Meet the Bedard Family and Their 'Babies'
There are cows, there are nice cows, and there are really nice cows. First I'll tell you a bit about the Bedard family farm and then we're going to talk about their cows, their really nice cows.
You could say it’s peaceful on the Bedard farm in Vermont. That’s just the way the family likes it. Organic Valley farmers Eugene and Nancy farm with their sons, Patrick and Thomas. Daughter Katelyn lives at home but isn’t involved like the others.
Their house, built in 1908, sits upon a hill and though the milking barn is on the other side of the road, it’s safe for the cows to walk across when they come up from the pasture. And a beautiful pasture it is. A walk down a hill through a forest featuring a fall canopy of brilliantly colored leaves opens to a vast green landscape on a sunny afternoon in October.
This is where the Bedards’ friendly cows spend most of their time. The gurgling of a stream and random bellows from curious cows are among the few sounds that fill the air.
As they lead this writer to the pasture, Patrick makes a sweeping gesture, smiles, and proudly says, “These are our girls.” “Our babies,” Nancy says.
Nancy and a cow on their organic farm in Vermont.
There are about 75 cattle that make their home at the Bedard farm. Let’s see … there’s Swissy, Jelly, Spud, Koala (who was apparently born looking like a koala bear), to name a few.
The cows have personalities and some follow the Bedards around like puppy dogs.
Nancy believes the cows are so friendly because the family isn’t aggressive with them and doesn’t “push them” when it comes to producing milk. They allow them to go at their own pace.
“They are what they are,” Nancy said. “We make sure they are healthy. Unlike some farmers, we don’t wear and tear on their life. That’s not good, that’s not farming.
“The cows grow up here and they have since they were babies. They’ve always been around us, as have their moms and some of their siblings. We make sure they are as comfortable as we can.”
When the cows see the Bedards have joined them in the pasture, they walk up and check them out. Soon it’s time to head to the barn for milking.
“Come on, munchkins. Did you have a good day in the field?” Patrick says to the bovines as he walks next to them on the trek up a hill and across the road to the barn.
The Bedards take a break on their Vermont farm.
A Memory Above the Milkhouse Door
A large wooden sign displaying “Bedard Farm” hangs by a whippletree on the outside of the red milkhouse. Each time the farmers walk to that barn they are reminded of their heritage.
A whippletree is a wooden bar that distributes force evenly when fastened to a draught animal, but it also doubles as convenient hardware to display the family barn sign. The brothers’ grandfather, who has passed on, used it when pulling logs around the farm.
“It’s a little bit of him hanging around with us,” Patrick said. “He brings good spirits and it helps preserve the heritage.”
Thomas says hello to Jelly.
Farming as a Family
The Bedard boys, (who are in their late 30s) grew up in the barn. When they were babies, Mom and Dad put them in a playpen in the barn while they milked the cows and took on chores.
Eugene, Nancy, Patrick, and Thomas have a mutual love of farming.
“It’s in your blood,” Patrick said of farming. “We love farming. We are a close-knit family and we are here for one another. The biggest thing is everybody has to be supportive of each other.”
They all enjoy the variety of the day-to-day. Though farming is hard work, they like the freedoms that come with being land stewards and running their own business.
Thomas, who is typically responsible for milking, enjoys the solitude that comes with the task. Nancy loves the peace and quiet when she walks the land. Eugene also likes being outside. Patrick likes the tight family bond that comes with farming. And there are countless other reasons they love farming.
“There are certain times of day I get to pause and reflect on the farm—you don’t get that with every job—this can be morning, noon, night,” Patrick said. “This is why I do this, this is why I smile.”
Patrick and the herd head to the barn.
Disclaimer: Most of the cows are super friendly, but there is a reason they call one
9-year-old cow Miss Attitude!
An antique typewriter fanatic and chicken mom who treasures time outdoors admiring all that nature has to offer, Jennifer McBride is Rootstock’s editor. McBride spent 15-plus years as a journalist and newspaper editor before finding her niche with the nation’s leading organic dairy cooperative. Contact her at Rootstock@organicvalley.com.
- animal care,
- farm life