How one family dairy managed to stay whole by growing apart.
By Richard Banks | Photos By Jamie Cole
What’s a mom and dad to do when all four of their strapping boys want to join the family dairy? Send them away, let them stay, buy another farm?
Paul and Rosemary Gingue did … well … all three. They made room for the two youngest as they reached adulthood, helped the two oldest buy another dairy, then helped merge both operations just two years later. It all went according to plan … the second one … or maybe it was the third.
The point is, the Gingues put their heads together and made the necessary adjustments. As a result, they all work together these days on a dairy that’s weathered some tough times and seems stronger for it.
Best Laid Plans …
“It wasn’t the way I expected it to happen,” says Paul Gingue, of how the transition to the next generation has begun. “Originally, we expected at least two of the boys to want to stay home and take over the farm, but they all came home, one at a time, all interested in agriculture and wanted to stay in it.
“We knew that the farm wasn’t large enough, and we couldn’t expand it enough for all four boys to make a living off it,” says Paul, echoing the sentiments on any number of farms through the generations and around the world. “So we started looking around, trying to find another farm for the two older boys to operate.”
Paul’s two older sons, Dan and Shawn, had worked at the family dairy practically all their lives, except for some time away at school. “They were by my side all the time,” says Paul. “With maybe just a little bit of help, they were ready to run their own dairy.”
Dan and Shawn, then in their late 20s, formed Gingue Brothers Dairy in 2008, leasing another farm in Fairfax, Vt., about 70 miles away—as the tractor rides—from St. Johnsbury, where the original family farm is located. The new place, which the Gingues planned to make a mostly separate operation, came with some 570 acres and a barn capable of holding about 400 cows.
“After they started the farm in Fairfax, the business plan was all put together, and it looked rosy. Then,” continues Paul, sighing just a bit, “milk prices tanked just six months into when they started the operation.”