Generations keep farming alive at Triple Creek

Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media


Think again before you reach for milk simply because of a label — that organic milk is not what you think it is … transparency, quality and animal welfare are the buzzwords in responsible agriculture. Research what you eat and meet your farmer. This is your free advice for a life well-lived beyond organic.


The big business of food has the big money to create marketing claims that make it convenient for you to feel good about your food choices — but that doesn’t necessarily make the food good — and all milk is not created equal.


Super milk comes from the super family farm practicing sustainable agriculture and bringing joy to your table from their hard work.


Fresh local milk tastes better, is better for you and when you buy local food you not only get more nutrition that makes you look and feel great — you better the environment, contribute to commerce and support your community simply by connecting the dots from barn to belly.


Cheap food is cheating our health and this is especially true with milk.


Choose premium quality local milk — you get what you pay for. It is the best spend of your food dollars for your health, supports the family farm and creates rural to urban marketplaces vital to economic development and viable livelihoods to change the future of farming.


The truth about quality lies in the comfort and cleanliness of the cows that the farmers carefully care for every day before your day even starts — and they do it because they love it — not to get rich.


So why not show your love for them by drinking local milk every day — in your coffee or tea, in your cereal or soup or anytime you reach for that protein rich deliciousness — ask — where did it come from? What went into making my milk? What am I willing to pay to ensure quality? And how long did it take to get to my fridge?


Just a few years shy of celebrating their century old family farm — the Skodas of Triple Creek Farm make dairy farming look easy and feel like a dream. They treat a day at “the office” like any other executives in business — but they are in the dairy business in the open air and on their land seven days a week.


“Agriculture is still New York state’s number one revenue generating business. We want people to remember that,” Richard reminded me.


Richard Skoda, his wife Melissa, and their four children: Ryan, Joshua, Rachel and Alex have dedicated their lives to making a difference by feeding us well. They are sustaining the family tradition on their fourth generation dairy farm in Taghkanic, producing award-winning “Super-Milk” for Agrimark products and Hudson Valley Fresh as a dairy of distinction growing grain for feed, caring for their cows fastidiously and maintaining equipment to make the farm run profitably.


Richard’s father Joe Skoda was a dairy farmer — but he also dabbled in raising food for the family: hogs, meat chickens and laying hens. His grandfather John Skoda bought the 40-acre farm in the same location in 1922 where all of the family still lives today on the 500 acres they acquired since.


The family that farms together stays together — despite a tragic total loss from a fire in 2006 when the family watched their barn — and their herd — burn at 3 a.m. that August. The story brought a sadness to my heart of grief for a loss so intense it inspired me to share their story of fearlessness to rebuild their business at a time when most would have given up farming.


The Skoda’s are indeed food entrepreneurs and their success isn’t counted in numbers but measured by time. The “Getirdone” spirit at Triple Creek Farm offers perseverance and dedication I can only describe as passion.


Richard and his family designed and rebuilt the 200 herd free-stall barn at Triple Creek Farm today with a succession plan and skill set for their next generation to heed the calling to the land and operate as a dairy farm in the Hudson Valley for another century to come.


Brothers Ryan and Joshua Skoda are capable fearless young farmers — smart, funny, friendly, knowledgeable, compassionate and driven — they are guaranteed to succeed. They love what they do and it shows. And you can support them by buying local milk.


Never mind a day off or making a fortune these are businessmen that rise and shine ready to work milking cows, birthing calves, growing feed on 1,000 acres of farmland to feed their Holstein herd and even raising Guernsey breeds for their kids — Brayden, Lydia, Bella and Mazie.


Their mantra is quality and together they told me that superior milk comes from how the animals live and are environmentally impacted — clean and with little stress — their cows producing nearly 82 pounds of milk each per day.


“We believe that quality brings you a good investment on your return, it’s good for overall herd health and it’s good for the bottom line. It’s good for making money. Quality is number one around here. We keep our standards high, we keep our barns clean, our cows clean, and we also believe in cow comfort,” Richard Skoda explained.


When I stopped by last week for the afternoon milking at 4 p.m. — 12 hours after their day started — the herd of 200 “girls” lined up for a visit to the parlor for milking that makes you wonder if farmers are really “cow whisperers.” The milking parlor was state-of-the-art and run by just family members and one full time employee.


Timing was perfect because when I arrived a calf was born (there are about 120 young stock on the farm) and the pride Ryan greeted me with to show off his new “girl” made me feel honored to be invited to Triple Creek Farm.


I asked Ryan if I could name her — he explained you had to give her a name matching the first letter of her mom Chloe and follow these rules: no names repeated (he keeps a book), she could not be named after anyone we knew and her name would include the prefix Skoda Grove followed by the Sire name. So I named her Chelsea — because I could tell from her shiny black coat and one white spot — she was a city girl with heart. Skoda Grove Windhammer Chelsea was ready for a debutante walking just as soon as she was birthed on her toes!


And who knew but apparently there’s a whole lot of city-like living for these girls — “manicures” twice yearly with nail clippings, “fluffed” beds with fresh sand for better footing and mobility and fresh local food upon which to gorge themselves filling their bellies then lounging in comfort regurgitating their food to chew their cud some 40 to 60 times reveling in happiness (Ryan said he counts) in between milkings at the parlor twice daily. Mooooooooooooo!


Since all cows are female there is no surprise they are finicky, they don’t like change — if you even change their feed by tweaking it — they can smell it and turn up their noses in a fuss. Cows want the exact same food the same way at the same time every day — if you even change it at all — they won’t eat it. They demand a routine and don’t really like newcomers — they like what they know.


And all of this leads to one thing — quality milk. As a dairy cooperative Richard told me “I don’t think about the public saying thank you — we don’t expect that. I am just thankful I see my children and my grandchildren almost every day. We want farming to stay farming in this area — if we don’t farm farmer services will go away and it will be hard to keep going. I’m always thinking about efficiencies — grease and maintenance keep everything going.”


On the farm you need everything to work … the equipment, the family, the animals, the soil, the air and the water — it’s vital to success and quality at its best. Drink local milk. It’s worth it. FarmOn!


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