New Hampshire. "It was really just brush land back then," recalls Steve. "It wasn't really good for farming. But my folks always kept livestock when I was growing up, and I wanted my kids to have the same experience." Over the years, not only did Steve's three sons; Jim, Bill and Rob grow but so did the Taylor Farm. After the decline of the domestic wool market in the early 1980's, the sheep that first grazed in their fields gave way to dairy cattle. Today, the herd stands at over 120. They milk about 60 Registered Milking Shorthorn and Holstein cows twice daily.
Steve Taylor might have grown up with animals, but his career path was a bit different than most dairy farmers. At the ripe old age of 14, Steve began writing for the sports section of his local newspaper. The reporting and writing bug has stuck with him his entire life, including stints at the Portsmouth Herald and a position as managing editor of the Valley News. In 1982, he was appointed commissioner of agriculture for the state of New Hampshire, and he stayed on the job for 25 years. These days, over 70 years old, he still writes regularly for Lancaster Farming, a weekly newspaper that covers agriculture in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. "All of us work off-farm in one way or another. That's always been our model, and it probably always will be."
Until 2009, nearly 100% of their milk was shipped in bulk to their cooperative, becoming a part of the fine line of Agri-Mark products. While much of the 3,000 pounds of milk they produce each day is still destined for your next pound of Cabot butter, a small portion is reserved to bottle their own whole, creamline milk, and to make their signature line of artisan cheeses produced in their new Creamery. The Taylor Farm offers three varieties of cheese: Mill Hollow, Evelyn's Jack and Cloverland Colby.
Another part of the Taylor Farm model: Maple Syrup. The family can harvest nearly 2,400 gallons from their 6,000-tap sugarbush, much of which they sell in the retail store that's located in the sugarhouse. To Steve, sugaring is a common-sense solution for small farms. "Sure, it's a lot of work, but the sap is there. You just gotta go and get it." If only making milk were so easy. Today, a fourth generation of Taylors joins in the hard work and good fun that farming in an old New England village can bring.
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Watch Steve's interview with NECN's Billy Costa: