Every year, one farm in each of our New England states wins the prestigious Green Pastures Award. The winning dairy farms are recognized and selected for their production records; herd, pasture, and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying.
Meet the 2016 Maine Dairy Farm of the Year!
Maine dairy farmer Rodney Hall is pleased as can be that Hall Farms has won this year’s Green Pasture Award, but ask him whether he’ll be at the awards ceremony, and you’ll get a polite no.
You see, the day of the big banquet at the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, MA, Rodney will be in the stands, rooting for his son Caleb and the rest of the Mt. Blue High School football team. It’s Caleb’s last season, he’s team captain, and well, “The award is a wonderful honor, but there are only eight games in his senior year, and I plan to be at every one of them. Family comes first.”
After all, family is the reason Hall Farms, LLC in East Dixfield is Maine’s dairy farm of the year. Operated by brothers Rodney and Randy Hall, who took over management from their father, Dick, the farm was originally settled in 1816. That makes Rodney and Randy 8th generation farmers, with Caleb soon to be the 9th generation working this large swatch of Maine farmland and forest.
At their father’s instance, the Hall brothers both went to college before settling down on the farm, and each have their own sideline. For Randy, it’s breeding world-class Belted Galloways that have offspring all over the U.S. and in South America. Rodney runs a maple sugaring operation that produces 1,400 gallons of maple syrup a year, and he plans to increase the number of trees tapped from 7,500 to 10,000.
The dairy operation boasts equally impressive productivity. Major enhancements in the past few years include a double-six swing parlor, a pack barn for 60 cows, a heifer barn (for animals younger than two years old) and additional feed storage.
The farm has been home to registered Holsteins since 1945, and the operation converted to organic in 2002. Today, the milking herd of 55 certified organic cows — which produce milk for the Organic Valley brand – graze on 75 acres of pasture land, with more than 300 additional acres dedicated to growing feed crops.
The farm is massive, and land not used for dairying offers lumber: 850 acres of woodland produces 300 to 400 cords of wood annually harvested for the local paper mill and stove wood customers.
When not busy on the farm (that’s a rare day, says Hall), the family is involved in the local community. For example, both Dick and Randy Hall are past presidents of the Maine Fair Association, and the rest of the family is heavily involved in steer-and horse-pulling events at several fairs across the state.
The Halls are aware of the need to showcase their farm and their industry. Situated in the heavily traveled Route 2 east-west corridor, Hall Farms gets more than its share of passers-by delighted by the tranquil scene of grazing cows and a bustling farm.
“We’re a farm that keeps our lawns mowed, our flowers planted, our buildings painted,” explains Rodney. “We decorate with the seasons, and pretty soon we’ll be putting out the pumpkins and cornstalks.” As his partner, Joanne, reminds him, “When people drive by our farm, they’re deciding whether to drink that glass of milk.”
Rodney also recognized the benefit of being named farm of the year. “It certainly is an honor, to be named among the best farmers in New England,” he admits. “It’s an elite group.”
It’s also a group that will be missing Rodney come September. Randy will be in attendance, but his brother will be at a local football field, happily yelling himself hoarse as he cheers on a member of the next generation of Hall farmers.
Learn more about Hall Farms!