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25 Route 10, Piermont, NH 03779
Robie Farm, Piermont, NH
For the Robies, farming is a family affair, and that’s the way they like it. Robie Farm is a small dairy farm nestled on a bank of the Connecticut River, a few miles south of Piermont, New Hampshire. The farm is owned by Lee and Betty Sue Robie, who have been working the farm since 1987. Lee and his four sons are the fifth and sixth generations to work on the farm.
Betty Sue and Lee met in college and were married in 1970. Lee, who received a Master’s Degree in Parks and Recreation from Springfield College, worked as the Parks Director in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, until 1982 when he and Betty Sue moved back near the family farm to raise their four sons.
“It was a family decision,” says Lee. They worked on various farms in the area “gaining their farm sense” as Betty Sue calls it, until 1987 when Lee’s parents offered to let them rebuild the barn that had burned down in 1976 and start having dairy cows on the family farm again.
The farm has been able to stay small even while other dairy farms in the area expand to stay afloat. “We created a niche for ourselves and helped to provide products that other local farmers can make too,” explains Lee. These days, Lee spends at least half of his time working with other farmers and restaurants in the area. In 2014, Mark, the Robie’s youngest son, took over as manager of the farm, which has allowed Lee to help promote local farms and products to restaurants and other retailers. While Lee, Mark, and the other three Robie boys, Freeman, Tim, and Neil, work with the cows or help with other farm chores, Betty Sue’s number one job is taking care of her four grandchildren. She says “there is no greater job on the farm.” She also gardens and takes care of the free-range chickens who provide the Robies with eggs.
One of the staples at Robie Farm is their raw milk. This milk has three very important purposes. It is used for their cheeses, which are made on site, and it is also sold and used to feed calves. As of 2016, they have about 20 dairy cows that are milked daily. Lee milks the cows two days a week, while Mark milks them the rest of the week. Each of their cows has a name, and they keep track of lineage by naming each calf using the first letter of the mother’s name. The farm is in the process of transitioning to feeding their cows only grass. Mark explains that “on the high end a dairy cow can eat 30 pounds of grain a day. Right now, we are down to about three pounds.” The rest of the dairy cows’ summer diet comes from grazing on plots that Mark changes daily using movable, temporary fencing. The cows get a new acre to graze every day, and by the time they have gone through all the available acres of grass, they start the process over again. They also have humanely raised veal calves, free-range chickens, and pigs that they feed whey, a byproduct of cheese production.
One of the Robies’ most well-known items is their cheese. They have been making cheese since 2006 when, Lee says, “Two of my sons talked me into trying something different.” Mark was the cheese maker up until 2014 when he passed on his knowledge to his apprentice, Davey, who has been making it ever since.
You can find their raw milk, handmade cheeses, and other specialty meats at the Co-op Food Stores in Lebanon and Hanover, New Hampshire; their cheeses and meats are sold wholesale to roughly 50 local restaurants. They also have a farm store where they sell their raw milk, cheese, veal, and sausage along with other locally made products. The farm store is open seven days a week and runs on an honor system, where patrons pay for their purchases by leaving money in an antique cash register.
As for the future, the Robies plan on keeping it small and keeping it in the family. Betty Sue explains it best when she says, “We are just normal people, in a normal big house, who love their family and want to preserve the farm for future generations so they can love this place, too.”
Lee and Betty Sue Robie
25 Route 10
Piermont, NH 03779
Dairy: Raw Milk, Cheeses
Meats: Veal, Pork
Retail: (direct-to-customer sales)
Farm store at the farm, year-round
Raw milk, cheeses, and specialty meats available at the Lebanon and Hanover Co-ops
Their specialty meats and cheeses are also sold in around 50 other retail and restaurant locations. To find a full list you can check out their website: http://www.robiefarmnh.com/
Samantha White is the creator and author of livingwastefree.com. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and her passions are writing, photography, and sustainability. Being able to write, while supporting local famers is a dream come true. Samantha is from a small town in South Dakota, but currently lives in Lebanon, NH.
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