Jon O'Neill runs Todd Hill Farm in Bethlehem, Connecticut where he has 50 head of cattle and 172 acres of land. The family grows about 60 acres of corn and hay and uses the remaining acreage for grazing. Jon worked on the farm for many years with its prior owner and close family friend, Joseph Welukaitis, before taking over. Jon's wife Malisa helps out when she can and their oldest son Jon works side-by-side with his dad milking the cows, spreading manure, operating the tractor, and harvesting crops. Their younger son William helps feed the calves and is beginning to take on more responsibilities as well.
Since this is a relatively small operation, Jon works full-time in public works and Malisa works as a visiting nurse. The farm has its up years and its down depending upon milk prices, so the O'Neills support it when necessary through their other jobs.
Even though Jon runs the farm and works full-time, he still volunteers on the Bethlehem Fire Department. He has been there for more than twenty years, and he is a certified EMT, which requires extra training and course work every year. He gets a little in that regard from Malisa. As it turns out, Jon's experience with the fire department has come in handy because his barn has caught fire twice. Each time, neighbors happened to be passing by and spotted the smoke coming out of the barn. They rushed to the site and put the fire out before the fire department could get there. Says Jon, "Somebody is watching out for us. We were fortunate each time, and we are luckier yet to have neighbors who watch our back and help out when we need them. You can't ask for more than that."
Jon and Malisa are also great ambassadors for dairy farming. They open their barn to all comers, and if you happen upon their farm, you'll likely find a cub scout den, a school group, or a gathering of 4-H members visiting the property. In fact, the O'Neills often prepare small gift packages for the kids with wrapped packets of Cabot cheese, pens, pencils, and information about cows and dairy farming. For the O'Neills, this is one of the best parts of dairy farming, and they love to see the kids pet the cows or feed the calves for the first time. Says Jon, "The experience seems to stick with the kids, and they always have a great time."