Not only were Brian and Nicole meant to be dairy farmers, but they were also just meant to be; the couple recently found a photograph of Brian showing cows at just ten years old – and discovered toddler, Nicole, in that same photograph sitting in the corner on her parent’s lap! As fate would have it, the two reconnected years later at their graduate jobs, where they got to talking and just never stopped.
Although Brian had a range of different jobs after finishing college, every spare second was spent milking cows. If you wanted to know where Brian was in the mornings, evenings, and weekends, you could always find him on the farm. No matter what job he had after college, everything he did contributed towards his final, current career as a full-time dairy farmer. Whether it was his savings that he reinvested back in the farm by purchasing equipment to make life at the farm easier or the skills he learned in nutrient management to help with the herd, “Every job has helped me become a better dairyman and to help improve things around the farm.”
The couple, who found their passion for cows as young children, are now operators of Linden Hall Farm, a Maola family farm out in Maryland. The farm has been in the family since the late 1800s, with a rich history that saw the farmhouse being used not only during the Civil War and as a schoolhouse, but even as a Prohibition speakeasy on the weekends during the Depression.
“It’s a lot of upkeep, but it’s amazing to be able to give tours and teach people about where their food comes from in a place with such a rich, interesting history,” Nicole says.
Brian and Nicole, along with Brian’s parents Christine and Mike, look after a 50-cow herd made up of mostly Jerseys, some Holsteins, and a single brown Swiss cow. With such a small herd, the family of farmers has the ability to focus on individual calves and even feed them individually, giving them the personal care they need. Every day, the cows go out and roam free on the pasture, grazing on grass and stretching their legs out.
“Being a farmer today has brought me back to where my heart has always been,” Nicole explains. “Not only did I grow up on a dairy farm, but my parents were also raised on dairy farms, and so when they decided to leave the dairy business in my senior year of high school and sold all of our milk cows, it was really devastating for me.” Luckily enough, reconnecting with Brian allowed Nicole to fulfill her dream of getting back on a dairy farm and spending time with her cows. Nicole speaks fondly of her special cow, Sweet Pea. “Sweet Pea was originally Brian’s sister’s cow, and I met her when Brian was away on a trip and we just instantly bonded. I’ll always look for her whenever I’m out on the farm,” she recalls.
For the couple, milking cows is not just a labor of love, but it requires a lot of physical labor, too. Their focus on happy, healthy cows goes hand-in-hand with their emphasis on quality milk. “We drink it too, so we want it to be high quality, good tasting stuff,” Brian and Nicole share the same sentiment. “This is our livelihood. We sell a product that we ourselves consume. This is what makes us get up in the morning, this is what we live off of – of course, we’re going to give it our all.”
And give it their all they do! Not only do the couple take good care of their cows, but they also have six acres of orchards and 166 acres of crops, the products of which they sell at their produce stand on the farm.
Every year, from the end of July through Thanksgiving, the family of farmers sells produce directly from their farm, with more than 1,200 tomato plants, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and farm-fresh chicken eggs. With so much acreage for crops, the family is aware of their impact on the earth and has been no-till farming for a very, very long time. In addition, Brian also catches rainwater for irrigation to spray the orchard. During peak season, the orchard might need more than 500 gallons of water to spray at least once a week, and so catching rainwater allows the family to reduce their water usage in their local community by conserving rainwater and making their farm more sustainable.
Education is important at Linden Hall Farm, especially when it comes to teaching consumers about where their food comes from. Nicole also spends time doing outreach through farm tours. “If you live in a city, I don’t think people realize just how close they are to their food source. We’re local to Maryland, and so being able to hop in your car and drive 45 minutes to an hour to get to the source of your milk – that’s such an amazing thing!”
With our Linden Hall family farmers getting milk fresh from the farm to the store as quickly as possible, they are lucky enough to do what they love every day. A generational love of agriculture, food sourcing, and dairy education inspires Brian and Nicole to enrich their community through agriculture for generations to come.