So. Randolph Farm Has Been Family-Owned for 225 Years
Matt and his brother Joe are the latest generation to take charge of the family farm.
This first appeared in the Herald of Randolph Jan. 30, 2014 with the headline, "So. Randolph Farm Has Been Family-Owned for 222 Years." An update follows.
A round the cluster of structures that make up the White Rock Farm in South Randolph, the fields rise gradually to form the shallow bowl. The treeline along the horizon indicates, more or less, the property line of the farm.
Tufts of grass poked their way through the thin layer of snow as Matt and Joe Angell looked out over the scene on a recent afternoon. Despite the nearly colorless landscape, the scene held a stark elegance.
The brothers, though, are true Vermonters, not given to excessive bursts of enthusiasm about the scenery.
“It’s hard to farm six inches of mud on top of ledge,” was Matt’s only observation.
Nevertheless, a visitor could detect a note of pride lingering in his voice—pride in the brothers’ hard work, and in the hard work to come.
Matt, 28, and his brother Joe, 25, are the latest generation to take charge of the 222-year-old family farm. The pair joined their parents Tim and Janet Angell in a shared ownership of the business, which will gradually increase in percentage until Tim and Janet retire.
The eighth generation of Angell lineage is there to stay.
“Mom and Dad were really happy about it. And I’m excited too,” Matt said of the deal. “I think it’ll make it a better operation.” The family is still working out the details of timeline and increments of the transfer.
A Dairy Family
Matt sports a red-brown beard and Joe doesn’t—but aside from that, the two look startlingly similar: solidly built, quietly matter-of-fact, with lingering evidences of exertion and wind-burn visible in their cheeks.
Both have been dairy farmers for several years.
Both graduated from RUHS and then the dairy management program at Vermont Technical College; their grandfather, Byron Angell, was for years a mainstay of the department.
Matt continued on to study another two years at UVM, then came home and worked for his parents for five and a half years. Joe, meanwhile, rented the farm of Wes and Brenda Snow about 10 miles away. He stayed there long enough to pay for his herd of Jerseys, so that when he returned to his boyhood home in South Randolph, he had quite a contribution to make—40 milk cows and 30 heifers.
He’s moved into a house down the road, where he now lives with his fiancé Jacklyn Preston.
“Now I don’t have to do it all myself,” Joe said. He grinned. “Now I can make Matt make all the tough decisions.”
In the main farmhouse—where their parents, Tim, 57, and Janet, 53, reside—Matt and Joe sat next to each other at the scrubbed dining room table. Their three dogs— Frannie, Koda, and Sparky—nuzzled their knees, jumping over each other for attention.
“They’re too friendly,” Joe said, begrudgingly scratching one on the ears.
The brothers listen deliberately before they speak, and convey an unhurried sort of contentment. So far, they said, the sharing of responsibility has been smooth and without conflict.
“We always liked working together,” Joe said, speaking for both of them.
And indeed, the day-to-day operations of the farm remain a family affair.
“The sawmill,” Matt said, “That’s Dad’s domain. Mom feeds the calves. I feed the cows.”
“And I guess I usually repair the machinery,” Joe chimed in.
Their sister, Amanda, now works as a vet tech at Randolph Regional Veterinary Hospital.
New Barn Needed
Together, the Angells now have 103 milking cows, with about 80 heifers. They built a barn to house their larger herd.
“That was part of the deal with Joe coming back,” Matt explained.
A sign above the door of the barn states the name, “White Rock Farm, est. 1791,” a name which comes from the quartz outcroppings along Clay Wight Road.
At 105 by 134 feet, the space will eventually hold between 120 and 130 cows. A modern innovation is that it’s built literally on top of the manure/slurry tank, so that the manure slips through grates in the floor—without requiring scraping the floor. There’s a space in one corner that will soon serve as a space for calving.
The barn is well-lit and softly warm with the heat of 40 tawny bodies. The nametags clipped to their ears are marked with the likes of “Marshia” and “Pleasant.”
The Angells began building the barn in July 2013 and moved the first cows in on New Year’s Eve. They still do the milking in their old barn, but the gates and the milking system in the new building should be set up by mid-February, 2014 Joe said.
Within the next few years, Joe added, they hope to expand their milking herd to 130, the barn’s capacity.
With the creation of a limited liability corporation (LLC) last year, Matt and Joe each received 10% ownership of the farm. “Sweat equity,” Matt called it.
Janet said she and her husband would incrementally transfer the business to their sons, though they don’t have the specifics worked out.
“It’s a good way to work in the next generation. It’s concrete. They’re working, and they learn it as they go along, and it’ll be theirs eventually,” Janet said.
Both brothers seemed satisfied with the arrangements.
“I never really thought about doing anything else,” Joe said.
“What other job can you have a hundred acres to do what you want with?” Matt agreed. “We don’t make a lot of money, but there are a lot of fringe benefits.”
In addition to the cows, the Angells run several side-businesses.
Janet and Tim oversee the family’s sawmill on Route 14, cutting and planing boards for a largelylocal clientele. It runs year-round, though business picks up between April and November.
Between three plots of land—the farmstead, the sawmill, and some land on Chelsea Mountain Road— the farm includes 800 acres.
They grew 25 acres of corn last year, with “closer to 50” planned. Ideally, the brothers agree, they’d make all their own hay.
In the spring, Matt added, almost as an afterthought, they sugar, tapping 1200 trees and producing 300 gallons of syrup annually, using pipelines and a couple hundred buckets—“just for posterity.”
The syrup is sold at Floyd’s Store at Randolph Center, and given away to neighbors and friends.
There’s also a vegetable garden and a few chickens for their own use, Matt said.
Joe and Matt look over the farmyard, running down the list of their responsibilities for the day. The milk truck—they sell to Agri-Mark, which owns Cabot Cheese—has already arrived. There are repairs to do and the evening milking will come in a few hours.
Tim and Janet Angell know all about the challenges their sons will face in the rigorous work of running a family farm, including high land prices and development. But they’re optimistic about the future.
“We’re fortunate we have two sons and that (farming’s) all they’ve ever really wanted to do,” Janet Angell said.
“This particular farm’s in good hands.”
The farm has been in the family for 225 years. The Angell brothers and their parents take turns working the farm together.