Daisey Hill Farm, a local family-run farm, is currently running a fundraiser to offset the loss in profits due to weather and inflation in the past few years.
Daisey Hill Farm, located in Millerton, NY, is run by James and Jessica Cookingham. James started working on the farm when he was 17 years old and has been there ever since. He and Jessica have owned the Daisey Hill business since 2018.
In the spring, Daisey Hill offers vegetable, herb, and plant starters to kick start your garden. In the summer, they offer a variety of vegetables, perennial and annual flowers, and other miscellaneous garden things.
Before the pandemic, they were also open with a variety of fall activities in autumn, including hayrides, corn mazes, haunted houses, bounce houses, and even a snack shack.
Additionally, every fall, they sell pumpkins, corn stalks, Indian corn, and hay.
James and Jessica’s favorite part about farming is the ability to provide for the community. “As a family business, we understand that the health and well-being of your family is a top priority,” they said. “We love providing the local community with fresh, homegrown vegetables and plants.”
Like everything else, the pandemic brought about significant challenges for the agriculture industry. “Everything was so unexpected and no one knew what was going to happen, so my parents weren’t sure how many seeds to plant,” said Hailey Cookingham, James and Jessica’s daughter. “But then, the farm was classified as an essential business, so we were able to stay open.”
However, James and Jessica’s initial fears that they weren’t going to need as many plants were quickly quelled. In search of a hobby that they could do at home, many people turned to gardening during the pandemic. “The support was amazing. My parents didn’t think that people were going to come out during the pandemic, so they actually didn’t order enough seeds. We sold out of everything that year,” Hailey shared.
Naturally, one of the most challenging parts of farming is the unpredictability of the weather, which has not been particularly kind to farms in the region in the past few years.
“You never know what it’s going to do and it has the biggest effect on our output,” Hailey said.
She said that in 2022, Daisey Hill lost a lot of their corn crop because of the drought conditions that the region experienced throughout the summer months. The average precipitation in August in Millerton is around four inches. In 2022, Millerton saw about a total of a half an inch of rain for the month.
“We had to go through our local brook to irrigate water for the corn,” she said. “And then this past year, there was just so much rain that no matter how much we pumped it out, it still ended up destroying a lot of our crops.”
The hay was ruined. The number of Indian corn stalks that survived the floods drastically decreased. Their entire pumpkin crop rotted out in the field due to excessive flooding and standing water. “My dad was so upset because fall is his favorite time of year. I always joke that he has more passion for his corn and his pumpkin crops than anything else, so he was just heartbroken,” Hailey said.
Additionally, Daisey Hill Farm utilizes crop rotation, which is the practice of growing different crops in the same area across different growing seasons. This process keeps the soil nutrient-dense over time. “Even though it’s necessary, that’s another tough part – replanting everything every year.”
Long term, James and Jessica want to restore Daisey Hill to its pre-pandemic glory. That means bringing back all of the fun activities that they used to do in the summer and the fall.
“My mom and I have been brainstorming activities we can do going forward,” Hailey said. “In October, we’d like to get back to the haunted house and bonfire nights, offer things like s’mores kits, and other fun ideas. We just can’t afford to implement them right now due to all of the losses we’ve endured.”
Ultimately, the goal is to get as many people back on the farm as possible. “We want to get back to how it used to be – so busy that people would have to park in the house driveway because the parking lot for the farm was so full. We just want everyone to have fun.”
Daisey Hill Farm is currently running a GoFundMe to help save the farm from the losses that they’ve endured due to the weather and the economy.
“My parents do so much and spend so much of their time, energy, and effort into making this the farm to go to,” Hailey wrote in the GoFundMe. “It is not by any means an easy job, but they continue to do it to provide not just for our family, but for yours.”
Hailey shared that one of the biggest challenges is due to the fact that her parents only own the Daisey Hill business, not the land on which it operates. “It makes it really hard to get all of the insurance benefits that we would get if we owned the land,” she explained. “It’s one of the biggest things as to why it’s so hard for us right now. If my parents lose the farm, they also lose their home. If they lose the business, they also lose everything that they’ve ever known. It’s a lot.”
As of the writing of this article, their GoFundMe has nearly met its goal of $17,000. “I want to thank everyone for coming together to support us in this,” Hailey said. “No matter the outcome, we’re planning on hosting something to thank everyone for doing this for us. It’ll be some kind of community get-together to show our appreciation.”
To donate to Hailey’s GoFundMe “Saving Daisey Hill,” visit this link. To learn more about Daisey Hill Farm, visit their website here.