Sackets Harbor, New York
Farmer and entrepreneur Nancy Robbins has devoted nearly 30 years to educating the public about agriculture through an agri-tourism operation she established in 1986.
With her husband and son, Nancy is part-owner and operator of the North Harbor Dairy and Robbins Family Grain Company. Recognizing that these agricultural enterprises offer opportunities for the public to learn more about how their food is grown, she started Old McDonald's Farm to educate as well as to diversify the family’s income stream.
Old McDonald's Farm began with a few goats and a pony and has grown to include a multitude of farm animals visitors can observe and engage. The public can ride on a wagon through each of the dairy barns, including the calf, heifer and free-stall barns, and stop at the newly constructed milking parlor. Nancy personally narrates the tour with facts about the farm operation, cow comfort and other facets of the dairy industry. Hayrides, bounce-houses, miniature golf, a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, a Visitor’s Center, a Discovery Center and an onsite café round out the visitor experience.
“I was a ‘city girl’ before I married a farmer, so I have a unique perspective of how the non-farm public views agriculture,” Nancy says. “I am inspired by the smiles and awe on the children’s faces when they see a calf being born; likewise, the nodding heads of adults when they tour our dairy farm and see how well our animals are cared for.”
Nancy is passionate about making agriculture accessible for everyone. Located near a large Army base, the farm has visitors from all over the country. During the busy season, Old McDonald’s Farm hosts more than 1,000 visitors a day, and in the spring and fall, thousands of school children visit ranging from preschool age through high school. The Jefferson Community College animal management class even performs its own hands-on work at the farm two days a week.
to create an environment for the public to experience agriculture in an informative,
yet fun way. If even a few minds are changed about modern agriculture on a
daily, weekly or yearly basis, and those people accept and understand our
practices, then I will have succeeded in the informative part. On the fun part,
I want families to come out to the farm, enjoy a day in the outdoors, get up
close and personal to animals, and experience a way of life that is different
from their own,” she says.
Nancy is also committed to empowering women in agriculture. She almost exclusively employs women, many of whom are high school students involved in FFA or college students with agriculture-related majors. She formerly served on the Cornell Cooperative Extension Board of Directors and the Jefferson County Agricultural Development Board of Directors; is active in the local high school booster club; is a mentor for a local less-fortunate child; and, is a donor to the Garrett W. Loomis Firefighters Fund.
“I am encouraged by the number of youth showing interest in agricultural careers,” Nancy says. “Farmers are getting old, but with the education and the skills of our younger people today, I am positive that agriculture will remain a strong industry in this country.”
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