Food52 Life

A Day on a Dairy Farm

December 21, 2015

We've partnered with the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (read more here) to share stories of, in a series of videos, what it's like to run a farm or ranch in the U.S. today.  

Today: Our Assistant Editor Leslie Stephens visited Tiashoke Farm in New York to find out a little more about what it's really like to be a dairy farmer.

Back in September, Food52's Assistant Editor Leslie Stephens traveled north to Tiashoke Farm in Buskirk, New York, to spend a day exploring the dairy farm and learning from the farmers, Stuart and Jessica Ziehm. She toured the barns, met some of the cows, got to talk through modern farming practice, and had lunch together at the farmers' home (burgers, of course, made with Cabot cheese, the dairy cooperative the Ziehms are a part of). "The farm wasn't organic, and I used to equate non-organic with being bad—but that changed when I went to the dairy farm," Leslie told me.

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Over the course of the day, Leslie was struck by the farm's intimacy. "I didn't realize that big farms"—that is, farms that have a lot of animals—"could still feel like small family farms," she said. (Even though Tiashoke Farm has a thousand cows, it is in fact a family farm shared by three brothers. About 95 percent of farms in the United States are family-owned!) She also said that while the farm is very business-oriented, it was very clear that the farmers care about the animals. "They could recognize the cows," she said, "and knew which were the shy ones and the playful ones, even though there are so many."

Let the farmers speak for themselves—and learn more about what they really do—by watching the video.

Video by Vacation

Got questions about milk? Ask your questions for dairy farmers in the comments.

We've partnered with the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (read more here) to share stories of, in a series of videos, what it's like to run a farm or ranch in the U.S. today.  

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • kpeck
  • Caroline Lange
    Caroline Lange
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


kpeck December 21, 2015
These videos are so interesting...They take the slant of 'getting to know your farmer', but the propaganda throughout the video was depressing. There is a huge difference between real organic milk and 'just milk'. I have photographed both sides, farms like this one where there was not one cow outside on pasture, eating grass, and farms where the cows are allowed outside on pasture to eat how they are supposed to, to live how they are supposed to. Farming is hard work, I get that, but 'modern' farming has become about convenience and it's damaging our food. Also, cows are not meant to eat corn..from Michael Pollan:
"The problem with this system, or one of the problems with this system, is that cows are not evolved to digest corn. It creates all sorts of problems for them. The rumen is designed for grass. And corn is just too rich, too starchy. So as soon as you introduce corn, the animal is liable to get sick.
It creates a whole [host] of changes to the animal. So you have to essentially teach them how to eat corn. You teach their bodies to adjust."

I would love to see some videos on farms that are not taking the easy way out...Do we really want robots milking our cows? Do we want to lose our connection to nature? How about focusing on Essex Farm in NY? Or Manning Hill Farm in NH?

Needless to say, I don't buy 'just milk' and I definitely don't buy Cabot 'just milk' products.
Author Comment
Caroline L. December 22, 2015
Hi kpeck,
Thanks for reading and commenting. We really appreciate and value your feedback and concerns.

Our intent working with USFRA was always to learn more about the people who work on four different farms and ranches. We're aware that there are a number of organizations that both fund and sit on the board of USFRA, but this particular partnership gave us the opportunity to visit these farms and learn more about the daily work and experiences of the people who both live and work on the farms (which many people don't get a chance to see). We also look forward to more projects of this nature, where we hope to visit farms of all scales and practices in the future.