cows in field

Remembering Richard and Robert Arnold

Twin Oaks Dairy, Truxton, NY

Brothers Robert (Bob) and Richard (Rick) Arnold

Brothers Robert (Bob) and Richard (Rick) Arnold, 30 year partners in Twin Oaks Dairy LLC in Truxton, NY, passed away earlier this year, both after years of formidable and courageous battles with frontotemporal degeneration (FTD). Bob, 69, passed away on January 18th, and Rick, 60, on April 11, both at their homes with family nearby. They farmed in partnership with Rick’s wife, Kathie, from January, 1st, 1980 until October of 2010 when both Rick and Bob retired from the business because of their advancing FTD, and Kirk Arnold, son of Rick and Kathie, became Twin Oaks Dairy’s new partner.

Bob’s passion was working the land and milking “his girls” as he called his cows. Bob was very proud of being part of the conversion of Twin Oaks Dairy to become the first certified organic dairy farm in Cortland County, New York in 1998. Bob was a lifelong Yankees fan and proudly wore his baseball cap everywhere. He was active in his community through the years as Town Justice and served on the Truxton Cemetery Association and Truxton Grievance Board. Most recently, he served as Secretary/Treasurer for the Organic Dairy Farmer’s Cooperative.

Rick was a consummate baseball pitcher and a lifelong Yankees fan, as well as an enduring NY Giants fan. He coached his son’s summer soccer team for several years. He enjoyed playing with his kids in the evening after a long day’s work, taking hikes in the woods with his family on Sunday afternoons, and playing all kinds of sports with family and friends.

Both Rick and Bob donated gallons of blood through the years to the American Red Cross and were avid readers. Both loved to sing, following the talent of their Grandfather Arnold who had been a yodeler in his native Switzerland. The barn would often be filled with both of their voices singing along with the radio. Rick’s beautiful voice and guitar graced many a family wedding and other events. Rick wrote the lyrics and melodies to several original songs, including one for the Truxton Bicentennial, one to his wife at their wedding, and one for his daughter on her 16th birthday.

Both are survived by their wives and children: Bob’s wife, Miriam, and daughters Elizabeth and Maria, and Rick’s wife, Kathie, and children Carly and Kirk. Checks can be made out to the “Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania”. Please clearly indicate “Penn FTD Center” in the memo line and send to:

Attention: Lindsey D. Walker, Director of Development Penn Medicine, 3535 Market Street, Suite 750, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

An Interview with Rick Arnold: March 6, 2004

Following are excerpts from an interview of Rick, done on March 6, 2004 by his daughter, Carly, for her Sociology 101 class. It is interesting to read Rick’s observations on farming, the organic dairy industry, and GMOs, eleven years later, and see how prescient some were and how organic dairy farmers are still faced with some of the same issues. Unfortunately, the FTD robbed Rick of his cognition in later years to be able to know how the organic dairy industry did grow and develop over the years, much as he envisioned, and it also denied him of his long term wish to be able to farm in partnership with his son.

Why do you like farming?

Because I’ve always felt that producing food for people to consume is an honest way to make a living and consequently making a good living is even more reason to do it, which is something that I currently do. I’m also glad to be self-employed, so I don’t have to answer to someone else in the job that I do other than myself.

What are the benefits of being self-employed?

Self-employment, in as much as working at home, you get to spend much more time with your wife and kids, plus the fact my kids were homeschooled. I probably spent ten times as much time with my kids as the average guy who goes to work every day, and I’d say right there is the number one reason to be self-employed.

Going through college, what got you into farming rather than being a teacher?

What got me into farming was being raised on a farm. I was already used to the regimen, used to getting up early, loved cows, loved the outdoors, loved work with machinery--all the things I needed to like to be a farmer. The main reason some of the joy of farming disappeared was because there was such little financial gain from being a farmer, but now that we are in a position where we have a decent financial gain, that makes it even easier to be a farmer, because not only can you enjoy being outside, enjoy being closer to the earth and to your family and doing things we like to do like mechanic work, farm work, outdoor work, putting in hay, putting up baleage, things like that, but actually make a good living at the same time. It is something that can’t be beat.

Do you feel that more people would stay on farms if they could have made it?

Yes, because more people did, particularly back in the 60s and 70s, when the milk price was among the most favorable of the last century; there were many, many times as many farmers as today because they were making a living. In the late 1970s, ‘80s, and into the ‘90s, when the price of milk wasn’t good, we saw an exodus of a lot of farmers.

