(Cazenovia, NY) Remember when you were little and had picture books on farm life? Big, beautiful pictures of PERFECT barns, PERFECT cows, PERFECT fencing and PERFECT crops in PERFECT rows?
That’s not reality for many farms these days, but there is one farm that fits the bill PERFECTLY: Juvindale Holsteins of Cazenovia. I was invited for a sneak peek before Open Farm Day to visit with owners Vincent and Julie Wagner, originally from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.
As I approach 2074 Ballina Road, I am welcomed by a beautiful sign announcing a sprawling farm of red and white barns with tall, silver silos against a backdrop of blue skies and fluffy white clouds, green pastures banked by even lusher deep green corn.
The sign says “Dairy of Distinction.” It sure is: it’s PERFECT. I’m greeted by Julie Wagner. I tell her I’m stunned by the immaculate farm. She smiles, thanks me and says they work hard to keep it this way. No; really – it’s surreal, like walking into a kindergarten book. She laughs and brings me into a room with a huge, sparkling stainless steel milk tank.
I meet her husband Vincent Wagner busily checking the controls. The Wagners are third-generation conventional dairy farmers. With a son farming in Pennsylvania and a daughter married to a Central New York farmer, it was the arrival of their grandson that brought them to Cazenovia.
After explaining the workings of the tank room and milking equipment, we move into the barn where the “girls” are munching away. It is 90 degrees outside but blissfully cool in the barn. Wait. NO barns are cool in summertime. It feels air-conditioned! No wonder they’re so happy and content.
Vince asks if I’ve heard of tunnel ventilation; no, but if that’s what’s afoot, everyone should have it. They explained they bought this property for its great bones and gutted everything. They rebuilt to the specifications they had in Pennsylvania. The remodel brings in continuous fresh air at the cows’ head level, further pulling air across the entire barn and out the back.
I also notice there’s no typical barn smell, either. It’s not only cooler, but also healthier. I’m clicking pictures and suddenly realize how incredibly clean everything is. The entire facility is white: walls, floors and ceilings. It’s so clean, I could wear a wedding dress down the aisle between the cows!
They laugh and say they’ve already have had two weddings. Never in a million years would I believe dairy farming could be so neat, clean and organized. If God gives me a choice when I die, I’m coming back as a Juvindale cow. The cows are clean, calm, fat and happy.
I’d fit in great here.
Juvindale cows have cushy foam mattresses for their royal behinds and fresh sawdust bedding daily. I don’t get fresh sheets daily! Feed is carefully mixed and dispensed; it also is supplemented with lush pasture grasses.
It’s obvious the Wagners love their animals.
Their bull “All-Star” was out in the pasture with girlfriend of the month when Vince gave him a call. All-Star dumped the girl, bounding to the barn. Vince gave his ears a scratch while others lined up for the same attention. I met a few girls: “Banana Split,” “Special” and her daughter “Sprinkles.”
For you celebrity types, “Hannah Montana” also was in the house.
All of Juvindale’s 150 cows are pedigreed Holsteins, all with a story (be sure to ask about Julie’s birthday cow). What’s special about Juvindale itself is the planning involved. Every step of cow care is clean, organized and maximized to benefit the animal.
The cows are separated into specific areas: a maternity ward with roomy pens of soft clean bedding, the dry cow barn, a milking area, an infirmary and the newborn nursery. Julie’s in charge of the nursery, a barn full of adorable soft noses and sweet faces … and lots of mooing!
After a spectacular tour, we ended up in their office, where they showed me a variety of awards and accolades for their cows, and we discussed milk pricing and the difficulty of prospering as a dairy farmer in New York.
I noticed a small sign tucked in the corner, Vincent’s personal motto: “Make a career by choice, not by chance.”
Spending the day with these two wonderful people, seeing the effects of their labor of love, it was obvious they made the right choice.
Linda J. Haley is a freelance writer specializing in rural and agricultural topics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.