In good weather it takes 22 minutes to drive from Rock Bottom Farm in Strafford to the Vermont Law School campus. Amy Huyffer, who co-owns and operates the farm and its Strafford Organic Creamery, knows the route well. She spent her final year at VLS commuting after a whirlwind romance changed the course of her career.
As a first-year law student Huyffer aspired to be a principled small-town lawyer like Atticus Finch. Instead, her days now begin with four a.m. milking, arranging logistics for a dairy business, and caring for her children—four boys, ages six to thirteen.
The sharp turn came at South Royalton’s Crossroads Bar & Grill in November 1999. A cover band was playing when Huyffer and her moot court partner stepped out to celebrate the end of their trial. She teased her first dance partner, saying she thought she had heard that the boys from Strafford had better skills. “He said, ‘You want Earl,’ and brought him over,” Huyffer recalls. That spring, Huyffer was married to South Strafford native, Earl Ransom.
Ransom’s goal was to revive his family’s dairy farm. To do that, the couple gambled on organic certification and the ability to process and sell their own milk.
A dozen years later, Strafford Organic Creamery employs eight local people outside the family. The farm supports 60 cows that rotate through 145 acres of pasture over the course of a year, producing around 1,750 gallons of milk per week. A portion of the milk is turned into pints of premium ice cream. Recently, any extra production has gone to Vermont Farmstead Cheese in nearby Woodstock, to become a parmesan cheese that is still aging and has yet to hit the market. In such an uncertain line of work, Huyffer and Ransom, the lawyer and the farmer, continually look for efficiencies, higher margins, new markets. And they keep dancing.
Yes, the volume is small compared to most commercial herds. But their cows are content and the results are delicious. “You can’t do this on a bigger scale and have it be as good,” Huyffer says.