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The Taylor Brothers Farm in Meriden was named the New Hampshire Dairy Farm of the Year by the New England Green Pastures Committee. (COURTESY)

Meriden farm finds winning formula

MERIDEN — The family and staff at the Taylor Brothers Farm have good reason to say, &#';Cheese!&#';

The New England Green Pastures Committee recently named the farm &#';2012 New Hampshire Dairy Farm of the Year.&#'; The farm not only raises cows for milking, it has a sugar house for maple syrup production and a creamery where premium cheeses are produced.

To earn this award, the farm was first nominated and then competed with other applicants by submitting a citation for review. Members of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension oversee the program. The Taylor Farm started in the late 1960s, when Stephen and Gretchen Taylor bought 18 acres down the street from where they lived and raised herds of sheep. Later, as the price of wool declined, sheep were replaced with cows. The farm started shipping milk commercially; by the early 1980s, the farm had

35 milking cows. The Taylor sons, Jim, Bill and Rob, took over full-time operation and herd management. Today, the Taylors operate a heard of 60 milking cows, 145 acres of land, a sugar house with a retail store and a small creamery.

Contacted at the farm Thursday, Rob Taylor said the family was delighted. The award was bestowed at an Eastern States Exposition (&#';Big E&#';) banquet that recognized outstanding farm families from each of the New England states.

&#';It's a great honor,&#'; Taylor said. &#';We're so happy to have been recognized by the Green Pastures Committee.&#';

He said the committee considers community service, conservation practices and green methods.

&#';Green practices are important. And being a good citizen in the community,&#'; he added.

Stephen Taylor, now retired as state agriculture commissioner, is active with the Yankee Farm Credit, the Cornish Fair and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forest boards. Jim Taylor serves as the State Farm Service Agency Committee and is a town cemetery trustee. Bill Taylor is the chief of the Meriden Fire Department. Rob serves as a selectman for the town of Plainfield and is a member of the Granite State Dairy Promotion Board.

In recent years, the farm has diversified. Premium cheeses and maple syrup products are sold not only from the farm's retail store, but are available online.

Having an online and social media presence has been a boost for business.

&#';That's like having another employee on staff. It's a nice feature for our operation. It's been very helpful, and its not something a lot of small farms have,&#'; Rob said.

Rob said the dairy farming industry is struggling due to increased cost of fuel and feed.

&#';As far as dairy farms go, we are losing farms left and right largely due to price increases out of our control. Diversification — that's the key,&#'; he said.