Saratoga County

Today’s farming on display in Charlton at Sundae on the Farm

Eildon Tweed Farm, a registered Holstein farm that for years has been among the largest in Saratoga

David Wood never dreamed he’d own a farm that milks 1,000 cows a day.

But that’s the latest tally at Eildon Tweed Farm on Eastern Avenue, a registered Holstein farm that for years has been among the largest in Saratoga County, now producing as much as 80,000 pounds of milk — nearly 10,000 gallons — per day.

The farm will be open to the public Sunday afternoon, when it hosts this year’s Sundae on the Farm agricultural promotion.

Eildon Tweed was an 80-cow farm as recently as the 1980s, but it has grown steadily since a devastating barn fire in January 1988 forced a decision whether to go out of business or rebuild and expand to produce more milk more efficiently.

“It’s all been done in phases,” Wood said. “I just did it to stay ahead financially. I didn’t do it by choice. I never dreamed I’d milk 1,000 cows.”

Wood, 70, grew up on a central New York dairy farm, graduated from Cornell University and has lived in Charlton since the early 1960s, when he moved here as a new Cooperative Extension agent. His wife of 47 years is the former Connie Arnold, whose family has farmed the local land since 1794.

The county’s 17th annual Sundae on the Farm will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The event, expected to draw 2,500 to 3,000 people, will allow the public to see how one of the county’s biggest and most efficient farms operates: hundreds of animals whose individual milk production is tracked by computer, two dozen employees conducting an around-the-clock operation and around 2,000 acres of land in three counties either owned or rented for crops or pasture.

“It’s not your grandfather’s farm anymore,” said town Supervisor Alan Grattidge, who noted Charlton still has six working dairy farms, in addition to a number of horse farms.

Even though the number of farms here and nearly everywhere across the country has dropped in recent decades, Grattidge said in many cases the fields of former farms are being rented by large farmers like Wood.

“You’re really seeing one farm being what would have been 10 farms 25 years ago, but that’s the nature of the industry,” Grattidge said.

This year, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce has stepped forward to produce a two-minute promotional video about Sundae on the Farm featuring Wood talking about the farm and farmers’ interest in explaining their operations to the public.

The video is posted on YouTube and the chamber’s Facebook page and website, and the state’s I Love NY website links to it. The video — along with a second video about the eight Saratoga County farmers markets — was shown at a chamber breakfast Tuesday at the Charlton Tavern.

“We’ve been doing an awful lot of video marketing. We think it’s one of the coming trends,” said chamber President Todd Shimkus, who said the two videos cost the chamber about $5,000, all of it from private funds.

Despite ongoing property development across the county, Saratoga County still has about 650 farms and 75,000 acres in agricultural use.

“A lot of people don’t know it’s one of the main industries in the county and has an economic impact of about $180 million annually,” said Penny Heritage, co-chair of this year’s Sundae on the Farm.

The event is sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension, the New York Farm Bureau and other organizations that support farming.

On Sunday, Eildon Tweed will host tours and educational exhibits, there will be chef demonstrations, a farmers market and a variety of family activities. As always, there will be food, including locally sourced pie and ice cream.

In addition to the 1,000 milking cows, Eildon Tweed has about 800 young stock, some of which will be sold. There are also about 30 bull calves being raised to be sold for their genetic properties, as they are expected to sire high-production milkers.

The farm’s milk room has the ability to store 7,500 gallons at a time, but even so, the farm has to have bulk-tank pickup twice a day.

Eildon Tweed sells its milk through the Mohawk Valley Co-op, an eight-member farmers’ cooperative that sells its milk to Elmhurst Dairy in Queens. Elmhurst milk is sold in New York City as the “local” product of upstate farms.

Some farm employees are spending this week cleaning in preparation for Sunday, even as they continue to milk cows and plant corn. But Wood said he doesn’t mind opening his operation to the public. About 150 volunteers, many of them fellow farmers, help host the event.

“We’re glad to do it so non-farmers get a better understanding and so farmers can interface with the public, too. It’s a two-way street,” he said.

Herdsman Seth Wadsworth, who grew up on a 50-cow farm in western New York, said that while the hours are long, farm work is fulfilling.

“Whether you’ve moved cows or delivered calves, the level of personal satisfaction is very high,” he said.

Wood agreed. “You see personal goals accomplished on a daily basis. There’s a lot of frustration, too, but a lot of accomplishment,” he said.

When people ask, he says no part of the job is the most important. “It all has to be done well, every piece of the job,” he said.

Details on Sundae on the Farm are available at

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