Dover's last dairy farm closes, equipment to be sold
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EAST DOVER — The last dairy farm in Dover closed after owner Andrew Sherman was approached by two brothers wanting to purchase cows.
"I'm old and tired but not quite old enough to retire," he said, saying that he felt both good and sad about the decision.
Sherman and his wife Lisa have owned their East Dover farm since 1981, just one year after they got married. They have been shipping milk for eight years and won several milk quality awards through Organic Valley and the National Farmers Organization. The NFO paid Sherman Farm through a contract with Organic Valley for its milk.
Between 2,900 and 3,100 pounds of organic milk were shipped from the farm every other day, said Sherman.
Bill Holland was another dairy farmer in Dover. Sherman said Holland stopped his operations some time in the late 1960s.
"Bill (Holland) was the only one I remember," Sherman said. "I think back in the 1940s, there were a lot of guys that shipped. Back then, they shipped the milk in cans."
Now, trucks are sent to pick up the milk. After Sherman's, a truck would go to other organic dairy farms in Jacksonville and Whitingham.
Sherman's cousins run Wheeler Farm, producing conventional milk rather than organic.
The cows at Sherman Farm are "real friendly" because they were treated as if they were big dogs, Sherman told the Reformer during a tour of the farm. That kind of treatment made the animals easier to handle and work with, he said.
"You get so you're so attached to them in a small setting like we have here," said Sherman.
His great-grandfather farmed on the property.
"I almost think he married into it but I'm not sure," said Sherman, whose grandfather built a silo sitting on the approximately 267 acres of land but he didn't farm for a long time.
Sherman grew up living next door to the farm he eventually ran. He attended elementary school in Dover then graduated high school in Brattleboro in 1975. He worked at Brattleboro Auto Sales, now Brattleboro Auto Mall, and the West Dover-based ski resort Mount Snow. Also, he drove a bus and operated equipment for a local man.
But he always wanted to try milking cows for living.
"It was fun. I enjoyed the milking the most," he said.
The seven days a week that his operation required was getting difficult. Sherman said it was hard finding people to help or work at the farm. They had 25 dairy cows that were milked on site. Other cattle were raised there for beef. Altogether, there had been 39 cows living on the farm before 28 were sold.
Another challenge involved dealing with cows that didn't feel well or had mastitis, which is a persistent, inflammatory reaction of the udder tissue, and the most common disease in dairy cattle in the United States.
First thing in the morning, Sherman said, he would be up cleaning the barn.
"I miss it," said Sherman. "It's been kind of nice. I still get up early but I go back to bed until 6:30."
Before closing the dairy operation, he was waking up at 4 a.m.
Last winter had several stretches of days with temperatures 15 degrees below freezing. Getting the skid steer through the barn was not easy as manure would be stuck to the floor.
The only part of winter that Sherman said he enjoyed was how the cows could always be found in the same spot. They wouldn't leave an area designated for them. In warmer months, they might venture away from that spot.
One of Sherman's sons runs an auto repair shop at the farm. Another son is somewhere in the Middle East, serving in the Army.
Finding someone to care for the cows when Sherman took his son to New Hampshire before deployment was tough. Finding someone he'd trust, he said, was difficult.
The dairy cows are now up north in Plainfield, approximately 20 miles east of Montpelier. They were moved there on Feb. 12.
Several cows were kept at the farm. Sherman expects to sell them in the fall before next winter.
The equipment, Sherman said, will probably be sold off. He plans to look at other job prospects but isn't jumping into anything too soon.
"I'm a little nervous about the future I guess," he said. "We'll see what happens.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 237.
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