Sunny cove farm Hosted our first ever CSA member gala in January. We had a full house! Attendees shared a farm to table meal of charcuterie, braised beef tips, roasted carrots, strawberry walnut goat cheese salad and an array of organic desserts prepared by SheBrews of Andover, NY. The purpose of the gala was to celebrate the overwhelming support we have received from our community. We shared our stories and had a Q&A time afterwards to engage with everyone.
Kelby and I have been overwhelmed by the massive amount of support and growth we have experienced this year as a farm. We believe this is only the beginning of a big change for our local food system. Every day we are connecting with new families. Many people find us as a means of healing with food. We have witnessed countless success stories of people healing from skin issues, autoimmune, chronic health ailments and so much more!
The following are notes from our speeches that night:
KELBY SNYDER- Faith over Fear
Good evening, I want to start by taking a moment to give you all a round of applause for being the change you want to see! Together we are actively changing, the food system and the culture for the better.
I am Kelby I am a third generation farmer here at Sunny Cove Farm. I also want to give thanks to my grandpa and father for being faithful men in keeping this farm alive. They are the reason I am a farmer today. How many of you as young adults had a dream of what you wanted to be when you grew up? I know personally as a boy I always wanted to be a farmer. I have always been a dreamer.
At the age of fifteen I wanted it so badly. I was working on our farm and a neighbors farm at the time but I wanted my own farm. I wanted it so bad that my dad was willing to start selling me calves to build a heard, and sit down with me and put it all on paper. When we put it on paper, it became evident that it was not financially possible for it to sustain as a dairy farm. Hence, my young childhood dream died before it even got started. The Fear of failure and not wanting to start something I couldn’t finish was daunting.
Some years later, I found myself working off the farm as a construction worker full time and then returning to the farm as work slowed in the winter. Working the winter on the family farm reminded me of how much I loved it and how much joy it brought me. When my employer called me that spring to tell me they had lots of work, it was then that I decided instead to be a farmer full time.
In 2008 I became a farm partner with dad. As im sure you remember the recession hit in the fall dad and I had planned to milk a couple more cows and fill the tank to make it provide for us both. Instead our plan was changed when we were told we needed to reduce milk production because the market was flooded. Again, Fear tried to come back to remind me that nobody could make it as a small farm these days.
Even though the fear has been present my whole life I have never let it rule over me. I might be afraid but I will do things afraid because I have a greater hope than the things of this world. So together my dad and I decided if life gives you lemons you make lemonade! In order to cut milk production we stopped feeding our animals grain. We also started raising our bull calves to use up more milk and turn them into beef. In the dairy industry male calves are basically disposable which is costly and wasteful. We decided to be the change.
In 09 I met Kristina as a freshmen and we were married in 2013 after she finished her bachelors! We started our first veggie csa that year trying to add some more to the farms diversity. Then in 2016 maple hill creamery came to our area looking for milk! It seemed like things were falling into place we were selling grassfed raw milk and grass fed beef sending the rest of the milk to maple hill. For the first two years shipping milk to Maple Hill Creamer things were going well until like all big dairy companies they started lowering pay prices and adding charges for picking up milk. This is the very reason we see most small dairies selling their cows and why most barns across NYS are vacant and falling down.
Remember how fear can try to steal your dreams? The enemy was trying to steer me away from my dream and the bigger plan that God has for me and my family.
In 2020 krisina and I took full management of the farm and realized things needed to change soon if the farm was going to be here for future generations. In 2022 we decided to take a leap of faith. The first step in this was prioritizing my family. Instead of milking the cows twice a day and being gone from sun up to sun down I researched and decided to go to Once a day milking. This was a newer concept at the time but the benefits are numerous including less stress on the animals, less electricity consumption and a happier wife!
When I finally made this decision I was again afraid. What if the cows got sick from the change? What if it ended up costing us even more precious dollars. We needed every cent from the milk just to keep the lights on in the barn. You see fear wants to keep you where you are, stagnant. Fear tries to keep you from your full potential, and most fears are half truths right? If there was no truth in them they would have no power over us! Perfect love casts out fear, when we focus on Christ and His calling for our lives fear can not control us.
At that time Maple Hill Creamery was continuing to cut our pay price. Other farmers began reaching out to us due to our presence on social media. We began advocating for a change. My brother John (behind the camera over there) and my dad traveled across NYS interviewing farmers. We heard the same story over and over again. The farmers couldn’t pay their bills, they didn’t know how much longer they could last and no one in the big dairy business would listen. We watched many farms go under during this time.
