Dairy cow at Marlindale Farm, Groton NY (2009)
Image by Sandy Repp

Dairy cow at Marlindale Farm

2009 Marlindale Farm

In 1905, John Sincerbeaux bought 64 acres of land in the Town of Groton, New Yorkand began dairy farming with eight cows. John's daughter and son-in-law, Robert Houston, joined the Sincerbeauxs in the original farm house and raised Marlin, Sr. and his brother, Robert, there: 3 generations under one roof. At that time the dairy herd grew to about sixty cows. Marlin Jr., who farms with his father, now lives in that same house with his wife, Nicole, and their three small children (Jordon, Robert and Rachel): the 5th generation to live on this farm.

The family has continued in the dairy tradition, growing over the past 105 years to a total of about 500 acres and a milking herd of 120 cows with 120 young stock. The farm was transferred from John to Robert in 1946, and between the years 1954 to 1964, additional land was purchased at several intervals and added to the original 64. Farm ownership transferred again from Robert to Marlin, Sr. in 1978, and more acreage was added in 1980, 1987 and 1988-89. Marlin, Jr. also owns an additional 20 acres that is farmed in conjunction with the operation.

Marlin, Sr. and his son, Marlin, Jr. raise their own replacement stock as well as all their forages and most of the grain requirements for the herd. They also work approximately 100 additional acres of cropland in close proximity to the farm. Some of this land has recently been reclaimed; it sat idle for many years and was nearly beyond the point of reclamation. The Houstons have 80 acres in pasture and this year are growing 170 acres of corn, 40 acres of soybeans, 20 acres of oats and the rest of the acreage is in hay.

Marlindale Farm sits at the top of the Owasco Lake Watershed and Owasco Lake is considered one of the most endangered of the Finger Lakes. Consequently, farming in an environmentally sound manner is crucial to this farm, and is something the Houston's have always tried to do. In 1997, the farm transitioned to rotationally grazing the dairy herd and have worked to progressively improve that system by dedicating additional acreage to it. This has improved herd health, cut costs for fuel and labor, and put land that was once row cropped into permanent vegetative cover, thus reducing soil erosion from those fields.

Over the years the Houstons have added structures to meet the need of the growing operation, including freestall barns to get cows out of the old stanchion style cow barn and improve cow comfort, and in 2006 they added a new milking parlor to modernize the operation. Until that time the old stanchion barn and pipeline was utilized for milking.

Marlin, Sr.'s son, Marlin, Jr., works side by side with his father and as a result of this partnership, responsibilities have gradually transferred to him. Today, Marlin, Jr. makes many of the business decisions on the farm. Another son, James, and daughter, Marlene, both also work on the farm. James has an off farm job but works on the farm when he is available. His Dad says that James does a lot of the work related to caring for the young stock. Marlene works on the farm full time and currently does most of the milking twice a day. Due to the family involvement, very little outside labor is required.

The Houstons have been Cooperators with the County Soil and Water Conservation District, participating in the NYS AEM (New York State Agricultural Environmental Management) program, and implementing many Best Management Practices projects for water quality improvement. These have included laneway improvements, fencing cattle out of critical areas, barnyard improvement projects, nutrient management planning. Manure storage facilities are utilized at both the milking herd facility and the heifer barn, allowing maximum use of manure for fertilization and reduced amounts chemical fertilizer.

The Houstons are very progressive in their planning and operation. Recently they installed a corn burning furnace in the original farm house (Marlin Jr.'s.) and are utilizing this system for heat and heating of hot water for the milking parlor. The family looks forward to explaining this system and it's role in the complex business of owning and managing a dairy farm today.

Last updated September 25, 2015