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WAPPINGERS FALLS, NEW YORK
Knapp Farm, located in the town of Wappinger Falls, New York in Southern Dutchess County, is the home of Stormfield Swiss, a dairy partnership between Jennifer DeForest and James Lawrence. Surrounded by houses and development on all sides, Stormfield Swiss produces milk on one of the only two dairy farms left in the area — the other is Shenandoah Farm, another Hudson Valley Fresh member.
Knapp Farm was founded by Jennifer’s great grandparents, Thomas and Ethel Knapp, who bought 400 acres in 1920. They kept the farm going for 70 years until finally selling it to Glenn and Marie Metzger, who today still own the property. Jen and Jim are always quick to point out how grateful they are to the Metzger’s for the use of their farm. “They’ve helped us so much, they are almost like family,” says Jennifer.
Jennifer has been working as a dairy farmer since she graduated from high school in 1998. Jim grew up on Smithfield Farm in Amenia, a former beef farm now used as racing fields for Polo horses. He began his dairy farming career as a teenager by helping out at both Coon Brothers Farm [another Hudson Valley Fresh member farm] and General Cochran Farm, where he and Jennifer met. They purchased their first Brown Swiss cow together in the spring of 1999, and then proceeded to work steadily towards their dream as farm hands at Tonelwin Farm in Millbrook until they were able to farm for themselves.
Finally in 2007, with 18 cows in tow, Stormfield Swiss was born. Today the herd consists of 70 Brown Swiss, some Holsteins and a couple of Ayshires. Each cow produces 20,000 pounds of milk per year. The partnership works well – Jennifer milks the cows and Jim takes care of the rest, handling the day to day operations. Daughter Jenna and son Justin enjoy spending time in the barn with the cows.
Jennifer has loved Brown Swiss cows since she received one as a gift for Christmas as a child. Both Jim and Jennifer grew up as members of Northern Dutchess Dairy 4-H Club and attend the Dutchess County Fair every year, exhibiting cattle. They were awarded 1st place for Grand Champion Brown Swiss Cow in 2009.
Jennifer says she didn’t know what she would do if she wasn’t a dairy farmer. “It came from all sides of our families,” says Jennifer. “My dad and mom’s family were both farmers so I guess I could say it’s in your blood. And you have just got to love this life. You are always outside and something new happens every day — you never know what to expect. I love that.”