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Jim is a fourth generation farmer who was born in Torrington, Connecticut and lived in Litchfield, working with his grandfather, Preston Davenport, who had a dairy farm from 1939 until he sold the herd in 1975. Back then his grandfather was breeding Ayrshires. “That’s back when Holsteins were considered ugly cows,” explains Jim. “There was not a lot of protein or fat in their milk, it was too watery. But thanks to the genetic advancement of Holsteins, they got to be nice looking cows and their protein and butter fat levels went up.” Today the Davenports raise the two breeds of cattle, ninety percent purebred Holstein and ten percent purebred Ayrshire.
The Davenports keep their cows in the original tie-stall barn that came with the property. Jim likes the amount of room and ventilation in the barn and says it is easier to keep the cows clean and comfortable. Each cow has its own fitted stall, determined by its length and width.
“When I come in the barn and turn on the light in the early morning all the cows are clean and comfortable, well that is what makes it worth doing. If I’m going to be in the barn at 3 am on Christmas morning, I want to work with cows that are attractive and friendly.”
Jim does most of the milkings, 12 times a week, but says his brothers often come to do relief milking along with the occasional friend. Jim and Karen have two daughters who are not currently on the farm. Kristen is at Colorado State University getting a dual degree as a PhD in Microbiology and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Laura lives in Washington, DC, where she works in public affairs, specializing in agriculture. Jim and Karen started shipping milk to Agrimark, a New England based dairy cooperative in September 1986. They have been supplying milk to Hudson Valley Fresh since February 2007. “Being a member of Hudson Valley Fresh is a perfect fit for Tollgate Farm,” says Jim “because having the highest quality milk is our raison d’etre.”
High quality milk has always been a priority at Tollgate Farm, which has amassed a fairly long list of quality awards in the last twenty years: