Type: Family Farm & Creamery
Years in operation: 6
Annual revenue: 100k-250k
(Average over last three years)
Boston Post Dairy is located on 82 acres in Enosburg Falls, Vermont acres across from the scenic Missisquoi River with a view of beautiful Jay Peak mountain. Our dairy is named after the Old Boston Post Stagecoach Road which runs straight through the farm property. Our family has been farming in Vermont since 1960 and “Family” and “Quality of Life” have always been important to us. A key principle of our business is “Putting Family First.” Our farm is nicknamed “The Girls Farm” because we are four girls from a family of fifteen – yes we have eleven brothers - and together with support from our mother and father, Robert & Gisele, we run it. We started this venture without any boys, other than our Dad, involved at all…well OK our brothers did help with many of the tasks we had to get finished to get started but we really started the day to day operations as “the girls”. When the milking chores started to challenge cheese making hours we finally allowed our baby brother in to manage the cow herd. The names of our cheeses highlights further the importance of family to us. We have Gisele named after our Mom; Bon Pere named in honor of our Dad; Eleven Brothers named for our eleven brothers and our Mom told us in french that our Tres Bonne was “very good' and the name stuck. There is nothing named for the girls as this would have to be a “sharp” cheese. So how did we start initially- Two of us were working out of our homes, one of us producing maple products and the other goat milk soaps and lotions. We were both selling at Farmer’s Markets and Craft Shows. One day our Dad suggested that we needed a store. Our immediate thought was … how could we ever afford that- Soon after, in 2007, he purchased this farm and gifted us the barn and 82 acres. We knew that we couldn’t make the “farm” and the “farm” store survive with just soaps and lotions and maple products so we decided to add cheese making as another step in diversifying our farm. In 2009 the two of us that started with the initial products took cheese making classes at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese and the University of Vermont and we added an artisanal farmstead cheese making facility with viewing windows, to allow visitors to watch the cheese making process and a small retail store where we sell our cheeses, goat milk soaps, maple syrup and bakery items made here at the farm. When we first bought the farm it was home to just 35 cows. We brought the goats to the farm in 2008 as babies so they could, in a sense, grow up on the farm. The goats started kidding in 2010 and we had the first goat milk produced on the farm. We immediately started making goat milk cheese and took our first award for our Onion Dill Chevre that summer! Our farm is home to 180 dairy goats – Alpines, Lamanchas, Saanens, Nubians, Oberhasi, and Toggenburgs; 95 dairy cows – Holsteins and Brown Swiss; 20 free range chickens, (raised for their eggs) as well as cats & rabbits. There are eight full-time and 7 part-time staff that help to keep operations running. All the milk used in making our cheese is produced right on the farm. The dairy makes goat, cow, and goat/cow blend cheeses and we have just introduced our first goat milk camembert style cheese and cow milk farmhouse cheddar curds to the market with more to come! We have six award winning cheeses, winning a total of twenty one awards since our first entry in 2010, something we feel is quite an accomplishment when we factor in the size of our operation.
Inside the Farm
How is your approach to farming different than other farms in the same category?
Milk Prices are key to sustainability for any farm that is producing milk as their primary commodity. Lower milk prices have forced many Vermont farms to close as their owners are not able to stay financially stable during the periods of lower prices coupled with higher expenses. Our entire family values small Vermont family farms and value added food companies. Having a farm of our own has allowed us to work in something we love and have the opportunity to see it grow and materialize. We started initially as most farms do strictly producing goat milk to be shipped to market. As lower goat milk prices entered the arena it forced us to evaluate our ability to maintain a small family farm and be profitable at the same time. Diversity is foundational to our approach to farming and something that is often different for other small family farms. Our belief that we needed to diversify our business operations to maintain solvency was the impetus for us to start Boston Post Dairy and to add the various components such as the cheese making; manufacture of goat milk soaps and lotions; and our bakery. Our goal was to diversify our farm operation so that we did not have to rely entirely on the volatility of milk prices but could sell the value added products that we were able to make using our own milk. Though the paragraph above makes it seem that profitability is the only thing we are interested in we want to share that we are also very interested in having an impact on the working landscape, on humane animal treatment, the environment, our communities, and on quality craftsmanship and sustainable agricultural practices. Each of these is at the heart of Boston Post Dairy. The way we operate allows for the involvement of our kids and grand-kids. We take turns watching each others kids and involve them as much as we can in day-to-day operations.
How does your different approach contribute to a long-term profitable growth strategy for your farm and other small farms like yours?
In today’s economy, depending on a single market, such as the milk market, is risky. The prices fluctuate wildly often ending up at the lower end of the pricing scale. At the same time the expenses to operate a farm continue to increase. Grain and other feed costs more; equipment purchase and maintenance costs continue to be on the rise and there are additional costs to being a good steward of the environment, something that continues to be very important to us especially as we look at the beautiful countryside surrounding us. Ultimately, a diversified revenue stream mitigates the risks associated with only having one source of income. When milk prices are at the low end of the scale we can ramp up our production of one of our other products that has a better return at that specific time. Through diversification we have the opportunity to prioritize our own growth activities. We believe diversification, while often a challenging task, is significant to our ability to grow long-term profitability for our farm so that we may continue to be in a business that we love and in one that supports the community where we live in so many different ways.
How would you specifically use a Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift?
As much as we love farming we do ultimately want to turn a profit and to do that we must continue to expand at a reasonable pace. Additionally, with a smaller staff, we experience distribution, shipping and marketing challenges as do many small businesses. Currently all of our owners donate hours and are taking minimum wages. This is supporting the farm however it is not allowing for the excess we need to grow the way that we would like. One specific project that we would use the mortgage lifter or mini-lift funds for is the outfitting and starting up of our third cheese cave. We have the room set aside as part of our original building plan but have not had the funds to fire it up. The estimated cost to bring this additional cave on-line is in the neighborhood of $20,000. Adding this third cave to the two existing caves we have currently would allow us to segregate our cheeses better helping to prevent the competition between the cheeses as they age. It will also eliminate some of the manual labor needed to help the cheeses play well together.
Please share why you are so passionate about your farm and/or farming in general.
Small family farms have been a part of the fabric of the Green Mountain of Vermont for many years. We all grew up on a small family farm and have enjoyed the lifestyle that it brings for our families and we still love it all today! We truly can “Put Family First” because of farming and “Enjoy Quality of Life.”
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