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Stafford Farm Honored for Conservation

Web image: Hy-Hope Farms, in Stafford, has been awarded “Conservation Farm of the Year” for 2011. Click image for full screen view

Hy-Hope Farms, in Stafford, has been awarded
“Conservation Farm of the Year” for 2011.

Some of the farm owners include, from left:
Jody Shepard, Cory Totten, Dick and Ron Totten,
Shin Iburi and Shane Totten.

Full screen view

By Tom Rivers

Stafford, New York, January 17, 2012

A growing dairy farm, located near Black Creek, has been named the Genesee County’s “Conservation Farm of the Year,” in recognition of its many environmental initiatives to protect the creek and watershed.

The Totten family has operated Hy-Hope Farms since 1948, when Fay Totten started milking cows on Horseshoe Lake Road. Mr. Totten, 90, still has a presence on the farm, now in its third generation. His wife Betty also helps with the books at Hy-Hope. The farm has added cows in recent years, increasing the milking herd from 400 cows in 2008 to about 600 now. Hy-Hope also put on a new drive-through, free-stall barn last summer to accommodate the bigger herd. But the farm hasn’t scrimped on environmental protections. In 2008, it built a new manure lagoon and added filter strips and a leachate collection system, where leachate is pumped to the lagoon. That has kept runoff from getting into the creek.The farm about a decade ago also moved about 70 to 80 dairy animals from a barn near the bank of the creek.

“You feel obligated to the land,” said Dick Totten, the farm’s field crops manager. Farm owners want to protect the creek and preserve the soils, to help sustain the environment for years and generations to come, he said.

Hy-Hope has always tried to install drainage tile in its fields, but has increased that effort in recent years with the cost of corn and other feed skyrocketing, Totten said. The drainage tile helps fields dry out faster in the spring during planting season. And a well-drained field should result in better yields, the Tottens said.

The county Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) commended the farm for its environmental work, done over years and decades. The farm participates in the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service “Conservation Stewardship Program” and is in compliance with its Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permit, SWCD said.

While Dick leads the farm’s 800-acre crop effort, his brother Ron is in charge of reproduction services at Hy-Hope. Ron Totten is well regarded in the dairy industry for his knowledge with animal reproduction. He serves on the boards of directors for Genex Cooperative and Cooperative Resources International, organizations with a specialty in animal genetics and artificial insemination.

A new generation of Tottens also are helping to lead the farm. Cory Totten is the farm’s herdsman, while Shane Totten assists Dick with field work and is the farm’s mechanic. Their cousin Jody Shepard is the calf manager, and another cousin, Shin Iburi, handles nutrition and labor issues for the farm, which has 11 outside employees. Cory Totten said the younger generation intends to keep up the conservation practices. It makes sense in the short- and long-term, he said. “Every piece of ground is so important now,” he said. “We need to grow as much feed as possible to minimize the purchase costs.”

The Tottens said the farm is fortunate to be surrounded by many farm-friendly neighbors. They understand some of the by-products with a dairy farm, the smells of manure and occasional mud on the roads. The farm asks its neighbors to give them notice if they are planning family parties or important outdoor gatherings. Hy-Hope will try to hold off on spreading manure until after those occasions.

Fay Totten named his farm Hy-Hope after visiting the state fair many decades ago, his sons said. Mr. Totten saw another farm at the fair with a similar name. “My dad named this farm,” Dick Totten said. “He had high hopes for it.”

With offices in nearly every county in the United States, NRCS works with landowners and communities to improve our soil, water, air, plants, wildlife, and energy use. If you are interested in how you can protect natural resources on your farm or forestland, please contact your county NRCS office.

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