It’s 9:45 a.m. George Andrew’s cell phone alarm goes off while we talk. It signals that the dairy farmer dad should just be rolling out of bed for another long day of farming at El-Vi Farms. He typically hits the hay around 3 a.m., yet here he is, bright-eyed and proudly telling me about his children. All eight of them! His children’s names (in birth order) and their accomplishments roll right off his tongue.
George is one of four partner-owners of El-Vi Farms in Newark, New York. The 7th generation farmer joined El-Vi farm in 1989. He is the Herd Manager of the farm’s 3,200 cows. “I joke and say that my family invented farming because we’ve been farming forever and we love farming.” The next generation of Andrew’s is just as passionate about the industry. That's because...
“We didn’t just play farming. We actually did it. The children filled needed positions. Sometimes as teenagers they were filling a position that normally would have been filled by an adult with a college degree, so they’ve been challenged in a good way, and they’ve really enjoyed it and they’ve all stayed in touch with agriculture. They all have agriculture in their blood.”
~George Andrew, Herd Manager, El-Vi Farms
THE FOURTH DAUGHTER: SARAH
George instilled his passion for dairy farming into all his children, including Sarah, daughter number 4. Sarah studied animal science with a concentration in dairy at SUNY Cobleskill. She’s now back on the farm and working with her dad. Sarah’s interests lie in cow reproduction and genetics.
During my visit, Sarah and George tested technology for a new database management program being launched and implemented at the farm. It works similarly to a department or grocery store checkout scanner, keeping track of inventory.
The recorded data gathered is synced to the Herd Management computer, and the farm’s veterinary and nutritionist each has a record on the animals. The record keeping and data collection also helps the farm make data-driven decision in caring for the cows.
The electronic wand in Sarah’s hand is used to scan a cow’s ear tag, which provides the Andrew’s with data about the cow and her health with the wave of a wand.
Dairy farming is their passion, but it's also a responsibility that the Andrew Family takes takes seriously. Working alongside Dad, now and while growing up, says Sarah, has created and strengthened the family's tightknit bond.
“He’s not only your dad, he’s your work partner too, and you’re both trying to complete a goal together and, even as kids, it was more like, ‘we’re running a business and this is going to benefit the whole family.’ It definitely taught me to be a better person and have a strong work ethic and taught me to appreciate the important things in life, like family.”
“It’s a joy and blessing to have the kids involved on the farm, and then to have Sarah take such a strong interest and want to come back here to the farm where she grew up... there’s nothing that would bring more joy to me than to have my offspring and their spouses come into the business.”
~ George Andrew
MEET MORE OF THE OF THE FAMILY...
Photo: Back Row (L to R): Austin Copenhaver, George Andrew Jr., Chris Swarthout, Becca Andrew, Jon Smith (married to Katie Andrew) and Josh Smith (married to Hannah Andrew).
Front row: William Andrew, Abbey (Andrew) Copenhaver, Juliana Smith (Katie’s daughter), Emma Andrew, Ryan Smith (Katie’s son), George Andrew, Brielle Smith (Katie’s daughter), Colleen Andrew, Lilliana Smith (Hannah’s daughter, sitting on Colleen’s lap), Katie Andrew-Smith, Hannah Andrew-Smith and Sarah Andrew.
THE ANDREW CHILDREN
- 1. Katie, the eldest. An x-ray tech in the healthcare field, Katie continues to stay involved on the farm and is interested in the farm way of life.
- 2. Hannah, a registered dietitian who speaks on behalf of dairy farmers about nutrition, health and wellness and promotes the agriculture and dairy industry.
- 3. Abbey, with her husband, is a partner-owner of Ivy Lakes Dairy. She is also a registered dietitian and an Ironman refueling with chocolate milk.
- 4. Sarah works with her father at El-Vi Farms.
- 5. Becca, Sarah’s twin, just finished three years as a Peace Corp volunteer. In her dad’s opinion, she is “probably the best athlete” in the family.
- 6. Emma, the “baby”, is the 6th girl in a row born into the Andrew Family. An avid triathlete, Emma works in the dairy industry sharing her passion for agriculture
Finally … The Sons
- 7. George Junior
- 8. Willie, the youngest.
The boys, now teenagers, are nuts about agriculture according to Dad. “It was born and bred right into them and they love anything to do with farming and agriculture.” The boys show cattle at county fairs and at the state fair. They’ve very involved in the Holstein Association and in 4-H. They’ve been very successful and have won awards,” says a beaming George Andrew.
WORDS OF WISDOM FROM THE DAIRY FARMER DAD OF 8: ADVICE TO OTHER DAIRY FARMERS AND THE NEXT GENERATION
- Patience – be willing to humble yourself and let others try things a different way.
- Sit down together and outline some goals and some expectations.
- Be transparent and share your thoughts with one another, that includes sharing business finances. “If you’re withholding some information and the child doesn’t know that or vice versa than they disagree with a decision I’m making and can’t understand it. So, transparency.”
- Try to be sensitive, and have a little bit of patience and understanding with the older generation that maybe doesn’t want to make changes quite as fast or don’t want to take as much risk or want to take more time to think about a decision… that can work both ways.
I dedicate this blog to my father, and wish all dad’s a Happy Father’s Day!
How will your family celebrate Father’s Day? Leave a comment.
American Dairy Association North East is one of 16 state and regional promotion organizations working under the umbrella of the United Dairy Industry Association. It is the local affiliate of the National Dairy Council®, which has been conducting nutrition education and nutrition research programs since 1915. For more information, visit www.americandairy.com.