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This youngster was eating, and wearing, her share of Stonyfield yogurt, which uses milk from the Miller Farm in Vernon.

Business

Celebrating a family tradition

Miller Farm marks 100 years and four generations of farming with open house

VERNON—On a hot Sunday afternoon, Paul Miller, one of three generations farming his family’s land, took a short break and sat on a rustic wooden bench in the shade of a small farm outbuilding.

For most of the day, he and his friends and family, all wearing red “Miller Farm” shirts, greeted scores of guests, gave hay ride tours, and dished out snacks at the farm’s anniversary party.

In a nearby barn, pettable horses, goats, and an abundant litter of fuzzy puppies shared the cool, dark space with a trampoline covered with children and a lone six-year-old swinging on a rope above a big bed of hay.

An ample tent sheltered a musician and the drinks-and-snacks station, where attendees poured themselves lemon-water and herbal iced tea. Cheese, cookies, popcorn, and slices of a beautiful, fruit-topped chocolate cake were there for the taking.

The only thing for sale, other than those red “Miller Farm” shirts, were the puppies: AKC registered and $600 apiece.

Down the path, towards the cow pasture, the Vernon Fire Department parked a truck; alongside it, volunteer firefighters traded donations for popcorn and cotton candy. Next to the shiny red truck, employees of Stonyfield, which picks up the farm’s certified organic milk, gave away samples of their yogurt.

“My grandfather is the one we’re celebrating today. It’s the centennial of the day they recorded the deed” to the land that now straddles Route 142, Miller told an attendee.

On July 17, 1916, Arthur Lyman Miller purchased the land from Harold Akley — it had changed hands a few times since Jonathan Hunt, Vermont’s Lieutenant Governor from 1794 to 1796, had it as part of his vast estate.

Miller’s sons, Art and Peter, left the farm for awhile. Art was chaplain at a boarding school in Pennsylvania. Pete worked for Hewlett-Packard.

When Paul Miller turned 60, he told his sons “I want to be out by 65,” he said. Both sons told him, “don’t sell the farm, let us buy it,” Miller said.

That his sons wanted to return to a life of agriculture “kind of bowled me over” Miller said, and he gave them a year to decide if they were serious.

They were, and less than a year later they came back, Miller said.

In addition to raising Holstein cows, the Millers grow grasses, alfalfa, and corn — “all three crops in one form or another feed our animals,” Miller said.

Some of the feed goes to Echo Farm, the pudding-maker in New Hampshire.

“We supply the feed and they supply the manure,” Miller said, noting his farm’s organic certification precludes the use of fertilizers on the crops.

This year, the Millers entered into an agreement with the Retreat Farm, he said. “We’re farming their land, partly so they can get the organic certification,” Miller explained.

When asked about the fate of the land across Route 142, which the Millers offered to sell to the now-nixed gas plant project, Miller replied, “It’s being farmed now and we will continue to farm it."

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Originally published in The Commons issue #366 (Wednesday, July 20, 2016). This story appeared on page C1.

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