“I’ve never considered doing anything else,” says John Luther, as he considers his life as a dairy farmer.
Make that, ‘award-winning’ dairy farmer, since John and Robin Luther’s Parnassus Farm in Acworth has been named the 2013 New Hampshire Dairy Farm of the Year, receiving the New England Green Pastures Award.
The award is 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.
“Why farming?” John asks. “I like being self-employed, I love cows, and I love being in the fields.”
Parnassus Farm is known for its prize-winning, high quality milk, and though it’s been a working farm since the late 1940’s, the operation only recently changed from growing corn silage to utilizing intensive rotational grazing, making an effort to get cows to the field as often as possible. It’s been a challenge, and as John explains, while his farm may not be organic, it’s not strictly conventional, either. “We’ve pretty much got a foot in both,” he notes.
John’s been working the farm since he was 6. His grandparents, Earl and Katherine Luther, came to New Hampshire from Rhode Island in the early 1940’s and purchased 210 acres of land. John’s farther, Earl Jr., was the first to farm this land, buying the first cow and naming the farm Parnassus, after a mountain Utopia of Greek mythology. Over the next few years, additional cows were purchased and in 1952 Earl, Jr. built a barn to fit 28 cows.
His son John owned his first cow when he was 17 and became a full-time manager in the late 1980’s, when his father retired. Today, John and wife Robin (she’s a youth and family 4-H field specialist in the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension’s Sullivan County office) look after 65 animals (including the family’s tractor-riding Dachshund, Diamond) and 210 acres of land. An additional 160 acres are under long-term lease agreement, and accommodate a herd of 39 milking cows, Jersey and Holstein breeds.
One of those cows is named after his mother, Esther, who at 83 years old still drives the local school bus. John thinks it’s a fitting tribute to the woman who raised him, and worked the farm with his dad to ensure that their son could carry on the family tradition.