I would like to introduce Nicole Fletcher (age 27) from Southampton, Massachusetts. The Fletcher Family consists of Heather’s parents (Robert and Cheryl), sister Liz and brother Matt. Fletcher Farms milks 60 registered Holsteins and Jerseys in a tie-stall barn. They are responsible for raising all their own replacement heifers and the total herd consists of 140 animals. The herd lives in a new free-stall barn that they completed in 2011. In addition to the dairy, they grow their own hay and corn for silage. They are members of the dairy farmer cooperative Agri-mark which means they are also part of the Cabot Creamery. Their milk is part of the Cabot family of products such as delicious cheese and butter.
If you have been following along, you will notice that most people have been very active in 4-H growing up and Nicole is not an exception. Nicole started showing cows at age 12, and quickly realized how much 4-H offered within the dairy project. She became very interested in judging and quiz bowl, and was a member of both teams that traveled to the national contests. Today, you can find Heather coaching the Massachusetts 4-H and New England Holstein Association Quiz Bowl Teams. Heather credits 4-H with helping her realize how much more there is to dairy farming than simply milking cows each day, and it is a major reason why she chose to stay in the industry. After high school, Heather attended the University of New Hampshire and received a bachelor degree in Dairy Management in 2009.
When not with her cows, Heather’s hobbies include attending concerts, baking sweet treats, and outdoor activities like camping. She admits that her favorite dairy product is chocolate ice cream and her favorite dairy-filled Thanksgiving recipe would be Chocolate Cream Pie. Ingredients include chocolate pudding made with whole milk, and plenty of whipped heavy cream for the topping, and the crust is optional. 😉
Nicole’s Story in her own words:
I always loved the cows. By about age 13 I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life. I’m not much of an “indoor girl” and I like doing my own thing, so dairy farming and I click very well. I can be my own boss and work with the lovely ladies of the herd every day. I think if it’s in your blood you can’t really deny it.
What has been the most rewarding part of farming for you? The most rewarding part of farming for me is being able to see the fruits of my labor each day. I enjoy the daily challenges and that each day has something different to offer as far as projects and things that need to be completed. It is always the biggest reward to see hard work pay off, whether it is growing a nice group of heifers into good young cows, or fixing that old fence that has needed fixing for years. There’s always room for improvement on and around the farm. What has been the most challenging part of farming? The most challenging part of farming for me is when these daily challenges become something that is bigger than me. For example, losing a calf after a rough calving, or having a sick cow that you just can’t seem to bring back to health. They are challenges that happen and are part of farming, but they never seem to get easier to deal with.
Who is your favorite cow? My favorite cow is a cow named Fletch Emma Kate Washington. Emma was my very first 4-H project calf, and lived for 13 great years on my farm. She taught me so much about caring for animals. Not the technical stuff like how much grain she should be fed, but the stuff that will always stick with me. She taught me to be patient. She taught me to slow down and pay attention. She taught me to keep trying and work hard. And after her passing in 2012, I learned what a real loss felt like. That cow will always hold the most special place in my heart. I think of her often, and cherish the memories I have of her. She had a great personality and knew she was the queen of the barn.
What’s one question you always receive about what you do? One question that I get asked frequently (weekly) is about my hutch calves. I have 20 hutches that are visible from the busy road at my farm, and it seems that the majority of people believe that they are veal crates and what I am doing is cruel. I always explain to them that each hutch is like a crib for a baby. They live in their own crib while they are small so that they are safe and protected. I explain that baby calves, just like small children, love to share germs. So by keeping them in their own little house, they can each keep their germs to themselves. I explain that hutches are great because they are warm in winter and cool in summer, and they are easy to clean in between calves. I point out how much room they actually have, and that they have the option to be inside or outside as they wish.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in getting into farming? My advice would be to go for it! Sure, you may not have a farm in the family or much farming background, but this industry needs enthusiastic young people to carry it into the future. There are so many opportunities in agriculture and dairy farming. Every farm has a support staff, so just because you don’t come from a farm doesn’t mean you can’t be part of one as a veterinarian, a nutritionist, a salesperson, milk tester, AI technician or the many other jobs that are directly related to dairying. There are many great programs across the country that can get you the education and hands-on experience to get started.
Thank you Nicole for taking time to participate in our “30 Days of Dairy” series. If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to our blog (no spam, just an email when we post a new blog) so you don’t miss any posts
Earlier “30 Days of Dairy” features this month include:
Sarah & Andy Birch – Derby, VT – the dairy farmers that were my inspiration for the 30 Days of Dairy!
Melissa Collman – Boring, OR – an organic dairy farmer from the West Coast!
Macy Sarbacker – Belleville, WI – a blogger, editor and dairy farmer from American’s Dairyland!
Karen Bohnert – East Moline, IL – a very talented writer, Mom and Jersey lover from my state!
Lisa Myers – Hamstead, MD – one of my best friends that moved back home to run their dairy!
Rebecca Schlehlein – Platteville, WI – a dedicated farm employee that loves her Brown Swiss!
Heather Moore – Maquoketa, IA – Special Events Coordinator turned Dairy Farmer!
Katie Dotterer-Pyle – Union Bridge, MD – Spanish teacher and dairy farmer that makes sure her cows enjoy their stay!
For a listing of all the 30 Days Bloggers that Holly Spangler rounded up, visit here.