Main Street News


By Published On: March 4th, 2024

It’s a balmy Friday in the beginning of February. The sun is shining, the air is unseasonably warm, and Sarah Chase is about to milk the small dairy herd at Chaseholm Farm in Pine Plains, NY.

Each cow has a sign above its individual stall with its name on it. Names like “Tuesday” and “Burrata” decorate the signs. 

“The names have to be matrilineal, meaning that each cow’s name has to start with the same letter as its mom’s name,” Sarah explained. “In big calving groups, we’d pick a theme and name the cows after a theme, but mostly we just try to have fun with it.” 

Back to the roots

Sarah Chase took over at Chaseholm Farm in 2013 after she returned home from college. “I didn’t think it was possible to be a dairy farmer,” she said. “Growing up here and watching my dad, it was clear that the old ways wouldn’t work forever. I never really thought I would be farming to make a living.”

But when she moved home from college, she had friends that were getting into organic farming. “I had held onto this idea that I would have a couple of cows in my backyard when I grew up, and then seeing my friends starting their farming businesses, I was like wait a second, maybe I could do this with dairy cows,” she said. 

From there, she did extensive research about the different kinds of regenerative farming methods and dove in head first. “I thought that it was going to be a way to farm more cheaply because the cows would be eating grass and we wouldn’t be buying as many inputs, but that was a flawed thought process,” Sarah explained. “I love the cows, and I love this place. Figuring out how I could be here and participate in the family legacy, while putting my own spin on things on a small scale meant a lot.” 

Being able to preserve the farm as open land, as well as have a place for people to come and connect is incredibly important to Sarah. “Bringing people closer to their food is a big part of what I value about this work.” 

Round the clock work

A day on the farm today looks significantly different than it does in the summer. “Winter is fun for me because it gets to be routine, and it’s nice to have a little break from the crazy chaos of summertime,” Sarah laughed. 

This winter, Chaseholm has made a few changes in the way it operates. For one, the cows aren’t living in the tie stall barn like they used to. Now, they have more room to roam around and be free. 

In November, it also altered the milking schedule to be once per day at nine in the morning. “Before this, for four years, we milked the cows twice a day, every other day, so there would be 18 hours between milkings,” Sarah explained. “Because we’re 100%, grass-fed organic, the cows don’t make as much milk as conventional cows. By milking them less, we actually reduced our overall cost of milk production. And it’s been much easier on us, too.”

It’s been a bit of an adjustment for Sarah, who was used to coming to the farm at five o’clock in the morning to start the day’s work. Now, she gets to come into work around eight o’clock instead. “I feel like a normal human,” she joked. “I exercise in the morning now. I’ve never been able to do that, and now I have time in my day to do the other things that I need and want to do, too.” 

In the winter, the farmers still do all of the same tasks, including taking care of the cows, the pigs, and manning the farm store, which is open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm. 

But in the summer, there’s far more to do. For one, they’re moving electric fencing daily to ensure that the cows are getting on fresh pasture. They typically have more cows in the summer, so the daily tasks of taking care of them multiply. Chaseholm also produces all of its own hay and frequently hosts events at the farm, including Burger Nights and live music. 

“Luckily it’s way nicer to be outside in the summer, but the days are long, and it’s very easy to fill those days up.” 

The biggest rewards and the 

biggest challenges

“My instinct is to say that watching the animals grow and being excited for new babies is the biggest reward,” she said. “Watching the cows develop from who you think they’re going to be and then to who they actually turn into.” 

Outside of the animals, the biggest reward is watching the community surrounding Chaseholm grow. “It’s hard to take time to think about these things sometimes when you’re in the middle of doing it every day, but to think back to where we were ten years ago versus now, it’s just crazy,” Sarah said. “The number of customers that walk through our doors daily, or the relationships that we have with people who care about Chaseholm and bring their kids – it’s all so special.”

For Sarah, being connected to the people that Chaseholm is serving is one of the most valuable parts of farming. 

As far as challenges go, the “everydayness” of farming can occasionally be overwhelming. “Sometimes you want a break,” Sarah said. “That’s part of why we’re having conversations about making quality of life decisions and having fewer cows in the winter. If you can figure out ways to make it a little bit quieter and facilitate taking time off for everyone, it lightens the load significantly.”

