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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Kristen Brown

Raising her family on the farm

Kristen Brown can't recall exactly what her two and a half year old daughter Bailey's first word was. "But she certainly likes to say 'cow' a lot," she says.
Brown says she was probably just as conversant with the word "cow" when she was little. After all, she grew up on a farm, too.

"My father milked 40 to 46 cows," she says of her upbringing in Minisink. It involved waking up at 5 o'clock each morning to get the cows in from the fields, clean them up and feed them before her dad got around to his own milking chores.

"The good thing was I was allowed to drive to school," she adds. "When I got home at 3:30 it was coffee time; I'd talk about the day and do my homework. By 4:30 you'd be back down to the barn for the evening milking."

Home on the range
Brown, chair of the New York State Farm Bureau's young farmers and ranchers committee, recently returned from a national conference on farm families held out west. She has been a member of the committee since 2012 and was recently elected to her second one year term as chair.

"The committee does a lot of events. We organize a Harvest for All campaign each year that donates food from our farms to food pantries. Last year we donated enough to come in third place," says Brown. She also talks about the work they do with 4H programs.

In addition to her committee work, and board seat on the state Farm Bureau, she runs the fifth generation Brown Family Farm in Walden that her husband's father farmed.

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Her husband, Leonard, has an "off-farm" job with the New York State Thruway Authority. He fixes their big equipment, a job he also handles around the farm he grew up on.

All this, Brown adds, came after she got her AA and Bachelors in Agricultural Business from SUNY Cobleskill. She then spent nearly a decade working for the Orange County Water & Soil department, where she ran an innovative program that turned grass hay into pellets that could be used to heat homes. This is where she
met her husband. "His dad was part of the project, too."

Years of family farming
Farming runs deep all around Brown. Her younger brother now has their father's farm up to a 60 cow herd and her older sister works full time for John Deere while her husband milks over 100 cows outside of West Town.

They all help each other out with the farms and with parenting, when needed.

"It's best to have kids around who already know what it's like to live on a farm," Brown insists. "It can be dangerous around cows."

"Bailey loves the cows, and really loves the chickens," Brown notes. "She really likes to help out when she can."

The flock consists of 180 roosters plus 60 laying hens. The 20-head herd includes a dozen younger cows that get raised to between 400 and 500 pounds before getting sent to spring auction. There's also one cat.

Using your childhood to raise your children

We talk about the ways in which all parenting draws up old memories of one's childhood. Besides the teen years wanting to sleep in, there's a wealth of tight family moments and values she wants to pass on to Bailey.

Brown understands how important it is to keep farming a family activity. She also realizes it is something key to our Hudson Valley communities, even when that community sometimes needs to be reminded about the importance of the remaining farms amidst them.

Lucy Joyce, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County, shared why a vibrant agricultural community is essential in the Hudson Valley.

According to the most recent census data, Orange County is home to 43 dairy farms that produce 12.1 million gallons of milk each year. That's a lot of cows for Bailey to point out!

Also, about half of New York State's onion crop is grown on the local 80 black dirt farms.

Just think of how much your family enjoys the benefits of Hudson Valley farms! "Families enjoy picking fruits, vegetables and Christmas trees, going on hay rides to pumpkin patches, and petting the animals at petting zoos." Our community needs to recognize their local farming assets.

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Brown also notes how key family has been to allowing her the chance to balance a full life and be at home as a mother. She adds that she and Leonard are expecting another child in the coming months.

Then she shares what Bailey's second favorite word is after "cow."

"She loves to say C'mon," Brown says proudly of her young daughter. As all good farmers would, young and old.

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley. He lives in Catskill.

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