Ken and Jane Beneke own Willow Brook Farms in Millerton, New York where they milk about 110 cows and manage 140 young stock and bulls. The farm was purchased in 1943 by Ken's grandfather Joachim who was an immigrant from Germany. Joachim grew up on a farm in Germany and wanted to return to his roots. In 1943 he decided to sell his delicatessen in Brooklyn and moved the family to their new homestead in the Hudson Valley. Ken‘s dad Henry was raised on the farm, as were Ken and his sister Heidi, and now Ken and Jane are raising their own family there. Dianna and Harrison are in love with the animals, and Ken is quick to point out with pride that Harrison’s first word was “cow.” Diana is just as enthusiastic and showed her first calf at the Duchess County Fair this summer.
The farm is still a family affair as Ken took over primary responsibility in 1995 shortly after graduating college. His dad still works there every morning, and his mother Carol keeps the books for the farm. Ken's older sister is also a dairy farmer, so dairy farming roots run deep in the Beneke family.
Jane is the market manager for the farm, and the family just opened The Farm Store at Willow Brook on the farm to help balance out the fluctuations of unreliable milk prices. They sell Cabot cheese, of course, but they also reach out to local vendors and sell other products from the Hudson Valley as well as sweet corn they grow on the farm. The family is also starting a large garden this year and will be selling a broad variety of homegrown vegetables. The store itself was designed and built by Ken and his high school friend, and people often comment on just how unique it is. In fact, they have had many visitors come there just to admire the store itself, (and purchase something as well), including Ivana Trump.
While dairy farming is what the Benekes do most and do best, two years ago they purchased an industrial sized hay baler, which Ken has turned into a part time business making car-sized bales of hay for other farmers in the area. They have a swamp with a small duck pond on the farm as well, and lease that area out in season for hunting, and they are active in the community. The Benekes' farm is one of the nine farms that comprise Hudson Valley Fresh, which markets remarkably high quality milk with the lowest possible somatic cell and bacteria count in the region, and they are considering starting a cheese making business. The family has a can-do spirit and seems unfazed by any challenge that comes their way.
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