Farmer Focus

The Freund Family

Hometown: East Canaan, Connecticut

Amanda Freund and her family run Freund’s Farm in northwest Connecticut. They are members of Agri-Mark Family Dairy Farms and sell their milk to Cabot Creamery. They own a herd of 300 Holsteins and one Jersey. In March 2016, their farm became the first in the state to use robotic milking units. They also run Freund’s Farm Market & Bakery and CowPots — biodegradable pots using cows’ composted manure. Pictured, from left, is Isaac, Matt, Rachel, Theresa, Ben and Amanda (source: Cabot Creamery).

What do you like the most – and the least – about working as a dairy farmer?
From growing up on our farm, I love the association I have with farm sounds and smells (yes, even the smells!) that change with each season. On the hot, sticky days while living in Zambia I actually found myself yearning to hear the hum of the fans keeping the cows cool in our barns. I accept that fall is here only after smelling freshly chopped corn when packing the silage stack. Lilacs blooming, fresh cut hay, steaming fresh sweet corn, and of course apple cider donuts frying in our bakery!

What I like least about working as a dairy farmer is that some days it is hard to get along with your brother, sister, mother, father, uncle and cousin. Dairy farming isn’t just physically hard work. There are days when it’s emotionally draining and those can be really frustrating. However, as long as we acknowledge that we all need to communicate, keep open minds and be respectful, the pros will always outweigh the cons of being in a family business.

Describe how the work on the farm is shared or divided up in your family.
Our third generation includes the cow girl, the mechanics guy, the construction/building guy, the bookkeeping girl and CowPots girl. Together, under the guidance of the second generation, we work together when needed, but each have unique responsibilities to get the daily and seasonal tasks done.

How do you think your farm’s business plan will change 10 years from now?
The transition from second to third generation will likely take place within the next 10 years, and that will be a significant shift. Sustainable energy and new technology have always been important on our farm. We just finished a second solar project to generate the power needed for our dairy barn and CowPots facility, and have a methane digester producing biogas to heat our house and hot water. I expect there will be new opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint and adopt sustainable farming practices in the future. Following the lead of the second generation, we’ll make sure to leave our land and farm even better for the next generation.

During those days when things aren’t going well, what do you do to keep a positive attitude?
During the summer, I’ll head into our family’s tomato greenhouse and just start eating cherry tomatoes. I usually make my way out to the other end of the greenhouse and look at the base of Canaan Mountain, where we grow our forages. It’s here, facing south, that I find myself appreciating this little spot on earth that has grown crops to feed our cows and support my family for more than 60 years. During the winter, I typically just need to unwind with a block of Cabot Cheddar cheese, a glass of red wine and a reminder that tomorrow will be a new day!

What would you be doing if you were not a dairy farmer?
I had the opportunity to work off the farm for years before coming back to the farm. I worked for a member of Congress, with the Connecticut Farm Bureau and served in the Peace Corps. Each of these experiences reaffirmed that I’ve got deep dairy roots and I am most satisfied when serving the agricultural community. If I wasn’t physically on our dairy farm, I imagine that I would find a way to be out sharing the story of dairy farming.

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