Women in Dairy: Abigail Copenhaver, Farmstead Nutrition, Stanley, NY

Mary Mackinson Faber is the fifth generation of her family to be involved in her family’s dairy farm in central Illinois, Mackinson Dairy Farm, which is home to a herd of Ayrshires. Mary enjoys being an “ag-vocate” and keeps a blog and facebook page dedicated to sharing the real story of dairy and agriculture. She has completed her second series of “Women in Ag” profiles, and is allowing Cowsmo to share these profiles with you!To read more about Mackinson Dairy Farm, and Mary’s story, please visit her blog page and follow her on Facebook.

November 10, 2015: Abigail Copenhaver, Farmstead Nutrition, Stanley, NY

MMF-Blog-Copenhaver-1It is my honor to introduce Abigail Copenhaver of Stanley, NY. Abigail is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Dietitian Nutritionist. Abigail and her husband have a 700-cow dairy farm in Stanley, New York.  They farm 1,000 acres of crops for their dairy cows along with two other couples. Currently, she works full-time off the farm at Child Care Council and started her own business, Farmstead Nutrition in 2014. Farmstead Nutrition focuses on agriculture and food production education.

Abigail grew up on a dairy farm that her parents still operate today and it’s very clear her passion for food and farming started at a young age.  Her mom always encouraged Abigail and her siblings to be involved in their community and 4-H.  Abigail stays involved on the farm in addition to many agricultural organizations such as local and state breed associations, Farm Bureau and 4-H. She has participated in many dietetic organizations and is currently serving on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation RD/Farmer Committee, Healthy Foods for a Healthy Planet Committee and on her local Genesee Dietetic Association’s District BOD as Public Policy Chair.

As for hobbies Abigail loves being outside and with family and is an avid runner and triathlete.  In 2014, she completed her first Ironman 70.3 and full marathon and is a proud aunt and dog-mom!  I had the opportunity to meet Abigail’s sister, Emma at the Ag Chat Conference in Nashville, proving just how small the world is!

Abigail’s Story in her own words:

What is your role in the dairy industry?

Consumer education. I’ve really created my own role in the dairy industry. I’ve always enjoyed food and farming so I was and have been determined to combine the two. I enjoy people and talking about my love for food and farming naturally I have made a place for myself in consumer education ranging from farm tours to presenting in front of hundreds of health professionals to recently starring in a Dairy Good/DMI project called Acres and Avenues. Which if anyone would like to see my episode go to Acres and Avenues and I’m episode 2.

When did you start farming?

For both my husband and myself, dairy farming has been a large part of our past, past and hopefully future. Ivy Lakes Dairy was formed in February of 2013 when my husband and two other partners entered in a joint venture with a couple looking to retire from farming.  Since then we’ve added 250 cows and built a new free-stall barn in 2014.

Also in 2014 I decided (with my husband’s entrepreneurial encouragement) to start Farmstead Nutrition and Consulting. Farmstead Nutrition mainly focuses on agriculture and food production education. Over the past year I’ve been attending mostly speaking engagements throughout the northeast in addition to working full-time.

My involvement on the farm is usually centered around helping on weekends, holidays, days off or whenever the farmer calls. My tasks range from calf chores to herd and farm projects and pitching in during harvest.

As a Dog-mom & Aunt what do you want to share with others about the dairy industry?

Every farm is different. Most questions I get from consumers is they are looking for one answer. But farming is like having/raising a family; it’s not one-size fits all. Farms have to do what’s best for them and the community they are in, which means each farm operates a little different than another.

What is your favorite dairy product?

Yogurt. As a dietitian that loves to cook, I’m always looking for recipes to modify with healthier ingredients and yogurt is really my go to. Yogurt is perfect to swap-out for any recipe calling from sour cream or mayo. My favorite creation is my Black Bean Yogurt Dip. My husband is a died-heart Penn State fan which means he needs game snacks every Saturday in the fall. Under pressure, I whipped up this recipe one day and have been tweaking it here and there.

MMF-Blog-Copenhaver-2Black Bean Yogurt Dip:
Preparation Time: 15 minutes   Cook Time: 20 minutes     Makes: ~3.5 cups
1 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1 tbsp Hot Sauce (brand and heat of your choice)
½ White Cheddar Cheese
8oz Canned Black Beans (rinsed and mashed)8 oz Salsa (of your choice)
1 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Directions:Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8×8 pan or pie dish. In a mixing bowl combine yogurt, hot sauce and white cheddar cheese. Once combined, pour into the bottom of pan.

In another bowl mix together salsa and mashed beans (you can also puree them in a blender or food processor). Once combined layer on top of yogurt mixture.

Sprinkle sharp cheddar cheese evenly on top of the salsa/bean mixture. Place pan into the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes before serving with tortilla chips or baguette slices.

Chef’s note: you can also layer as directed into a crock pot and keep on low to serve for parties.

What is the most rewarding part of production agriculture? Challenging?

I think for both it’s the risk and the unknown. I’m so proud of my husband and our two other young partners for living out their dream to farm on their own and that we can raise our families together.  Right now as a young dairy farm it is exciting to know we have a long future ahead of us and to dream of what’s next.

As you can imagine risk and unknown have its challenges. We do our best to decrease cost and be proactive with herd care and facility maintenance but milk markets and cost change constantly.

What do you envision the future of the dairy industry looking like?

MMF-Blog-Copenhaver-3More technology and more consumer education. As with any industry, selling a product the market is dictated by the consumer demands.  According to FAO our global population will be over 9 billion by 2050. In order feed these 9 billion the agricultural industry including dairy will need to continue using and develop further technology to feed 9 billion people. Technology that the dairy industry has implemented has increased our efficiency to produce milk.  This technology includes the cow’s diet, genetics, milking procedures and producing crops, equip practices, etc.

Technology can be scary to consumers, the dairy industry needs to be more proactive with consumer education.  Recently, I participated in a series called Acres and Avenues created by Dairy Good/DMI. My episode focused on how nutrition and wellness impacts my career as a farmer/Dietitian and a boxer (highlighting similarities and differences). Unfortunately farmers can’t count on consumers just knowing that milk is good for them and that it’s being produced safely. Farmers are becoming and will need to continue being active in consumer education.