Lessons in Determination and Hard Work Down on the Farm with Harvey Smith And Family
photo by Tom Pinsonneault
Tuesday November 27, 2012
By Tom Pinsonneault
Meeting Harvey Smith in his barn on Lime Kiln Road in New Haven on a brisk November morning is a lesson in more than farming. It is a testimonial to the dedication of one family to start with a dream and create a legacy to be passed on. Harvey was there with his granddaughter Anna Jo Smith. She greeted me at the door of the old milk parlor after seeing this reporter stumble around outside trying to find someone amidst the roar of farm machinery and warnings of various farm animals that a stranger was approaching.
Anna Jo greeted me at the entrance to the milking parlor with a warm smile and handshake and it didn’t take long to find Harvey. After a brief introduction Harvey proceeded to give a quick tour of the barn describing how it was in various stages of conversion from dairy farming to raising beef cattle, pigs and chickens. There were horses and dogs too. Harvey suggested that we go to the farmhouse where conducting an interview would be more pleasant.
Two dogs followed us all the way up to the farmhouse dancing circles around us while playing their own game of keep away. Harvey said, “You can keep your shoes on but I am taking mine off before going into the house because I have been in the pig pen.” Mrs. Smith, Donna, was there to greet us at the door and welcomed us in from the snappy crisp air outside. It actually was a beautiful day with sun, blue skies, scattered clouds with temps in the 40s, just as the weatherman had promised the night before.
Talking about the farm and the land which comprises some 300 acres, this reporter almost wanted to promise Harvey and his family that the Valley Voice would not divulge the location of their little bit of heaven. Harvey pointed out that he and Donna had started the dairy farm in 1972 in spite of the banks not wanting to lend him money to help finance their farming venture. “Not everyone was supportive or helpful but we pushed on and were able to secure what we needed to begin our life as dairy farmers. You just can’t give up on something if you really want it. Even though everyone said it was impossible to start a farm we proved them wrong!” Harvey went on to explain how farming has changed over the years, not only because of technology but the way people do things. “Farmers customarily borrowed one another’s farm equipment and then they decided that they needed their own equipment and now many farmers use custom operators who come with their equipment to cut and clear the fields.”
If anyone has any misgivings about what constitutes a farm family the Harvey Smith Family Farm seems to be a model. Their two daughters live very close by with their families and are quite often in and out of the house along with their children and some day care children as well. Donna and Harvey will be quick to point out that their children and all of the cousins practically grew up on the farm. “Everyone did chores and in the summer went swimming in the farm pond. We often had picnic lunches at the pond as an extra treat,” added Donna.
Donna commented further saying, “During holidays many of the family are here to help celebrate and pitch in on any of the chores to be finished,” emphasizing that, “Everyone is here for the annual family reunion.” There really seems to be a sense of family togetherness on the Smith family. Harvey says that, “Farm kids are instilled with a real work ethic that other kids are not able to appreciate because of different backgrounds.” Donna added, “Farm kids have a real advantage in being able to see the life cycle, giving them a more genuine understanding of the workings of nature.”
The Harvey Smith Family Farm transitioned from a dairy farm to the business of raising beef cattle and pigs for market in 2005. One of the benefits that they see is more flexibility with their time and now they are able to enjoy a vacation. As a legislator in the State of Vermont, Harvey doesn’t have to worry about getting back in time to see that the cows are properly cared for and fed.
While conversing in the Smith’s living room, attention finally shifted to Anna Jo and her role on the farm family. Anna Jo is a college student who, when home on break, works at a local business and helps on the farm. She owns some of the animals and is a partner with Harvey in the business. And that’s not all. Anna Jo has belonged to the Future Farmers of America since middle school and today is the current Vermont president of the FFA which is the largest youth organization in the United States.
Harvey will tell you that his farm, along with all others involved in agricultural endeavors such as apiaries, raising fruits and vegetables, forestry or the maple sugar industry, have been supported by Vermont legislators. Harvey introduced legislation to create a Secretary of Agriculture giving the Vermont farming industry greater and more direct representation in the legislature. Currently, the Vermont legislators are working on labeling regulations designed to preserve and protect the integrity of Vermont agricultural products.
The Harvey Smith Family Farm has withstood the test of time and prevailed against the odds. Their family like their business has grown and flourished. “All it takes” as Harvey concludes “is determination and attitude.”