Columbus sheep farm named 2010 Conservation Farm of the Year

NORWICH – Bruce and Elizabeth Vermeulen of Hopestead Hill Farm in the Town of Columbus have received the 2010 Conservation Farm of the Year award from the Chenango County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The award is given annually to recognize local agricultural producers for their commitment to safeguarding and improving the area’s soil and water resources. Past recipients include Tumilowicz Farms in New Berlin and the Maple Dream Farm in Coventry.

Town of Afton Supervisor Bob Briggs, who chairs the SWCD board of directors, presented the Vermeulen’s with this year’s award at the organization’s Annual Awards Luncheon, held on Oct. 27 at the Canasawacta Country Club.

District Conservationist Lauren Johnson recalled spending many hours sitting at the Vermeulen’s kitchen table over several years, consulting on their soil and water conservation efforts.

“It does take time,” he admitted, but said the results were worth it. In his opinion, he said, Hopestead Hill Farm is a prime example of “what a conservation farm looks like.”

The Vermeulens, both of whom hail from the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan area, bought the 250-acre farm in 1987 after deciding they wanted to trade their high powered corporate careers for a more rural lifestyle. The farm was a working dairy, and the couple jumped right in. In fact, they often joke that they went from “Wall Street on Friday, to milking cows on Monday.”

Before moving to Upstate New York from their former home in New Jersey, the Vermeulens said they were “living for the weekends.” After the move, however, they realized this was no longer the case – because as dairy farmers there were no weekends. They stuck at it, though, continuing to operate the dairy for close to 10 years. They raised other animals as well, including a small flock of Dorset sheep which they’d started with two ewes prior to their move.

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