Franklin Family Farm
David and Mary Ellen Franklin
“I chose to be a farmer,” says David Franklin, “because I really liked the way I could raise my children. I don’t drive off to work every morning and get home at night and never see my children.”
All five members of the Franklin family live and work on the farm, which was owned by David’s uncle and his great-aunt before that. From mom Mary Ellen and dad David to oldest son John and twins Neil and Paul, everyone works to keep the place ticking (and mooing and clucking and oinking).
Mary Ellen says employing all three of her sons on the farm might not make perfect financial sense, but it makes good family sense, so she and David find ways to make it work. And work it does.
The Franklins’ fifty cows produce award-winning organic milk that generates about 90% of the farm’s income. The other 10% comes from the maple syrup (300 gallons per year), fresh eggs, “Zesty Blend” salad dressing, meat and other farm products they retail through their own farm store and mail-order business. The Franklins used to be non-organic farmers, and they struggled financially for a long time.
“We had to get a better price for our milk or we weren’t going to make it,” says Mary Ellen. In 2004, they converted their herd to organic* and started selling milk to Organic Valley, the farm cooperative that supplies Stonyfield with organic milk. The Franklins had been managing their land organically** since 1992, when they became interested in “holistic resource management.” But going organic with the herd provided them with a better, more stable income and a way to stay in business.
Mary Ellen says a few other small farms in the area chose, years ago, to remain non-organic and have since gone out of business. She and David would never go back to conventional farming—not just because of economics, but because they could never disregard the earth-friendly agricultural principles they’ve learned. Making the best use of earth’s natural resources, says Mary Ellen, is just the right thing to do.
*Organic cows eat only organic pasture and organic feed, and they’re not treated with artificial growth hormones or antibiotics.
**Organic land is kept free of, among other things, toxic and persistent pesticides and chemical fertilizers.