THREE DAIRY FARMS
For most of the twentieth century three families operated independent dairies on the 250 acres that now comprise the Churchtown Dairy. In the 1980s, however, with milk prices in decline and the passage of the Food Security Act of 1985 establishing a dairy herd buyout program, many small-scale dairy farms folded, including the three operating on the land that is now Churchtown Dairy.
At the same time much of the farmland in Columbia County was being sold off to developers to create housing and commerce areas. With a wish to preserve farmland and the resources to do so, Peggy Rockefeller began purchasing farms in the Hudson Valley as they came on the market, keeping them safe from development. In all she amassed more than 3,000 acres of arable land in the area, including the 250 acres that now makes up the Churchtown Dairy.
Original Watercolor of the Backside of Churchtown Dairy, by Rick Anderson
A RETURN TO DAIRY
Peggy passed away in 1996, and for twelve years the acreage she had amassed continued to be farmed conventionally, kept largely for grain and hayfields. In 2008 Peggy’s husband David Rockefeller began the process of turning the property over to his children. Peggy and David’s oldest daughter, Abby Rockefeller, requested the stand-alone 250 acre parcel in Churchtown.
With a passion for bringing beauty to farming, Abby approached builder Rick Anderson from Martha’s Vineyard to bring her vision to life. She asked him to build her a dairy farm and, as the story goes, she gave him one command: “It has to be beautiful.” Rick and Abby spent the next two years traveling to dairy farms throughout the Northeast, seeing some farms that they liked, and many more that they didn’t. Finally, in 2012 the plans for the dairy were complete. The center-line was put in, and construction began.
Now the Churchtown Dairy is home to 28 dairy cows and their calves, a beef herd, and a handful of pigs. Twelve employees manage the farm, the garden, the site, and the store. Drawing on the words of Bill Coperthwaite who said, “Beauty is a birthright, and where there is no beauty, there is great danger,” we strive to imbue all our work with beauty.