EAST DIXFIELD — Hall Farms has been named the 2016 Maine Dairy Farm of the Year by the New England Green Pastures Program. 

The participating farms were judged on their financial management, production levels and quality and their overall contribution to the agriculture community. 

Hall Farms has been home to the Hall family since it was first settled in 1816, growing and advancing with each generation. While farmer Rodney Hall maintains that the family farm is not extraordinary or unique, some key features of the farm certainly are.

For one, Rodney and his brother, Randy, are the eighth generation to operate the farm, and their children will become the ninth. As a family farm dependent on the involvement of future generations, Rodney said he never felt any pressure — farming was just something he knew he wanted to do. 

However, even as confident as Rodney was, his father, Dick Hall, wanted to make sure his sons sought a higher education before settling on the farm.

Rodney and Randy have maintained that tradition. They said they believe education will help their children decide what they really want to do and will give them something to fall back on if farming doesn’t pan out. 

Randy’s daughter is pursuing a degree in veterinary science and Rodney’s daughter is in Scotland pursuing a doctorate in international relations. 

Rodney’s son, Caleb, is a senior in high school and has expressed an interest in taking over the family business. Caleb already has ideas for how to increase the number of taps for maple sap from 7,500 to 10,000. His career plans also include either getting certified as a firefighter/paramedic or a diesel mechanic. 

The farm chose to go organic in 2002 to increase its financial stability.

“We saw in the state of Maine, there are two types of dairy farms,” Rodney Hall said. “Either the small farms milking 80 cows or less, and with the pay price they’re paying even today, it wasn’t sustainable. Or you need to milk more than 500, and we didn’t have the land base or the desire.” 

They did their research.

“We were skeptical of the organic (at first), but (now) our milk all goes to Stonyfield. When you buy a tub of Stonyfield yogurt, that milk, most of it, comes from the state of Maine,” Rodney said.

Going organic made economic sense for the farm.

“And that was our reason, just the sustainability,” he said. “There wasn’t enough cash flow milking 40 cows, but going organic, we only have to milk 40-50 cows.” 

Another feature of Hall Farms is Randy Hall’s 25 belted Galloway cows, whose national prize-winning genetics are sold in the form of embryos as far as South America.

According to Rodney, plenty of farms sell embryos, but selling belted Galloways is a rarity. 

“Randy always had an interest in beef cattle,” Rodney said. “He was in the polled Hereford (a brown and white hornless cow) business for a while, (but) there’s a gazillion of those throughout the country,” 

Randy changed over to belted Galloways 10 years ago.

“He went to the Nationals and bought a couple really good ones; spent a lot of money, and now he has some national quality ones,” Rodney said. “It’s just another way to make your cattle marketable, and the belted Galloways are kind of a novelty because they’re the Oreo cow!”

The cows have white midsections and are black on either end.

Working as a family isn’t always easy, Rodney said, but they’ve never known it any different.

The farm will continue to grow and prosper with each generation, thanks to the trust they’ve built with each other over the years.

“The nice thing about working with my brother is if he says he’s going to milk the cows in the morning, I don’t have to go check and make sure it’s been done,” Rodney said. “I can trust him to take care of things, and he can trust me, because we’re all working toward the same goal: just making a living for our family.” 

Hall Farms maintains 265 acres of crops, including hay, and 850 acres of woodland. The woodlands provide almost 1,400 gallons of maple syrup and 300-400 cords of wood per year.  

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