Morgan Hill Farm
Addison County, Vermont is known as the “Land of Milk and Honey” for its natural bounty and wealth, which is apparent to any visitor who’s spent even just a few hours amongst its lakes, forests, and fields. It is home to hundreds of dairy farms, a testament to the motto’s “milk,” which cover the land from the Champlain Valley east to the foothills of the Green Mountains. Here, in the small town of Bridport, is where Jerry and Cheryl Connor call home.
The Connors have cultivated the 600 acres of Morgan Hill Farm since 1968, when they purchased the property from Jerry’s parents, Leo and Barbara, just five years after the family relocated to Vermont from their home farm in Rhode Island. The historic property is named after its founder David Hill, who is most famous for owning the iconic Morgan horse Black Hawk, which he purchased in 1844.
Today the farm is home to 200 cattle, including 130 milk cows, of three different breeds: Holsteins, Jerseys, and the uncommon Lineback. Linebacks, derived from the Holstein breed, are known for their distinctive coloration, which includes a white stripe along the spine. “They’re a very muscular, beefy breed,” says Cheryl. “We love Linebacks for their uniqueness and for their milk production, which is somewhere between a Holstein and a Jersey.”
In addition to their successful dairy operation, which recently became fully organic in May 2012, the Connors decided to open their historic home – The Mountain View Inn – to visitors as a relaxing Bed & Breakfast. Guests can choose to spend their days on the porch enjoying views of the Champlain Valley and the Adirondack Mountains, or they can join Cheryl and Jerry as they milk the cows and feed the calves and chickens. Each morning, Cheryl serves a home-cooked organic breakfast that would outshine what is served at most gourmet restaurants. This includes her famous frittatas; made with farm fresh eggs and seasonal vegetables and herbs; as well as homemade butter; and her jellies and jams, which regularly win the blue ribbon at the annual Addison County Fair.
The Connors, proud members of Agri-Mark for more than 30years, decided to transition to organic as they saw the demand increase for natural products. “For us, organic equals less stress on the animals. Since we made the change, our cows have had less health problems, including less foot problems, and spend almost everyday in the pasture. You can see just how excited they are in the morning when it is time to head outside.”
When Cheryl isn’t working on the farm, or teaching classes on the intricacies of Oxford Punch Needle rug making technique, she is working with the Addison County Farm Workers Coalition, a group she started in 2003. The organization brings together volunteers from many different backgrounds and careers to serve the needs of dairy farm workers. Cheryl formed the coalition after Jerry was injured in a farm accident, and they needed to hire extra labor. “When I started looking for migrant workers, who make up the bulk of dairy farm workers, I learned how they were in desperate need of essential services like health care, or even transportation to the grocery store. That’s when I started to pull together a network of volunteers to help get them medical care and provide whatever additional assistance we can so they can make ends meet.” Cheryl is also a member of the board of directors of the Addison County Farm Bureau. She was named its Woman of the Year in 2012.
Jerry and Cheryl handle most of the labor on the farm with the help of a few employees. Their granddaughter Ali wants to become a dairy farmer, and will start working for them after graduation this summer. Jerry and Cheryl have two children, Jennifer and Rebecca, who are both married to local guys, and live just down the road. Their grandson Hunter is joining the Air Force this year.
The Connors are in the process of opening a farm stand, where they’ll sell Cheryl’s jams and jellies, along with the farm’s organic eggs, and her handmade rugs. The couple also hopes to open a small historic museum one day to display Jerry’s collection of more than 40 antique tractors.
Try one of the Connor family’s favorite recipes – Hash Brown Casserole. They regularly share this taste dish with their guests!
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