Third Generation Farming Up at Neighborly Farms
(This first appeared in the Herald of Randolph May 5, 2016)
With its 360-degree views of the picturesque rolling hills of Randolph Center, Neighborly Farms on the North Randolph Road looks like a postcard of the Vermont family farm.
The property has 168 acres with cropland and grazing fields to support the dairy operation, as well as a sugarhouse, and has been a working dairy farm since the 1920s. Robert and Linda Dimmick have operated it since 1990, taking over from his parents. The red barn and white post and beam farmhouse built in the 1800s is where Robert and Linda raised their three children Bobby, Bailey, and Billy.
On April 1 of this year, they sold the cows and dairy equipment to Bobby and his wife, Brooke, who will be the third generation of Dimmicks to continue the tradition of family farming. The young couple are expecting their first child in August, so perhaps a fourth generation of the family will farm there in the future.
The baby will also be the first grandchild for Rob and Linda.
“It’s going to be a big summer for us!” Linda noted with a grin. “Bobby and Brooke are currently renting the farm from us and will eventually purchase it. That’s how we did it with Robert’s parents. They had already sold their herd, so we bought a herd and in 1997, we bought the whole farm.
“You have to be passionate about this and Robert has always been passionate about keeping the land open and the farm in the family,” she added. “He was in his 20s when we took over the farm and Bobby is 25 now.”
Their miking herd currently has 60 Holstein cows, with 60% of the milk going into making Neighborly Farms’ award-winning organic cheeses (there are 11 kinds, all made on-site) and 40% sold to Stonyfield Organics. Their cheeses have won many American Cheese Society awards, including blue ribbons for their Colby and Jalapeño Jack.
The cheese-making operation employs a full-time cheese room manager, who does the office work and also helps make cheese when needed; as well as two full-time cheesemakers and a part-time packaging worker. Cheese-making happens on Monday and Thursday and the packaging is done on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Linda and Robert will still own and operate the cheese business, which they stared in 2001.
“We transitioned the whole farm to organic in 1999 and started making cheese in April 2001,” Linda explained. “We just completed 15 years.”
“It’s gone by quickly,” Robert added. “It’s been quite a ride! We began selling cheese at co-ops and natural food stores in Vermont, then branched out into the rest of New England. We also ship cheese to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia.”
Milking takes place twice a day, at 4:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and a full-time milker does all the milking, except on Wednesday, when Brooke does both milking shifts. Bobby is up at 5:30 a.m. each day to feed the cows
“Bobby used to sit in the playpen when I did the miking!” Linda recalled with a grin.
The younger Dimmicks are well-prepared to take over the farm. A graduate of the diesel mechanic program at SUNY Cobleskill, Bobby can fix any tractor on the place (“We have a lot of old John Deere’s,” he noted) and Brooke, who grew up on a farm in Tunbridge, graduated from the dairy management program at VTC.
Right after college, Bobby worked in the shop at Lucky’s Trailer sales for a while, “but then I decided it was time to go back to the farm,” he said.
“We’d like to grow to double the size we are now,” Bobby said. He and Brooke have also added six pigs to the farm.
The Neighborly Farms store features products created and produced by the farm including cheese and maple syrup. It also has a viewing area where visitors can see the cows and the complete cheesemaking operation. Customers can stop by the farm to buy cheese and maple syrup Monday-Thursday between 8 a.m.-2 pm., or call 728-4700, if they can’t get there during those hours.