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Producing Excellence

Rob, Bill and Jim Taylor

Meriden, NH

Taylor Brothers Farm

Products: Milk, cheese and maple syrup

Size of Operation: 120 head, 5,000 taps

In Business Since: 1970

Farm Credit Partner: Yankee Farm Credit

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1992

The word diversification in farming can bring to mind large operations bustling with hired hands and awash in the sound of heavy equipment. Not so at Taylor Brothers Farm, a small, family run dairy and maple sugar operation in New Hampshire.

The Taylors have been dairy farmers since the 1970s, running a small operation and sending their milk to the local cooperative. More recently, increasing input costs and weak prices led them to add artisan cheese to their repertoire. “If we wanted to stay in the dairy business, we needed to add value and make a better margin on our milk," says Rob Taylor who works with his two brothers, Bill and Jim.

While most of the 3,500 pounds of milk their 50 cows produce each day still goes to the cooperative, they now make one or two batches of cheese each week in four varieties: Gouda, Jack, Colby and a smoked cheese. Making each batch is a full-day process and yields 20 – 40 pounds of cheese, which is molded into one-, five- or ten-pound wheels and then hand-dipped in wax and sealed in bags. Their products have been so well-received that Rob anticipates expanding their cheese making. “We'll start by increasing the number of days we make cheese, and could go up to five batches a week," he says. To expand further, they'll get a bigger vat that can make large batches.

The cheese is sold through local retail stores, through the Taylors' online store and through their on-site retail store that's located in their sugar house, the focus of their other agricultural enterprise. Rob and his brothers started tapping maple trees while they were still in high school, beginning with just six trees. After expanding over time to 500 taps, in 1992 they leased a sugar bush, or stand of maple trees, that now involves 5,000 taps. In 2002, with financing from Yankee Farm Credit, they built a state-of-the-art sugar house that includes an evaporator, canning equipment, a commercial kitchen, storage for the drums of syrup, and the retail store. “Farm Credit is very much a comprehensive operation for us," says Rob, explaining that the association also financed the expansion of the creamery. “They obviously are well versed in ag operations, so we don't have to explain the nature of cows as both livestock and collateral, or that syrup has a short production cycle but a year-round market."

The Taylors produce 2,100 gallons of syrup during the 6 – 8 weeks production season, which varies based on weather but typically starts in February. The Taylors use sterilized stainless steel taps and a vacuum pump to pull the sap from the trees. “The pump yields more sap," Rob says. “It's also better for the tree because when we continually pull sap away from the tree, no bacteria can grow." A reverse osmosis process removes up to 75% of the water from the sap, and back at the sugar house the concentrated sap is boiled down further to its final strength – with 40 gallons of sap yielding one gallon of syrup. Some of this syrup is then processed into other products including maple sugar, maple candy and maple cream.

Their sugaring operation, though smaller in scale than their dairy, is far more profitable and they are anticipating expanding this side of their business as well. “There's always a market for maple," Rob says.

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