Gail and Loren Wood run Woodnotch Farm in Shoreham, Vermont, and it's a family affair. Loren's dad Leslie owned a family farm in New Hampshire, and Loren was raised milking cows, planting and harvesting crops, and learning the tools of dairy management. As Loren neared graduation from high school, he decided he wanted to farm with his father, so the family decided to purchase a larger spread. Loren and Gail married shortly after she completed college and he finished his studies at Vermont Tech, and they were soon raising four sons, now adults. All four; Lee, Leslie, Lance, and Loren Jr. work on the farm, along with Loren's younger sister, Sonya, and his nephew Trevor. Gail keeps the books, helps with the calves, and watches over an ever-growing brood of grandchildren.
When the Woods first started Woodnotch Farm in 1972, they had about 270 acres and 40 milking cows. Now they have 1,250 acres, 300 milking, and 300 young stock. It’s been a long, steady climb, but says Loren, “The great payoff is to work side-by-side with my family every day. My dad taught me everything he could about dairy farming, and I wouldn’t be here without him. At the end of the day, I hope my boys look back and think the same thing.”
Dairy farming is already more than a full-time job, but like many New England farmers, the four Wood brothers also have a second business. They operate a custom harvesting business and spend much of the time in season harvesting crops for other farms in the area. They have a huge chopper and other industrial sized equipment, and in 2010 they harvested some 6,000 acres of hay and 3,000 acres of corn. Of course, they make sure they take care of business at home first. And as busy as the Woods are, they always find time for the community. Loren sat on the local school board for 13 years and was a member of Agri-Mark’s hauling committee. Gail serves on the Emergency Planning Committee and is the music director at their church. And in a recent winter, the Woods used their own farm equipment to help the town keep roads open during a blizzard. Says Loren, “We all have to pitch in where we can. It’s an important part of being a community.”
The Woods often have pre-school, elementary school, and Middlebury students by to visit, and they like to talk about land conservation when the kids show up. In fact, the Woods won Conservation Farm of the Year for Addison County in 2009, and they pay special attention to make sure nothing they do on the farm impacts neighboring Lake Champlain. Says Loren, “We only have so much land, and we have to make sure we work it properly so it’s here for the next generation."