Just before the sun comes up every day, dairy farmer Blake Gendebien walks down the lane from his home to the big red barn at Twin Mill Farms, taking a second to survey his surroundings: the white picket fence around the property, a basketball court where his three sons play in between chores and the pond, where the family takes dips on a hot summer day.

Blake is a second-generation farmer, having purchased the farm in the northern reaches of New York, in Lisbon, that borders his parents’ dairy, where he grew up. He and his wife, Carmen, jumped at the chance to expand Twin Mill Farms. Being full-time dairy farmers aligned with their dream of working the land and raising their family surrounded by nature.

“Not only do I love cows, but I love farm equipment. And I love everything about farming. Out of college I went to work for a farm equipment company, and I really enjoyed that. But every time that I visited a farm, the smell of the farm drew me in, and I wished I was there,” Blake says.

“Returning to my family farm, I feel purpose-driven because every day, I am providing food products to consumers that are really healthy, really nutritious and really awesome,” he says.

The Gendebien’s business expanded beyond producing the high-quality milk that goes into making cheese and other dairy foods. Thanks to Carmen’s expertise as an esthetician and former spa owner, she developed a line of beauty products called, “A Wholesome Glow.”

“Our vision was to bring the wholesomeness of the farm to the consumer,” Carmen explains. “We try to get a lot of our story from the farm into our products. Our scrub contains some of our dairy milk. It also contains some of our alfalfa from the fields, which is great for the body and great for the skin,” she says.

The Gendebiens love being advocates for wellness, producing products that nourish the body inside and out. They also have another strong focus – maintaining a healthy planet, as well. Sustainability practices are paramount to their businesses.

“Nothing leaves the farm except for milk,” Blake says. The farm recycles and reuses water and reuses lactose removed from the milk for the cow feed. They also mix whey with manure to spread on the fields, improving crop yields.

“Environmental sustainability makes our country better and our communities better,” Blake says, “but it also helps our business. I can’t think of anything more sustainable than reusing our own product for future growth.”

Another aspect of farm life that brings great joy to Blake and Carmen is opening their farm to their friends and family for an annual picnic that honors the heritage of all the people in their lives. Carmen is a Cuban immigrant who was raised in New York City, and the extended family visits each summer. More than a dozen international flags are raised down their driveway as they welcome their friends from all over for this 20-year tradition.

“Our international party brings together different perspectives and offers our family and friends a taste of life on the farm,” Carmen says.

Blake adds, “Carmen has done a wonderful job, opening the farm and making it a welcoming place. The farm is filled with so much color and so much fun.”

The Gendebiens are also leaders in the community. They started a foundation to support families affected by cancer and are involved in school and sports organizations in their county.

Blake says his favorite memories include making small square bales of hay with his sons in the wagon, then jumping in the pond with Miles, Truman and Noah, just before the sun sets on another day.

This community involvement and closeness of family were the facets of life that Blake was seeking when they chose to return to his dairy farming roots.

“It is a purpose-driven life, working hard to provide food, keeping the planet healthy, running the farm and being the hands-on dad that I’ve always wanted to be,” he says.

Hear more of the Gendebiens’ story by watching the “Sustainable Sunsets, Meaningful Harvests” episode of This American Dairy Farmer below.