2012 Sweyolakan Farm


Just two years ago the Baker family of Sweyolakan Farms in the Town of Ithaca hosted Tompkins County Farm City Day. This is not the first time the event has been hosted more than once by the same farm, but in the past there has been nearly ten years between visits. Why the rapid return? Because Jamie and Jenny Baker's youngest daughter, Hannah, was just crowned the 2012 Tompkins County Dairy Princess, and they want to celebrate by once again inviting the public to visit their dairy farm!

This delightful family-oriented event will occur on Saturday, August 18th, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 380 Bostwick Road in Ithaca. Spending the day on a dairy farm is an unusual experience for most folks, as there are no dairy farms in the area that regularly host guests. This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn about the many facets of dairying, including care and feeding of livestock at different life stages, barns and other farm structures designed for specific farm needs, land management and crop production, and the types of equipment needed all around the farm.

Jamie Baker, a nutrition consultant for many dairy farms in addition to managing his own farm, once told me the first question he asks a dairy farmer having trouble is, "What's the most important thing on your farm?". If the answer isn't "The cows.", he knows where to start. Farm City Day visitors will see how the Baker family's operation is based on what they think is best for their cows. For one thing, Baker's operate a "closed herd", which means they don't buy-in any calves or cows; all their cows are born on the farm. This helps maintain herd health by preventing the introduction of illness or disease and has allowed them to grow slowly, thereby avoiding debt. Growing the herd slowly also provided the time needed to construct new buildings, acquire additional water resources, and develop a larger land base to support herd growth.

Visitors from 2010 will be surprised by the new machine and hay storage facility on the farm, as well as the expanded bunk silo. The Bakers have also introduced a new method of calf care. Traditionally, young stock (calves) are housed in individual "hutches" with separate, attached pens. This is a proven method of preventing the exchange of illness and disease between calves, which are, essentially babies - even though they seem pretty big to us. A new approach is to place calves together in a communal area, where they can have free-choice or on-demand feeding, rather than the twice-a-day feeding associated with individual hutches. The Bakers are finding that by keeping the calves together with on-going access to food, the calves eat 7-8 times per day - less at each feeding, but more overall. As a result, they grow at their own rate, which is faster on average. The Bakers report the calves remain healthy and they benefit from the interaction.

Farm City Day will offer in-depth information on many of Sweyolakan Farm's practices, often from the farm's consultants and agencies and businesses they work with. You'll also be able to meet three generations of the Baker family, all of whom are involved with the farm in some way. Plan to spend the learning about the farm: from exploring the different barns, milk house and other farm structures to taking a wagon ride through the farm fields. There's a lot to see and do, since the Bakers have a herd of just under 200 cows and work over 1000 acres.

So, why not, take a drive up Bostwick Road between Seven Mile Drive and Sheffield Road in Ithaca On Saturday, August 18th? You'll have the 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 terrific 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 June 25, 2015