October 23, 2010
Pooledale Farm says goodbye to dairy business
TRUXTON — A mix of snow and rain fell Friday morning, obscuring the hills, as Ed and Laurie Poole watched the first of their dairy herd head down a chute to the auction tent next to Pooledale Farm’s barn.
Friends and family came up to hug them, some fighting back tears. The Pooles tried to smile.
Auctioneer Dave Rama’s voice rang out across the muddy barnyard from inside the tent as Cattle Exchange, the auction company, began to parade the 56 Holstein cows and 56 heifers and calves into a pen in front of about 100 potential buyers.
“This is bittersweet,” Laurie told person after person. “We’ll miss seeing cattle on these hills but we need to move on.”
The day was a landmark for Cortland County’s largest industry — agriculture — because of the herd size being sold off and Pooledale Farm’s history.
It had a touch of sadness, as another farmer gave up trying to make a living at farming, but also a touch of happiness as the Pooles greeted dairy colleagues from all over upstate New York.
Three generations of Pooles had worked the Cheningo Road farm since the late 1940s, when Merton Poole moved to Truxton from Lorraine in Jefferson County. He milked 18 cows by hand each day.
The Pooles became known for their skill as breeders of cows that had high production and even dispositions, along with winning awards at the Cortland County Junior Fair and other shows. Much of the current herd was descended from a prize-winning cow named Pooledale Astrojet Lorraine, whose photograph graced the auction catalog cover.
Merton’s son George Sr. took over the farm with his wife, Chris. They raised four sons and three daughters on its 185 acres, and farmed for 30 years until George died in April 2008.
Ed has been the farm’s manager for 21 years.
“It’s a good herd,” Ed Poole said before the auction, standing in the barn, where rows of cows munched on hay or lay down. “I want people to get a quality animal today.”
“Ed always loved the cattle from the time he was a little boy,” said Chris Poole. “Change is good, it’s just hard to see the old ways go.”
Ed’s brother George Jr. keeps horses at the farm and has a carriage ride business in Cooperstown. Brother Ken is co-owner of Sunset-Young Farm in East Homer.
McEvoy, himself from a Marathon dairy family, said the Pooles are known for their honesty and work in the dairy industry’s behalf.
But Ed could not make a living at milk production, with milk prices remaining low, and he had to balance the farm with his job at Cortland’s city water treatment plant. He said he would milk cows with his wife, work at the plant from 4 a.m. until noon or 1 p.m., then do chores in the afternoon.
Laurie Poole and other family members have purchased the Drive-In on Route 13 between Truxton and East Homer, formerly owned by the Stevens family and once known as McGuire’s Drive-In. Laurie has been baking and selling pies for some time as well.
The Pooles said there is much to look forward to, as the restaurant opens on Nov. 6. Chris called it exciting, “a real family operation.”
So Laurie and Ed stood under a tarpaulin where family and friends were selling hot dogs, hamburgers and baked goods, and they watched herdsmen from Cattle Exchange, a Delaware County company, coax and prod cow after cow into the tent.
One of the first cows sold for $3,700. They expected the others to sell for an average of $1,500.
Ed and Laurie said they will grow hay on the farm, and keep a couple of calves for Megan, a Homer High School senior who is the younger of their two daughters, to work with.
Charlene Ryan of Ryan’s Hope farm in Cortlandville studied the cows and examined the catalog. She said the Pooles had purchased some cows from her father in 1987 and that she planned to buy some from Ed Poole, “to keep the good bloodlines.”
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