Elmrock Farm is a fifth generation family farm that is currently owned by Gary and Trina Marsh. Established in 1889, Gary and Trina took it over in 2009. They have over 250 acres in Hopkinton, RI and rent an additional 100 acres. Elmrock Farm is one of the nine members of the Rhody Fresh Co-op.
Elmrock produces 10,000 gallons of milk a month. Milking a herd of 68 cows – Elmrock prides itself on its mixed herd of Holsteins, Ashes, and Jerseys. Holsteins are bred for production – they give a lot of milk but not as much butterfat or protein as Ashes or Jerseys, whom are component animals. The mix of animals results in a better quality of milk.
The swampland landscape presents certain challenges. Future plans include moving the barn to more elevated land. Although they are only milking 68 cows, Elmrock peaked at 100 cows when they had the labor. Gary has changed his mindset to pumping up the productivity of each cow – instead of having more cows producing more milk – he wants a stable herd to focus its productivity.
1. Start by using a dip that stops germs and cleans the utter 2. Wash off the cow to kill more germs, wipe her down 3. “Priming the Pump” – stimulate cow to get her to release milk 4. Put on the pump, release milk for about 3 minutes 5. Milk travels through pipeline and is cooled to 37 ° (other wise Rhody Fresh will not take it) 6. Cows are milked two times a day 7. Milk is picked up every other day On average, each cow is giving 5 gallons of milk a day. A cow produces milk every 6 hours, but wont produce more until her utter is empty. So, milking a cow four times a day puts you at the curve of production.
Grazing Elmrock Farm practices strip grazing. Strip grazing provides cows with a fresh piece of grass area everyday. Gary explained that grazing is “the natural process”; it keeps the cow healthy and happier. Because his cows are healthier, they live longer, and thus can be milked longer. Elmrock’s oldest cow is 18 years old. Dairy cows in industrial factory farms live approximately 5 years. In the winter, because there is no grass, the cows do not graze – but they still trot around the property and get to “explore”. Gary explained, the mood of the barn completely changes once the cows are ready to go outside – they know they are going to pasture. Additionally, Elmrock receives more money because the cows graze on good quality forage – as oppose to being fed corn. Eating grass also results in a spike in milk production.
Labor • Not including Gary or Trina, Elmrock has three employees • Polly and Lucus (their son) are full time employees • Maria is part time employee and a college student getting a doctorate in animal research • The small labor force keeps the working environment extremely friendly and imamate
+ Rhody Fresh Co-Op Without Rhody Fresh, Elmrock would be out of business. Rhody Fresh adds $1-2 for every hundred pounds of milk – this is the extra money that keeps Elmrock afloat. Gary explained that joining Rhody was a no brainer. Elmrock feels most of their competitors are the large factory dairy farms driving the small ones out of business in CA, NV, and TX. These farms are the ones that are driving the price of milk.
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Elmrock sells their milk to Agro-Mart and Rhody Fresh buys it from Agro-Mart About 80% of Elmrock’s milk is purchased by Rhody Fresh, and 20% stays with Agro-Mart Milk is then taken to Guida, a processing plant in CT, and is stored in a separate Rhody milk only silo Once processed and packaged, it is then distributed to 200
Elmrock Farm’s Future • Is in the process of developing a conservation and disaster plan to receive finical assistance from the government. Part of this plan is dealing with manure better and figuring out how to bring water to the animals grazing in the field. • Need to modernize machinery; currently operating a farm with 1970’s equipment. Plans to improve or relocate the barn and purchase robotic milkers
Interview with Gary Marsh