The Rural We: Allen Cockerline
Allen Cockerline has been a farmer since 1978 and owner of Whippoorwill Farm in Lakeville since 2003 (with his wife, Robin, at left). While he enjoys his time in the fields with his cows, his favorite aspect of life at Whippoorwill is getting to know all the interesting people in his community. So whether it’s over dinner, teaching children agriculture or selling eggs, Allen always enjoys meeting new friends.
We moved here from the Boston area in 1978. I managed Coolidge Farm in Falls Village until 2003. It was a 100-cow dairy farm. My wife Robin is my partner, hired man, store manager, CFO, chef and events coordinator, plus she can bale hay like nobody’s business — she’s the quintessential farmer’s wife. We raised our two sons here and have been deeply involved in the towns. We bought Whippoorwill in 2003 and now raise cattle — grass-fed Angus-Devon crosses — pigs, and chickens for both meat and eggs.
We built a small successful market at the farm for our products and 80 percent of our business comes from that. Someone comes in and wants to know how to do a brisket, and in the process of that conversation we get feedback on how they go about it. It breeds a food discussion, an ongoing dialogue of what works and what’s best. It’s as much social as it is commerce, for us. I can’t tell you how many times people who’ve come in end up becoming friends. That’s because it’s very small-scale — people aren’t waiting in a checkout line, so the transactions are more than simply buying things and going home. It’s the experience. People can see the farm, our environment and how we raise our cows.
I spend about 20 percent of my time mentoring and advising on all farm aspects with students, staff and faculty at The Hotchkiss School. We cultivate a five-acre garden that produces food for the dining hall and has yielded five tons of potatoes, five tons of winter squash and many thousands of pounds of other produce. We also raise pigs and chickens. I love working with the kids. It’s a neat little community, a world within a world.
When preparing to buy land, I looked for a farm in central New York but didn’t feel it had the social aspects of Litchfield County. I have friends from New York and Boston, even Italy and Sweden, that all seem to show up here. This area attracts a lot of interesting people and you can’t duplicate that. The richness of our social life is very, very important to us. If we’re not out at someone’s house or having someone over for dinner at least four times a week, we get bored. This is a community where farm boys can play tennis with CEOs on the weekend and it would be very hard to move away from this richness of life.
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