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History Space: 100 Years of Dairy Farming in Swanton

How do you build a business that lasts 100 years? For dairy farmer Robert Manning, owner of the Manning Farm in Swanton, it’s about family support and playing an active role in the community too.

“Farmers have deep roots and are invested in the long-term vision of the town they live in,” said Robert Manning. “It means a lot to me to see 100 years of what we’ve accomplished, especially with how much it’s changed since the farm was started.”

The Manning Farm celebrated their 100-year anniversary in November of last year. The farm has been a family operation ever since it began with Robert’s grandfather, Gerald Griswold in 1917. The Manning family has always been active in their community – Robert served for more than 20 years on the town zoning and regional planning boards – and he says those connections helped people better understand farming.

“Back in the old days people were once removed from a dairy farm – now it’s three or four generations removed and they may not understand farming,” Robert said. “We work seven days a week around the clock to make food so that other people don’t have to.”

When Robert was a kid, there were 17 farms on the same road. Today, there are two, including his own.

“We had 135 acres when we started and now it’s around 1,200 between what we own and rent,” Robert said. “When you look out over the land after you’ve tended to it – it’s rewarding.”

After Robert’s grandfather died in 1966, Robert and his wife Sandy bought the original farm, which was across the road from where they are now, and in 1971 they purchased what is now the current Manning Farm. Today, three generations of family members work alongside each other to keep the farm running smoothly, and the fourth generation, Robert’s great-grandkids, provide some comic relief.

Family members work on the farm

Many Vermont dairy farms, like the Manning Farm, have expanded to allow for additional family members to work on the farm.

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