Weather and inflation

In addition to the daily challenges of running a dairy farm, Chaseholm has also encountered the additional challenges of unprecedented weather conditions and increased inflation in the past eight months. “It’s been so wet this past year. It was a little wet to have the cows on the pasture sometimes, but we can prioritize what areas to use when it’s raining. That type of system has worked well for us.”

In addition to the pasture flooding, Chaseholm has also struggled to make hay when the weather is too wet. Similar to the wet weather in the late summer and early fall, the milder winter weather has also created muddy conditions in the pasture. 

Mild weather in the winter is also cause for concern when it comes to the health of the cows. “Cold weather kills bacteria and helps the cows’ respiratory systems,” Sarah said. “Fortunately for us, our cows are in a pretty low-stress environment, so they’re healthy anyway. But ethically, that’s why we have fewer cows in the winter and are making more decisions based on quality of life.” 

Like everyone else, Chaseholm has struggled with inflation. “Costs go up, for sure. Costs of shipping have gotten very high, but for the most part, we don’t have very many inputs. We’re not at the whim of the commodity markets as much as some other farms might be.” 

Though Chaseholm’s prices have increased slightly, Sarah noted that the price of local food is still near the price of food in the grocery store, specifically when it comes to produce and meat. “Our prices haven’t changed very much because they were already reflecting the true cost of doing business,” she said. 

Since the pandemic, Chaseholm has seen an uptick in locals purchasing foods directly from them with more regularity. “People are excited to be buy local food and support local business. We create a lot of food here in the Hudson Valley, and it’s cool to think about how we’re able to support our population in times of food scarcity.”

CSA Program

Community Supported Agriculture is a type of direct marketing that provides a way for people to buy local food directly from farms. Individuals can purchase a “share” of the farm and become a “member,” and the farm will then deliver a box of seasonal goods. 

“Some people want our products and love Chaseholm, but can’t come to the farm every week. We wanted to bring the farm store to other people,” Sarah said. 

Thus, Chaseholm’s CSA program, HolmGoods, was born. 

Currently, Chaseholm serves delivery locations in Pine Plains, Red Hook, Kingston, Lamontville, Poughkeepsie, Gardiner, and Yorktown Heights in New York, and Sharon in Connecticut. Chaseholm is looking to expand its delivery locations in the upcoming season. 

If you’re interested in signing up for HolmGoods, you can fill out the form on Chaseholm’s website. It also allows you to share your preferences so that it can customize each delivery to encompass the products that you want the most. Don’t want beef? No problem – that just means you’ll get more pork in your order. No cheese? No biggie, you’ll still get yogurt. 

Chaseholm also partners with Rocksteady Farm in Millerton to offer a dairy and beef add-on share to its vegetable and flower CSA. 

Prepping for the upcoming season

“February came, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s almost time. What am I doing?’” Sarah laughed. 

The first steps to prepare for the summer season include pasture planning, ordering seeds, and determining what changes need to be made for the CSA program and the marketing schedules. “We make a lot of deeper business decisions now and try to set ourselves up for growth and success because once the full-on farming is happening every day, it’s a lot harder to do the planning.” 

Arguably the most fun part to plan is the events that Chaseholm hosts during the summer. “Before I was farming, I worked in bars and booking music shows. It was just what I liked to do, so when I came back home and started working here, I figured why can’t I do the same thing here?”

Chaseholm hosts a variety of events, including Burger Nights, Dairy Drag, and live music. Sarah also ensures that the animals are included, often having them graze in pastures near to where the event is happening so that the folks in attendance can see them. 

“It’s been a great way for us to showcase how we farm without talking about it or trying to get people’s attention,” she said. “It’s also a way for us to have fun.” 

Always available

If there’s one thing that Sarah wants the community to know, it’s that Chaseholm is always available to help. 

“If you need milk on a Sunday afternoon and you don’t feel like driving to the grocery store, we’re here and we’re open,” she said. “I hear people all the time say, ‘I ran out of this!’ We have all sorts of local stuff, not just our own products. We’re a real resource in that way. Come down and visit us!” •

To learn more about Chaseholm Farm, visit Better yet, stop by in person at 115 Chase Road in Pine Plains, NY. To follow them on Instagram, visit @chaseholmfarm.