Hard work, but worth it.

The Phillips’ dreams led to an unconventional life on the farm.

It’s not easy running an organic dairy, but that’s not the hardest part of James and Anne Phillips’ jobs. At the end of each season, James and Anne know they could be asked to leave their farm completely.

You see, the Phillipses don’t actually own their farm. They rent it (and a little house a few miles away) as a way to farm organically as they search for their own land. Though renting is far from what the couple had in mind when they first met at Cornell, it’s given them a shot at reaching the dream that brought them together.

“We started attending grazing meetings together in the early ‘90s,” Jim explains. “We saw it as a way more aligned with what we wanted to do. As a young couple with little money, it was certainly the way to go.”

Figuring out that they wanted to run a grass-based dairy was easy. Finding a place to do it, however, was harder. A lot harder.

The Phillipses searched far and wide for a farm to call their own, working fields and pastures in both Ohio and Virginia before settling near Anne’s hometown in upstate New York.

Here, the fields roll away toward the Catskill Mountains and the grass grows green. It’s an idyllic scene with one significant flaw: this is still someone else’s land.

The Phillips remain optimistic. This is their dream, and they don’t care how long it takes to get where they want to go. “This is what Jim and I have chosen to do,” explains Anne. “[Organic dairying] is what we love. Our animals are healthy, eating fresh young grass, and we’re working together on something.”

“Sure, the renting part can be stressful,” she adds, “but the way we farm brings us great joy. It’s worth it.”

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