Jerry Dell Farm

Hard work and special care of their cows deliver the best milk for Vaughn and Sue Sherman of Jerry Dell Farm.

From its modest beginnings, Jerry Dell Farm has grown to become one of the largest organic dairy farms in the Northeast. The herd is mostly Holsteins, the Sherman family’s favorite breed, with 75 recently-acquired Jerseys mixed in. The farm was founded in Dryden by Vaughn’s parents, Gerald and Ardella Sherman in 1946. In fact, the name Jerry Dell comes from a combination of the founder’s first names.

“All the cows have their own personalities and they tell us what they like and don’t like,” says Vaughn. Quality is the top priority at Jerry Dell, and the Sherman’s are continuously monitoring the cow’s health and milk quality. “It’s amazing how important cow comfort is for the production of the best milk,” says Vaughn. “We give them lots of space and lots of time to roam and graze. We’re always keeping an eye on them to see if they’re stressed because stress can really reduce the quality of milk.” Sue adds, “We’ve got it down to a science.”

In the barn, each cow has their own comfortable space to lie down and take a rest. The Sherman’s line the laneways with special limestone dust that is softer on the cow’s hooves. Heat can be a big source of stress, so the Sherman’s do everything they can to keep their herd cool and shaded on hot days. Not surprisingly, flies are also a point of stress for cows, so special measures are taken to keep the flies at bay.

At the age of 23, Vaughn took over primary responsibilities for running farm operations, and at the young age of 26, he bought the farm operation from his father, Gerald. While Vaughn’s wife Sue didn’t grow up on a farm, she couldn’t imagine life without it.

Vaughn and Susan have four sons: Jeremy, Trevor, Derek, and Ryan. Ryan manages farm operations and is the third-generation of the Sherman family to farm Jerry Dell. This includes milking on three farms and growing organic crops on 2,000-plus acres. Ryan does a great job! The Jerry Dell Farm Store, formerly managed by Jeremy, had to close with his relocation to Florida, and Vaughn’s retirement due to health issues. Trevor has his own business, Ithaca Organics, and runs a 200-member CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.

The Sherman’s are up every morning before the rooster crows. Each day, the cows are milked from 3 am – 9 am, they all go out to pasture for the day, and then return at 3 pm for another milking.

For years, the Sherman family has hosted school groups for “a day on the farm” featuring hay rides, visits with baby calves, and watching the cows being milked. From elementary and nursery school kids to BOCES classes and Cornell students, the Sherman family enjoys sharing the farm life with others. “It’s a lot of work to pull everything together for the day, scheduling the day and who is going to do what to make sure they have a real experience,” says Sue. “But the hugs and thank you notes we get in the mail the next week make it all worth it.”

“We’ve really enjoyed our relationship with the Byrne family,” says Vaughn, “and we’ve been with Byrne for several years now and we haven’t looked back. They take good care of us and really care about their family farm partners. We love that they’re a local company—in fact, they’re right down the road, and they always pay us a fair price as long as we hold up our end of the bargain. The Byrne family runs a very professional outfit that is really focused on quality. So we’re very aligned on the importance of quality and we each appreciate that dedication to quality in everything we do. It’s very gratifying when you go to the plant and see all your hard work headed out the door to local communities and families. For us, the fact that they’re great people that we like has been a big bonus.”

Both Vaughn and Sue agree that life on Jerry Dell Farm is a great life and they wouldn’t trade it for anything. “It’s a good life,” says Sue, “and every day you’re close to nature. When the work is done for the day and you’re sitting outside on the farm in the evening and everything is all quiet…it all feels pretty special. We wouldn’t trade it.”