Dellavale Farms is a century farm located in Pattersonville, N.Y. It is run by Terri Phillips and her husband, Tom Nelson, who are the fourth generation on the Phillips’ farm. While the pair handle most of the cow and crop work, their many nieces and nephews are also integral parts of the family business. They milk 46 cows in a tie stall barn twice a day, averaging 60 pounds of milk per cow per day.
The barn is filled with an assortment of breeds, including Holsteins, Jerseys, Ayrshires, some crossbreds, and a single begrudging Brown Swiss. In the warmer months, they have their cows on a pasture rotation in the heart of the capital region of New York.
This farm was a perfect depiction of an iconic countryside. Located on top of a series of rolling hills, I was greeted by a small flock of geese, two dogs playing in the yard, and cows on pasture.
New York, meet New York
As Terri showed me around, she said, “One of my favorite things to do is public education. Most people don’t get to experience life on a farm, so if there’s an opportunity for me to share that with them, I take it.”
Terri and Tom participate in an agricultural internship program with John Bowne High School in New York City (NYC). This program provides hands-on internship opportunities for students from NYC who want to learn about agriculture.
“One of my favorite things we do here is provide internships through the John Bowne school in NYC,” Terri said. “This lifestyle is so special to us, but it’s even more special that we get to share it with kids who may not have ever experienced it before.”
Before their summer experience, most of these students have never seen or touched a cow before. After, some find themselves pursuing agriculture as a career. “We actually stay connected with most of the interns after they leave because we form such great connections!” she explained.
A community staple
Terri is on the board of directors for American Dairy Association North East and is involved in pretty much any community activity she can get her hands on. They’ve hosted “Ag nights” for local baseball teams in conjunction with local dairy promotion and Farm Bureau, cheese giveaways with Cabot, had a 4-H club, show at four county fairs and the New York State Fair, and open their barn doors any chance they get.
They also host “Sundays on the Farm” where consumers are welcome to come in and see how the operation runs. On one “Cabot Sunday on the Farm,” they will see anywhere between 300 and 5,000 people going through their barns.
Additional market ventures
In addition to the dairy farm, Tom and Terri have a cash crop operation, and they are in the process of starting a “glamping” business. Through this venture they hope to highlight their picturesque landscape by providing tourists a remote place to get away while exposing them to what life on a farm really looks like.
“For small farms like ours, you really have to capitalize on your niche markets,” she explained. To further their market opportunities, Terri and Tom are also exploring selling meat and starting a farm store.
One of the most unique things about Terri and Tom’s farm, besides their century status, is their plaid painted barn! They were chosen by Cabot to have their barn painted Cabot Plaid for the farm’s 100 year anniversary. The barn can be seen from the highway and is across the road from a restaurant, making it quite the local attraction. This piece of art also welcomes the many visitors who explore Dellavale Farms and the millions who travel past on the NYS Thruway.
“Cabot came in with this small stencil, but it didn’t work for our big metal barn, so they ended up having to draw out the squares and hand paint this huge barn. It took them a whole day just to figure out how they were going to do it without the stencil, and seven days to complete the project,” shared Terri. “It was truly awesome to watch, and it’s awesome to have.”
Abbie Cox grew up in Cato, N.Y. on a first-generation dairy farm and currently attends Cornell University as a member of the class of 2021, majoring in animal science with a minor in education and a focus in dairy. On campus, she is involved with the Cornell University Dairy Science Club, Sigma Alpha, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and is a Peer Adviser with CALS Student Services. Cox has interned with the MILC group, the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and was the 2020 Hoard’s Dairyman summer editorial intern.