Settled in the northwestern region of Lewis County, NY, just a few miles south of the quiet village of Carthage, NY and the twisting banks of the Deer River, is Windy-Hollow Holsteins. Jim and Darcie Hancock purchased the property in 2008, and have been members of Agri-Mark since April of 2013.
Both Jim and Darcie come from agricultural backgrounds, growing up on nearby farms. In 2002, they began farming on their own, renting a number of nearby smaller properties. In 2008, they acquired Windy-Hollow Holsteins, which at the time only included a house, the other structures having been destroyed in a fire, and immediately began building. At the time, their herd consisted of 70 milking cows; today, they milk 105 Holsteins three times a day.
Darcie is the primary milker, handling the first and sharing the second milking with an employee, who in turn does the third. Jim handles the feeding, as well as the crop work. The Hancocks till 140 acres, growing hay and corn and producing their own feed, and rent the remaining acreage. The couple's three daughters, Harley, Kiersten, and Chelsey, also pitch in with the chores.
"We love everything about dairy farming," says Darcie, "from taking care of the animals, to spending days outdoors with family. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes with producing something from your labors that is hard to replicate."
In addition to being full time dairy farmers, the Hancocks are also huge proponents of the dairy and agricultural trades. All three of their daughters are involved in 4-H and the Holstein Club, and regularly show their animals at local and state competitions. Harley, the eldest, is Lewis County's Reigning Dairy Princess, a position that promotes the importance of agriculture, milk consumption, and other issues related to dairy farm advocacy. Kiersten was a Master Showman Award winner of the most recent Lewis County Fair, landing her a spot at the NY State Fair, and Chelsey also went to the NY State Fair last year after receiving the Grand Champion Animal award at the Lewis County Fair. In October of 2013, the Hancock's hosted Lewis County Day, which brought more than 1,200 visitors to the farm, and included an up-close demonstration of how cows are milked, a lesson on the animals' nutritional needs from a local veterinarian, an ultrasound of a pregnant cow, horse rides, and free ice cream.
"We think of ourselves as a true family farm, and involve our kids as much as we can in all aspects of its operation," says Darcie. "That way, they'll learn just how important a family farms are. By opening our doors to visitors, we hope to do the same for our community as well."