You can credit a quartet of kind-hearted children for starting EMMA Acres’ award-winning dairy operation. The farm name comes from their kids’ initials.
Back in 1990, Cynthia and Scooter LaPrise bought the farm in Exeter, Rhode Island to establish a beef operation. The couple’s four children had other ideas.
“We started as a beef farm, but the kids, well, they didn’t like giving up the herd after they were raised,” recalls Scooter. By 2002, the family had decided to start dairying, the LaPrise children started showing cows at local fairs, and in 2008, the farm shipped its first load of milk.
Scooter will tell you there aren’t many dairy farms in the Ocean State these days, but EMMA Acres is a thriving operation, thanks to a lot of hard work and a family committed to their farm and their way of life. They manage a milking herd of 32 Jerseys, which produce a richer milk, higher in butter fat. It’s all a matter of mathematics and common sense, says Scooter.
“Jerseys eat less, they take up less space, and their milk is more profitable.” Why? Holsteins may produce more milk, he explains, but that milk is 3.4% butter fat, with less protein than Jerseys’ milk with 4.9% butter fat. More butter fat means a better milk price for farmers.
Farm management is certainly a family affair. Cynthia grew up at Bailey Farm in East Greenwich and was involved in 4-H. Scooter was a member and former state president of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) Association. The LaPrise children are also active in the farming community: Elizabeth, is a former FFA state president, but works as a nurse at a local hospital. Matthew, works in the wood and logging industry and helps manage Scooter’s log trucking company (which he says helps make ends meet) while Alexandra, works for the Rhody Fresh Dairy Farms Cooperative and coaches the state’s 4-H dairy judging team. Maggie heads up evening chores and attends the University of Rhode Island, where she majors in animal sciences with a minor in business.
As for Cynthia and Scooter, you might find them busy off the farm as well. Cynthia works as a nurse at a local hospital, and Scooter runs Kendall Logging and Trucking, to augment income from the farm. Still, he’d rather being dairying, he says. “You could say I like cows better than people,” he says with a laugh.
In 2016, the farm was named the Rhode Island Dairy Farm of the Year and received a Green Pastures Award. This award given every year to one outstanding dairy farm in each of the New England states, with winners evaluated on production records; herd, pasture, and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying.
Winning the 2016 Green Pasture Award “is a great honor,” says Scooter. Being a small state, Rhode Island’s dairy community is small, but close-knit, he adds.
Rhode Island is one of few states where the number of dairy, crop and other farms is on the rise, now standing at more than 1,200, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Management. The state also leads the nation in the percent of its farms selling directly to the public.