Special to The Citizen
The Carey farm has been producing dairy in Groton since 1899, after Eric Careys great-great-grandfather first purchased the property. Eric Carey, now 30 years old, continues his family’s tradition of dairy farming. Eric can often be seen with his 280 milking cows roaming the hillsides around the farm.
The Careys have been interested in trying out new methods and exploring new ways of managing the farm over the years. Erics father Dan introduced a well-structured program for grazing in the early 1990s and they have not looked back.
Eric explained that grazing works well for our farm because we can cut down on our costs. We graze because of the reduced barn cleanouts and lower feed costs. Also, we can reduce labor costs and manure handling.
Eric is the youngest of the four and a Cornell graduate. Eric continues to implement innovative practices that are good for the farm, their animals, and help protect Owasco Lake.
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Rotational grazing is a method that we have implemented on our property to improve the health and resilience of our soil, as well as reduce soil loss.
Rotational grassing is when livestock are moved to different parts of the property. This gives other areas time to rest between grazing periods. This makes the soil more productive and healthier. Healthy soil can be a boon for farms by reducing inputs, increasing crop resilience to weather extremes, and improving overall crop health. Healthy soils can also have positive environmental effects, such as less soil erosion and better downstream water quality.
Eric has spent his whole life working with dairy cattle and he hopes to see the industry succeed. Farmers like the Carey family continue adopting new practices that will benefit both the environment and their bottom line. Eric stated that rotational grazing is one of many farming practices in the region that have broad environmental benefits.
In recent years, Careys have included cover cropping and no-till gardening into their farm practice. Cover cropping is the practice to grow something year-round in a field instead of leaving it bare between cash crop crops. No-till gardening involves planting crops without having to till the soil. These practices can replenish the soil’s nutrients while protecting rivers and lakes from agricultural runoff.
Eric stated that the best practices are those that have the least impact on the environment, as well as the most financial benefits. Triticale is used to cover all our corn fields. This helps keep the soil in place and allows us to feed our cows, reducing our feed costs.
Paul Gier, natural resource specialist at Tompkins County Soil & Water Conservation District, has been working closely with the Carey farm for many years. Paul uses programs such as the Agriculture Environmental Management program, to help farmers implement more watershed-friendly practices.
Eric is involved with the AEM program as well as the Environmental Quality Incentives Programme, which have helped him improve nutrient and manure handling and storage and waterway management.
Paul explained that the Careys have taken significant steps to improve runoff water quality by incorporating grazing on their farm and no-till on it. They are doing their bit to protect the watershed.
The Careys are dairy farmers who have worked for generations on their farms. They want to see their farm prosper for many generations to follow. Low milk prices, farm consolidation pressures, and increased scrutiny have all made the past few years difficult for the dairy industry. Eric wants to ensure the industry doesn’t fall backwards. He said that dairy will always survive. It’s only a matter of how we want it to be, he added.
Eric’s enthusiasm and passion for the industry does not stop at Carey farms. Eric has always been a strong believer in sharing the story of the local farming community and educating others on what it’s like to work in agricultural in the region. Eric started All Things Agriculture podcast in late 2020.
Eric hosts local farmers, agricultural professionals, and shares his insights into life in the field. It’s available wherever podcasts are available.
If you’d like to learn more about any of the farming practices mentioned here, the Agriculture Environmental Management program or what your local farmers are doing to protect the lakes and rivers, visit tompkinscountyny.gov/swcd.
Our Owasco is a project that works with Cayuga and Tompkins county farmers to help them recognize and accelerate their efforts in adopting farming practices that protect Owasco Lake. The Nature Conservancy, Cornell University and American Farmland Trust are funding the project.
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