Nelson Smith left his job as Livingston County Agricultural Agent, in the spring of 1945. He had purchased the 176 acre Arthur Donnan Farm, in York, in the fall of 1944. A new John Deere A tractor was ordered for May delivery. One Guernsey cow was purchased for the seven empty cow stalls. There were no horses for the eight horse stalls but a team was purchased later. Dad bought a 1935 Chevy two-door car and a 1934 Chevy farm stake truck. Running water was piped into the house and drains were added to take waste away. The two holer outhouse was not removed until 1950.
Advice on farming came from friends and neighbors, many of whom are still giving us advice today, 65 years later. We grew all the local crops of that era, with the exception of dry beans. We didn’t know beans then and we still don’t. The vegetables were grown for many years even though I told my Dad I was tired of pulling weeds and cultivating beets. I told him that when I grew up I wanted to have 100 cows and no vegetables; threshing grain and making hay, with the neighbors as a team, was what real men did.
A brief comment on our farm family; Andrew’s wife, Susan, has for many years been the energizer bunny behind the cows and the workers. Her efforts have made us what we are today. Andrew was born destroying and fixing toys. From the beginning, he knew crops and machinery. He can fix anything (sometimes with Denny Linsner’s help). If Andrew leaves the farm for five minutes, we are out of water or electricity and he has to come back. Kirsty, since before Cornell, has been the force with the calves and youngstock. Since Cornell, she has also been designing and building barns. Amos, after football and Cornell, has been in charge of feeding and technology. He is very good at figuring and keeping harvest timely. Tim Northrop, Kirsty’s husband, manages the milking parlor and signs checks.
Changes in our farm have always been incremental. We have purchased the farms of neighbors who wanted to retire or get out. The owners were neighbors and friends and still are neighbors and friends.
Today our business has 1,500 cows, grows the crops to feed them and some wheat. We employ 25 people, including the family members. Everybody works hard. The family not only works hard but manages at the same time. The Perry Veterinary Clinic consults and handles emergency calls. We employ a team who manage the breeding. We hire a feed consultant and a crop consulting team. Our grains are handled by Howlett Farms. Caledonia Diesel keeps our trucks moving. Denny Linsner solves our impossible repairs. Our machinery comes from John Deere, Empire Tractor, and Kelly’s garage. Our milk goes to Dairylea and usually Sorrento Cheese. Cheese has driven our pricing for the milk; now yogurt is important.
In conclusion, our family has always been community conscious. Our churches, the school, our town leaders, and our neighbors are all very important to us. We have always lived here. We are not an outside business that bought into the land and successful community that exists here. We treasure our environment and have no intentions of harming it. We pay consultants to keep us clean. By the size and nature of our business we are constantly on display and constantly trying to do it right and better.
Lawrence N. Smith