Jonathan, Karen, Howard, and Mary Gates
Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farms that supply milk for our yogurts and smoothies. Jonathan Gates, a graduate of the University of Maine, lives on the farm with his wife and three sons and manages the farm operations, but his parents Howard and Mary and the rest of the family are always pitching in.
Howmars Farm has been in the family for three generations, since 1943. Jonathan says, “Our farm provides a wonderful opportunity to be with our kids and to teach them to be responsible, with a good attitude. My wife and I made a joint decision to farm and we haven’t regretted it.”
Over the years, organic farming has enabled the Gateses to expand their farm income. Each season brings a new trade. “Our lives are still run by the rhythms of the seasons,” says Joanthan. During the early spring, the entire family engages in the production of maple syrup. As summer arrives, so does the addition of pastured poultry and turkeys. In the fall and early winter, the family enjoys harvesting and selling Christmas trees. Things finally slow down on the farm just enough for the family to enjoy the long Vermont winters cross-country skiing on their 230 acres of land.
The dairy is housed in a large, free-stall barn where the cows can roam. The east side of the barn is completely open to light and air. “As long as the cows have shelter from the wind, the vet says that this design is wonderful for their health.” In the summer, the herd of pure-bred Jersey cows spends most of its time outdoors, and a cow may give birth to a calf in a shady pasture.
In addition to participating in our Have-a-Cow program, Jonathan also writes our Farmer Blog, an online journal about everyday life as a farmer.