Member of Distinction: Northeast Area — Morrill Farm Dairy

Written by Jason Nichols
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Dave Morrill was 1 year old when his father bought Morrill Farm Dairy in Penacook, N.H. Eighty-eight years later, Dave still lives in the same farmhouse, and now the fifth generation of Morrills is learning life on the farm.

Since 1988, Dave’s son, Rob, and Rob’s wife, Sherri, have milked a herd of 100-150 cows and raised four children — Andy, Kimberly, Kevin and Ryan — on the farm Rob’s grandfather founded in 1925.

“I think it worked well because we were here, the kids were with us and they got to really spend a lot of time with us,” Sherri says.

After they finished high school, Rob and Sherri’s children all left the family farm — at the request of their parents.

“I spent a year or two in New York after I graduated high school,” Rob says. “That was a big step. When I came back and went to work with my father in 1979, I could look at things with a different perspective.”

Rob says he wanted his kids to have the same experience, even if they wanted to return to the farm.

“You know, all of our children, we had told them right from the start that when they finished school, there would be a spot here for them to come back to work,” Sherri says. “But we wanted them to go work for somebody else.”

Andy went to work on a harvest crew before settling into the construction business. Kimberly went to college and eventually earned a Ph.D. Kevin worked on a farm in Maine. And Ryan traveled the country, fitting cattle for shows.

Andy says the experience affirmed what he had always known — he wanted to make the family farm his career.

“I enjoyed it and I liked doing that kind of work, but I was always wondering what was going on here,” he says. “You know, what kind of problem was happening or maybe what would have gotten done if I had been here. I did a few of those other (jobs) and realized that this is what I wanted to be doing.”

Rob says he has seen the benefits of his children’s experience away from the farm.

“The knowledge, the networking that they do, just the different perspective they have on things, how other people do things, I think that’s a great advantage,” he says. “Just because we’ve done it this way forever doesn’t mean there’s not other ways of doing things.”

When Andy and Kevin decided to return to the farm full time in 2012, the family faced some important decisions. The operation simply wasn’t large enough to support the family, including Ryan, who works on the farm seasonally, and Rob’s nephew, William Wareing, who grew up on the farm with his cousins and is also a full-time employee.

“Well, they realized that there wasn’t enough income coming,” Rob says. “We said that they’re the ones that have got to step up to the plate as far as an expansion goes.”

There were a lot of options on the table, from buying out their parents and taking over the operation to expanding, so that everyone could continue to work.

“I spent a lot of time thinking to myself, ‘How am I going to be able to keep doing this with what we have here?’ It wasn’t so much looking at a larger operation, but even being able to continue,” Andy says.

As the family researched options, DFA field representative Tim Riel found a lead. A dairy operation 90 minutes away in Alstead, N.H., was available for rent. Tim and Andy visited the site and, although it needed cosmetic work, were impressed with the owners of the property.