The 2010 Farm City Day farm hosts are the Baker family of Sweyolakan Farms, 380 Bostwick Road in Ithaca. Sweyolakan (an Indian word meaning "Whispering Pines") Farms came into being in 1958 when Daniel and Alice Baker and their son James and his wife Phyllis bought 230 acres on West Hill. James and Phyllis started out with a 10-cow herd, which increased gradually as James and Phyllis had and raised three children: James Jr. (Jamie), who now manages the dairy; Jonathan, a foreign missionary, and Louise, who recently took over the farm's payroll and bookkeeping from Phyllis.
In 1976, James became ill with what turned out to be serous allergies to many farm crops. Son Jamie, then 12, was already interested in the farm, so Phyllis, in addition to already helping out on the farm, learned how to milk cows. She helped with the milking for the next seven years, and expresses tremendous gratitude to local large animal veterinarian Ann Chaffee for helping her learn and supporting her for nearly 15 years. Of course, as Jamie got older he took responsibility in more areas.
Sweyolakan Farms takes great pride in growing the dairy over the years by raising their own cows rather than buying additional livestock. This allowed them to grow slowly, maintain herd health, and avoid debt. James and Phyllis, along with Jamie and his wife Jenny, built the herd to 100 cows. As decision-making transitioned to Jamie, it was decided to further increase the herd size, which would require new buildings, additional water, and a bigger land base. By getting these needs in place first, the farm was well-prepared to increase the herd to a present-day total of just under 200 cows.
Today, Sweyolakan farm owns 275 acres and rents close to 750 more acres in support of their operation, growing corn, hay, wheat and oats. Jamie manages the herd, and also serves as Nutrition Consultant to other farms in the area. Jenny cares for the calves and delivers a line of minerals the farm distributes. Their daughter Tori, a senior at Cornell University, has worked on the farm since she was very young and can do whatever needs doing. Hannah, who is younger, works with the calves and takes care of many more jobs as they arise. James, Sr., the patriarch of the family, is primarily the crop man and does machinery repair, getting parts, and buying the many things the farm needs. Jamie's sister Louise keeps the books.
On Saturday, August 14, take a drive up Bostwick Road between Seven Mile Drive and Sheffield Road in Ithaca for a chance to appreciate close-up a view many area residents have enjoyed for years from the other side of the valley. The Baker family, a first-rate example of the excellent stewardship farmers provide for the land and animals, invites visitors to come on out and experience the farm first-hand at this year's Farm City Day!
Last updated September 25, 2015