Monument Farms (Weybridge)
Contact: Peter James (802) 545-2119 (802) 545-2593
The James and Rooney families own and manage Monument Farms, Inc.; a 720 head dairy and milk processing business. Monument Farms is an institution in Addison County. Three generations have carried on the dairying tradition that began in 1930. They are the only large scale Vermont dairy processor that sells milk exclusively from their own herd. Now there are 34 employees and they have a well established retail market for their high quality milk. This 200-year-old dairy farm in Weybridge provides all of Middlebury College's milk. Monument Farms is by far the largest landowner in the town of Weybridge and about 450 acres of their land is conserved. Peter James jokes, “That only leaves 1,200 acres left to conserve.”
Monument Farms Dairy is rooted in the life cycles of its cows, its land and its family. For four generations, Monument has operated under a unique “vertical integration” system meaning that they grow their own feed, raise their own cows, process their own milk and distribute their own product. Seasons change, and generations shift, but the family’s interests in heritage, community and good milk remain unaltered. A certain pride is associated with being able to produce 100% Vermont milk for 100% Vermonters.
“We’re obviously unique in that we are producer-handlers, processing our own milk and selling it,” said one of the current owners of the farm, Jon Rooney. “That’s getting much more unique at our scale [small dairy] every day, and I think people are more aware of that uniqueness now than in the past, and people in the area take a lot of pride in supporting us and are glad to see us doing this. They’re glad to be able to buy a locally produced product from people they know.”
In considering the rhythms and patterns of Monument, three cycles stood out from the rest: the preservation of the farm’s principles from generation to generation as it continues to grow as a business, the cows' rotational schedules through their various stages of development and milking, and the daily life of the farm which progresses from fields to cows to milk to happy customers. Set as a true monument to the dairying tradition in Vermont, the farm continues to uphold its down-home values while also looking toward the future and battling the current economic recession.
“[The boys] all feel that they have a heritage,” said matriarch Millie Rooney. “I’ve tried to instill in them, ‘You’ve got to remember that this has been in our family and you have a heritage to keep it up—to keep the buildings up, to create an image, and also to be active in the community, too.’ And I think we certainly have. I think the heritage carries over into the next generation, that they feel that we need to continue, and hopefully it will.
[The farm] will probably take on other dimensions just like it has over the past. Other places have been at the mercy of the market, whereas we are, only to some extent because of our competition, producing the product and processing it and distributing it, so we have a value-added product that others don’t have. In this economy, it’s the only thing that’s saved us.”
With 35 current employees from the surrounding community, Monument Farms supports the local area in more ways than one. Mooing and mountains blend across their 2500 acres, and their milk, consistently fresh, never leaves the rolling farmlands of Vermont (unless, of course, out-of-staters come to get it for themselves). Despite the dairy decline, we hope they stay in the Addison County area for many years to come because we like knowing where our milk comes from.