EAST GREENWICH — At 86 years young, Rodney Bailey still feels like a spring chicken, rising with the sun – along with the sound of roosters – almost every day, for a period of 12 hours, to tend to his livestock that produces an abundance of milk, along with other matters that need upkeep at Bailey Brook Farm.
Bailey, along with his son Paul, also find time to allow the community to take a gander around parts of the 225-acre farm that runs along both South County Trail and Frenchtown Road, such as on Monday when a group of children from First Baptist Church in East Greenwich saw some of the corn fields and some of the cows at work.
It’s the kind of dedication the Bailey family puts forth to both the farmland and the community at large that has earned Bailey Brook Farm a very significant recognition from the state.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, in conjunction with the Rhode Island Agricultural Council, recently announced that Bailey Brook Farm was named Outstanding Dairy Farm of the Year by the Rhode Island Green Pastures Committee for 2013.
According to a press release from RIDEM, The Rhode Island Green Pastures Committee chose Bailey Brook Farm because of its “outstanding relationship with the community, use of good management practices, and commitment to ensuring a viable agricultural industry in the West Bay.”
“The historic Bailey Brook Farm is one of Rhode Island’s finest dairy farms and we are pleased that it has been selected for this special award,” said DEM Director Janet Coit in the release. “Including the Fry Farm, the Baileys farm some of the oldest, continually-farmed parcels in Rhode Island. The success enjoyed by the Bailey family and other dairy farmers who produce local milk products is helping to protect and preserve hundreds of acres of farmland that will support continued agricultural endeavors for this and future generations to enjoy.”
“It’s pretty good,” the soft-spoken Bailey said of the honor.
Bailey stated his grandfather originally purchased the farm back in the late 19th Century and Bailey has worked on the farm his entire life – well into the age where most people would’ve settled down into retirement.
According to the DEM release, Bailey Brook Farm, since 1980, has been a member of Agri-Mark Cooperative – the regional dairy cooperative that owns the Cabot brand – which picks up their milk every day and markets it to customers in southern part of the New England region. A portion of Bailey Brook Farm’s milk is also sold locally under the Rhody Fresh brand in conjunction with seven other local farms and the farm is part of the Rhode Island Dairy Farmers Cooperative.
Today, both Bailey and his son, Paul# – who have been a working partnership since 1998 - milk 40 cows, produce hay on 30 acres, silage corn on 20 acres, and have 25 acres of pasture on their vast land.
The Bailey family, as a whole, has been active in the East Greenwich community for years. Bailey’s wife, Judy, served as a member of the East Greenwich Town Council from 1990 to 1994, with the state’s Agricultural Lands Preservation Commission for 18 years, and was a member of the R.I. State Board of Elections for 10 years.
The Bailey family is also very active with their local 4-H chapter, which introduces young people to agriculture. While growing up in the 1970s, according to the DEM release, all four of Rodney and Judy Bailey’s children were members of 4-H and, today, six of their grandchildren have been involved in 4-H since 1999, having shown their Jersey, Red, and White Holstein cows. Three granddaughters were active members of Future Farmers of America and have served as chapter and state officers.
Bailey Brook Farm is also one of just 15 dairy farms remaining in Rhode Island.
Bailey added that along with the physical challenges in keeping up with the farm on a daily basis also comes having to make ends meet, which is a tall order considering the current financial climate.
He said the biggest financial burden that hits Bailey Brook Farm is having to repair equipment and machinery that is needed to tend to the farm.
“It’s worse than what it used to be,” Bailey said. “When I first started, it wasn’t too bad; you could make a pretty good living. Now, everything is pretty. Parts (for machines) are expensive. Fuel is much more expensive than what it used to be. It’s tough.”
But nevertheless, Bailey and his son still wake up with the sun each day, working across the fields and inside the barns as much as they can to remain active.
“I don’t work as much as I used to,” Bailey said. “But I’m still out there.”
Members of the Bailey family will be alongside dairy farmers from each New England state for an awards banquet on Sept. 13 at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass.