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California native at home on Keeseville farm

Dairy owner Ashlee Kleinhammer with a one-day-old calf she will raise to milk on her Keeseville dairy. Kleinhammer bought the former Clover Meadow Farm on the Mace Chasm Road.

Dairy owner Ashlee Kleinhammer with a one-day-old calf she will raise to milk on her Keeseville dairy. Kleinhammer bought the former Clover Meadow Farm on the Mace Chasm Road. Photo by Shawn Ryan.

— The youth movement in local farm-to-table agriculture is continuing in the Champlain Valley, and it’s even drawing motivated young farmers from across the country. At least that is the case at North Country Creamery here.

California native Ashlee Kleinhammer didn’t grow up dreaming of a life of milking cows in Keeseville. She liked cows as a child, but didn’t realize until she spent a year volunteering in Central America that she had a true love for the docile giants, and wanted to pursue a career in dairy farming. She found and attended a farming summer camp in Windsor Vermont in 2006 after finishing college, and from there her future was really just a matter of time.

“I had never been east before, it seemed really enchanting,” said Kleinhammer. “I just love the personality of the cow. She’s just so sweet and mellow.”

After attending the camp for a year, she set out on an eight year tour of dairy farms around Vermont, working at farms, learning the trade, and above all milking the cows she loved. After the eight years, she discovered the Essex Farm in Essex, after reading the book “The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball. Kleinhammer had been thinking about owning her own farm for sometime, knowing that she could only go so far working for someone else, and never gaining any personal equity.

At Essex Farm, she also made several friends from the Champlain Valley who shared her love of farming.

“My friends were like, ‘we should all start farms,’” she said.

They pointed her to a dairy farm on the Mace Chasm Road, the former Clover Mead Farm, that had just gone up for sale. She visited the farm with her partner, Steven Goggins, but didn’t fall in love with the farm at the start.

“When I first visited I said it had all the drawbacks I didn’t want. The pasture is across the road from the barn, so you have to cross the cows twice a day, which isn’t the best situation,” she said. “Then I changed my mind.”

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