Being an organic farm, what do you feel about that market?

I think the organic market has led to a much better income for our farm, where at the same time feeling better about our farm because we are treating the cows better by getting them outside, with access to pasture whenever they can. It gives me some hope that one or both of my children may be part of the farm because the money is there to employ them. And the good feeling about being an organic farm is that it can be passed on to the generations, I should hope, because I believe the organic market will always be there.

I didn’t have that impression when I started, but I’ve got much more of that impression now. I thought it might be a flash in the pan, something that we’d get into for two or three years but then the bottom would go out of it, but people have really adopted the organic regimen as what they want as a consumer, and I think it is a burgeoning market that is going to continue to grow more, with all the pesticides used and all the bad things that have come out about what they can do to you.

In terms of the organic dairy industry sustainability, to what extent do you think it will grow?

The organic industry could become almost as big as it is in Europe where right now it is 10% of the milk market, where here we are lucky if it is 1% or 1 1/2% of the milk market--that is a lot of room for growth. Here, we have been organic now for over 5 years, to get to the 1%. It could be 25-30 years to ever get to the level of 10%. I’m not saying that 10% is the only level, it could go above that. There are things yet to come that I don’t know about.

How do you feel the government should partake in organic?

They should be consistent in their interpretation of the organic rule that all of us farmers have to toil under. They should make it more stringent so that inspectors inspect all the same. When 10 inspectors inspect the same farm, they would come up with the same results, and they enforce the same law, because right now I think there is a lot of diversity. Some inspectors are a lot easier than other inspectors. Some inspecting agencies are not requiring what other inspection agencies are. The government was supposed to make everybody be the same stringency/strictness across the board. That doesn’t seem to have happened. There is a lot of confusion there yet. But I think if the government gets to that point where they require everybody to enforce equally, it would be a lot leveler ship that we would be charting waters in.

Does there need to be government control of it?

I think that it will eventually come to it because the market has gotten so big. There wasn’t government control before and they saw a need that there had to be. Now that the ball is already started that way, I don’t think there is any getting away from it. I think the government is going to continue to be involved but so far, mainly just as an enforcement agent and that is, I think, about how far they need to go. Hopefully, we won’t get to a federal marketing order system for organic and all that we had for conventional.

Since you grew up in this community, and it was and is an agricultural community, and looking at the larger society, how do you feel farmers are viewed by the larger community?

I think we are well respected in the agricultural community, and I think currently gaining more respect in the non-farming community. I think farmers are looked upon as better than they might have been 20 years ago. I think it is because, especially as organic farmers go, people have a very vague and reasonable concern about where their food is coming from and that people in the know, know where their food is coming from and they want to know that it comes from a farm that does a good job. And so the farmers doing the best job are the best farmers. I think that is where the support comes from. People are willing to pay more to get better quality. And they should expect that quality.

And so they take pride in the farm that is giving them that better quality?

Yes, exactly. In other words, I think organic consumers have a very good opinion of their organic farmers.

Do you feel threatened by genetically modified crops?

Yes! Look at what Monsanto is doing to flip the legal system up on its head. By growing this GM crop and having it blow over onto somebody else’s land and then taking their crop because it [the pollen] blows over there. It can’t be allowed, it has to be adjudicated out. It is going to the Supreme Court. I guess we will see. But I think that is a concern. That is why we try to own as much land around us as we can in buffer zones to keep the GMOs out. But the wind can do funny things. We can’t control the wind.

What do you think is the future of farming? Do you think more people are going to get out of it or into it?

The net effect is there will be fewer and fewer farmers. Unfortunately, I think that is the writing on the wall. I don’t know that it always has to be that way. Maybe the bottom will fall out of it and the small farms will be able to find a niche again. I don’t see it happening anytime soon. It is not happening now. A lot of the farms going into business now do less than $10,000 a year and they are a small farm. They are like somebody who has a weekend farm who has another job—a little crop farm or a little beef farm—they like to do it; it’s not that they make all that much money off it.

Do you think most farmers have an off farm job?

Yeah, but not them per say, their wives. You bet. I think the majority of farms are that way.
I wonder if that is by choice or again for support.

Maybe the wife, by choice, does want an off farm job but it is probably not all by choice, it is often by necessity as well, to maintain the standard of living that they want to have.

Twin Oaks DairyRobertandMiriamArnold