Farmer Friday: Gendebien Family
They say farming isn’t just a way to make a living…it’s a way to make a life. That old saying couldn’t be any truer for the Gendebien Family, owners of Twin Mill Farms in beautiful St Lawrence County, New York. The Gendebien’s connections in their community stretch deep and wide, and farming is at the heart of it all.
In 1972, after spending 6 years in South America working for the Peace Corp, Peter and Sharen Gendebien purchased the dairy farm where they raised their son, Blake. Like many farm kids, the love of farming has always stayed with him and eventually drew him back home.
After attending Penn State University and studying Agriculture, Blake took a job in Atlanta, Georgia, selling farm equipment. The opportunity to try something different was valuable and the knowledge Blake gained in his Sales and Marketing career has been an asset in the years since, but more important was that Blake met Carmen, his eventual wife.
Blake and Carmen enjoyed their time in Georgia and each held several noteworthy office positions, but when Blake’s father called to let him know the neighboring farm had been put up for sale, Blake and Carmen jumped at the opportunity to move to back to Ogdensburg, New York and raise their family.
On the Farm and in the Co-operative
Blake and Carmen have added three sons to their family, Truman, Miles and Noah. Along with the family’s golden retriever, they keep life on the farm active and entertaining. They each love to help out and represent a strong 3rd generation of Gendebien dairy farmers.
The Gendebiens care for 300 Holstein Cows and regularly win awards for their milk quality, but work around the farm is about much more than milking the cows. The best milk comes from comfortable and well-nourished cows. That means spending long hours growing quality feed and working hard to care for the herd and the land that produces their food.
Blake and Carmen are exceptionally active in the Co-operative, with Blake serving on the Board of Directors since he was elected in 2013. He also serves as an advisor to the Agri-Mark Young Co-operator program, a group he was a member of in the not-so-distant past. Blake and Carmen always make time to share their cheese, too, participating in the first-ever Cabot Farmers’ Gratitude Tour in New York City (where Carmen was raised) and opening their gates for two Cabot Open Farm Sunday events.
In the Community
In a Farmer Friday blog from last month, Dairy Farmer and former Co-operative Director Robert Foster remarked how involved dairy farmers tend to be in their communities – and the Gendebien family is no exception.
In 2009, Blake and Carmen co-founded the Jules of Life Foundation in order to provide support as an informational resource to families battling pediatric cancer in St. Lawrence County. Their effort is especially important, given the lack of local treatment options. Many families are forced travel to Vermont, Boston and New York City and benefit greatly from the organization’s knowledge and ability to point them toward necessary resources.
Blake also serves on the School Board and as a basketball coach for Lisbon Central School. Just a couple more ways the Gendebien’s make a difference in their community.
In 2011, Carmen opened a luxury spa in Canton, NY – Glow Skincare and Spa. She and Blake also recently launched a line of skincare products under the name A Wholesome Glow. These farm-to-bottle luxury bath & body skin products include local ingredients and their very own milk!
This week, we thank Blake Gendebien for taking the time to share about his family, farm and community.
What is your favorite thing about being a dairy farm family?
Carmen and I love raising our boys on the farm with space, room to play and opportunities to complete meaningful chores that help with day to day farm life. We also enjoy hosting family and friends from metropolitan areas that continue visiting the farm annually for a chance to refuel, rest and be mindful for at least a couple of days.
What is your family’s favorite meal?
Every Tuesday night we invite our entire family to come over for grilled cheeseburgers and hotdogs. The conversation and laughter are what make the food taste SO GOOD!
What is your least favorite farm chore?
As I get older, my least favorite chore is cleaning the box stalls. When my boys get a little older I will generously pass that job on to them!
What is your favorite time of year on the farm?
My favorite time of the year on the farm is the Heat of the summer. I absolutely LOVE making small square bales of hay because that means the weather is perfect and the field conditions are perfect. It is impossible to beat it. If I could vacation on an island to make small square bales, I would!
What is the next big sustainability story on your farm?
Our entire Dairy is a sustainability story. The only thing that leaves the farm is Milk!!! We reuse water, animal waste, reduce erosion, control pests carefully, and even make our own skincare products. A Wholesome Glow is our bath and body brand of all natural farm fresh products that we hope bring our farm into as many homes as possible.
What do you think is your greatest accomplishment on the farm?
Our greatest accomplishment is working hard towards growing our farm while maintaining the landscape and health of our land, our community, and our family.
What is one thing you would like people who have never experienced farm life to know?
Part of being well is knowing that your food comes from a wholesome farm. Cabot Farmers make it a top priority to care for their animals and we think about providing our customers with great products as each load of milk leaves the farm yard. We care about our neighbors!