National Farmers Day Farmer Spotlight: Spring Meadow Dairy
In addition to being Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 12th is also National Farmers Day. This is a day where we acknowledge the nation’s farmers for all they do to support their local communities. Farmers are a big part of the work that the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay does to improve our local lands and waters, and we feel it’s important to show our appreciation for the work they do everyday to feed the nation and help keep the environment clean.
Farmers are extremely hardworking people and face tremendous difficulties everyday. The Alliance has been lucky enough to partner with many who go above and beyond to not only successfully run their operation, but they also have taken the initiative to care about conservation and take action for local water quality. Today we are highlighting one farm in particular; Spring Meadow Dairy in Peach Bottom, PA.
Spring Meadow Dairy is a participating farm of the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership (THCWP). The program is providing up to $60,000 at a 75% cost-share for implementing various soil and water quality improving best management practices (BMP). Spring Meadow Dairy is looking to implement a manure storage facility and other complementary BMPs on the farm.
My fellow Alliance colleague, Mauricio Rosales, and I visited Spring Meadow Dairy on a brisk, and extremely foggy, Fall morning. Despite the weather, the beauty of this farm was still very prominent. We met with Teresa Hannum, owner and operator of Spring Meadow Dairy, in front of a magnificent, still functional stone barn built in 1818.
Teresa is originally from Chester County, but moved to Lancaster in 1986 due to development pressure. Since then, her family has been operating multiple small, family farms in the Peach Bottom area and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Read more about our chat with Teresa and her son, Troy, who helps operate the farm, to learn all about the Hannum’s deep passion for what they do.
Q1: How did you get into farming?
Teresa: I was born into it. My grandparents, their parents. We’ve been farmers for as long as anyone can remember.
Q2: What do you enjoy most about farming?
Teresa: We enjoy being our own boss, and the independence. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s something that’s sort of in your blood and just such a part of you. [Farming is] basically your whole life. I enjoy the cows, I enjoy the crops, it’s just all I ever wanted to do. I know everybody has bad days, but it’s a great place to raise a family. You get a bond unlike any other.
Q3: What do you find the most challenging about farming?
Teresa: Trying to make ends meet. For a long time, you don’t hardly make enough money to cover high, day-to-day expenses, let alone any extra to pay for conservation practices. We try to make good decisions, but [we] have to rely on the weather so much, and when it doesn’t cooperate, it costs you a bundle!
“The joke I have is, people say do you ever go to the racetracks and gamble, and I say, ‘No, I gamble every day of my life. I don’t need to gamble anymore.’ Farming is a big gamble.” – Teresa Hannum, Spring Meadow Dairy
Q4: What Alliance projects have supported you and your operation? What do these projects mean to you?
Teresa: We wouldn’t be able to continue without them. There is no farmer in the world who wants to see their dirt leave, create pollution, or hurt the environment, because the environment impacts our livelihood. We see when bad things happen, because it affects us financially. We try really hard to do a good job, but it comes back to the finances for dairy farmers. We couldn’t sustain our operation without support from organizations like the Alliance and NRCS.
Troy: It makes day-to-day easier by managing the water and erosion more sustainably. It’ll be better and cleaner for us and the cows.
Q5: When did you first learn about conservation?
Teresa: I attended University of Delaware and learned some of it there, but we grew up with it. My father was very concerned about containing our soil, so from the time I was little I had already learned about conservation. I grew up knowing we had to take care of our soil. When we moved [to Lancaster] and we bought this place, it was completely run down and had been neglected for years. A lot of the changes we made to this farm were my dad’s ideas, like strip cropping, rotating crops, and installing grassed waterways.
Q6: Was your operation affected by COVID-19?
Teresa: When it first came out, it affected milk prices and our bottom line. Our day-to-day operations were not affected, we still have to do our jobs, but financially, yes, we were affected. Several farms had to dump milk when the plants shut down because there was nowhere to take your perishable product.
Q7: What message would you tell your fellow farmers?
Troy: You have to be willing to be open to do practices that benefit everybody. We’re all working towards a common goal, so we have to work together.
Q8: What would you say to the general public who may be saying that farmers are not doing their job or not keeping the water clean?
Troy: We try to incorporate as many nutrients into the ground with no-till as possible. We won’t purchase and spread extra fertilizers if it’s not going to benefit our crops.
Teresa: Farmers are the last ones who want to see our soil runoff. Today, if farmers want to stay in business they have to adopt conservation practices. I’d say we all care, and we’re trying to do a good job, but it takes time.
The Hannum’s are just one of many farms that the Alliance is fortunate to support through cost-share programs like the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership. We need farms in our communities for so many reasons, so it’s imperative that we all work together to improve the lands and waters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.