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AMENIA, NEW YORK
Since milking their first cow over fifty years ago, Coon Brothers Farm has been a leader in environmental stewardship. Garrison and Dirck Coon founded Coon Brothers Farm, located on a hillside in Smithfield Valley of Amenia, New York in the fall of 1953. Less than ten years later, Garry teamed up with the local Conservation District to find ways to reduce soil erosion and Coon Brothers Farm has continued to practice conservation methods ever since. They received the Conservation Farm of the Year Award from the Dutchess County Soil and Water Conservation District in 1977 then again in 2001, Dirck served as a director on the Conservation District Board from 1979 to 1983. In 1985, the Coon Brothers enrolled in the USDA’s Long Term Agreement, enabling them to identify all highly erodible land and put a conservation farming plan in place.
Over the years they have made consistent strides in farming innovation. In the 1980s they began the practice of TMR or Total Mixed Rations, blending by machine a combination of nutritionally-balanced forage and grains. This dairy cattle nutrition program improves milk production, the cow’s health, and her reproductive performance. The latest technology that is being used on the farm is a computer system that helps keep track of the cows. Each cow wears a neck chain with a computer transponder attached. This device identifies the cow as she enters the milking parlor then records the amount of milk they produce for the day and also records how active she has been, similar to a pedometer. These tools track data that helps them to provide better care for their animals.
Since 1996, Coon Brothers has been one of the first demonstration farms for the Governor’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) program which encompasses the whole farm and addresses its impact on water quality and other natural resources. As a result of the program and the Coon Brothers participation, Dutchess County farmers are receiving help with waste management, fencing of clean waters, and rotational grazing.
In 2000, Coon Brothers Farm was awarded the New York State Environmental Stewardship Award, presented each year to a New York farm family that best incorporates conservation practices into their farm business.
In that same year, Garry passed away. Today, the farm is owned by three generations of Coons . Partners include Dirck , with sons David and Peter and the youngest partners include Amos and Isaac, both sons of Peter. David is married to Kim and they have two children, Caitlyn and Andrew both attending college. Caitlyn attends Sage College of Albany, NY while Andrew is an Animal Science major at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Peter and his wife Alice have five grown children: Lisa, Teri, Isaac, Laura and Amos and five grandchildren. Both Isaac and Amos are married and have two young children.
Coon Brothers Farm currently manages over 2,200 acres, most of which is cropped for alfalfa hay to feed the cattle along with rye, corn and soybeans for grain. Ninety percent of the feed the cows eat are grown on the farm. Extra corn is harvested then sold to several local feed mills and a large chicken farm. Soybeans are marketed as a commodity leaving the New Jersey port for overseas destinations. Half of the land is actively protected from development. They milk more than 350 of their 600 herd of Holsteins and Guernseys and ship almost 22,000 pounds of milk daily.
Besides producing milk for Hudson Valley Fresh, they often show their Guernseys at the Dutchess County Fair in New York State and at the Eastern States Exposition. Dirck and his wife Carol now enjoy training, hunting and showing black and tan coon hounds, and Dirck still finds time to work on the farm.