In October 2022 We filmed this documentary and took over an annual meeting with the executives of Maple Hill Creamery sharing the stories of so many desperate farmers. Instead of hearing our cries for a solution they said there was nothing they could do. It was then I knew again I had to be the change.
Was I afraid? Yes but with more boldness this time I sent in my termination letter to Maple Hill Creamery and decided if we were going to save the farm we were going to have to do it outside the modern system and instead connect directly with the consumers.
As I look back, God has been carrying us through the trials and directly into a position to take the next step towards His greater plan for our farm.
I share my story today to encourage you. If you are facing a giant in your life, something that feels impossible. It is ok for your first emotion to be fear but it is when we surrender our fear to the Lord and ask for his direction that the miracle begins to happen.
Hard situations help us realize its not on our strength alone that the battle is won. The more life you live, the more experience we have to see the faithfulness of our creator and its easier to keep walking one step at a time as He directs our path.
KRISTINA SNYDER- Gratitude
Thank you Jerry and Kelby for sharing your incredible journey. You are truly an inspiration to me and I’m so thankful that our worlds have become connected. If i were to title my speech today it would be just one word “gratitude”
My story is a little bit different from the guys in that I did not grow up here. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Buffalo (go bills!)
My mom is a nurse and Vice President of Ecmc, my dad is a business consultant. As a 17 year old I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school but my grandparents lived just outside of Alfred so I decided to come down here for college. All I knew is that I loved the outdoors and so purely as an act of rebellion I decided to go to Alfred State College for agriculture. Being a fashionista city girl you can imagine how shocking that was for my family. They probably thought it was just another one of my many phases. Over the next 15 years I would grow to discover that feeding people was my lifes true passion.
The first time I met Kelby I saw him from a distance crossing the road from the barn to the house after evening milking. It was that moment I knew he was the man I was going to marry. We are complete opposites at first glance but when it comes to vision, morals and interests we are almost identical. In 2013 we were married but nothing could have prepared me for what life as a farmers wife was like.
The first few years of our marriage I struggled with the endless work days and even longer to do list. I also struggled to find my place on the farm. I loved animals but I didn’t really grow up in that environment. I didn’t know how to change a cows direction, I was didn’t grow up knowing to close a gate when I went through it and I never dressed appropriately for the elements (I still don’t, I think it’s a Buffalo thing). One of the first times I went down to the barn I wore cheetah print rubber boots with a 3” rubber heel (remember those honey?)
It was those early years that I prayed and asked God to reveal to me His plan for my life. I knew I was called to farm and to preserve this old fashioned way of living but I wasn’t sure how or why. In the first few years of our marriage we had our our first two sons Kedric and Kelby Jr along with acquiring a handful of chickens, rabbits and our first livestock guardian dog. This was before YouTube had homestead tutorials so I would sketch out a design for a chicken coop and moveable tractor and Kelby talented as he was would overbuild it (to withstand a hurricane) and it would be way to heavy for us to move!
We learned alot of things the hard way but we also did them together. Actually If I could pick one super power to describe us it would be teamwork. (Whether we are failing miserably or somehow finding success we are always doing it together).
In 2021 Kelby decided it was time to build us his dream a timber frame home with his bare hands. That year he would wake up early milk the cows and then work on the house the rest of the day. In the evening I would work farm store and then milk the cows. I was also pregnant at the time with our third son river. We would wake up between 4-5am and go to bed after midnight. We thought then that it was one of the hardest times of our lives, but then it got even harder.
Kelby and I took over management of the farm Jan 1 2020. I again went to prayer for direction. How could I help the farm, how could I help my family?
I felt the nudge to begin to put structure in place and ramp up our Farm Store. Up until this time the store was only open a few hours a week. Jerry faithfully sold milk, meat and maple. Actually he had been doing so for over a decade and as I think back some of my favorite memories as a college student were sitting in the old farm store in the garage, talking about books and raw milk microbiology with farmer jerry. I may also have requented that old farm store in hopes to bump in to a certain young bearded farmer.
I wanted to rekindle the warmth that the Farm Store had for me as a student, I wanted to create a place of community and education.
I knew we needed a website so with the little graphic design knowledge I had we launched sunnycovefarm.com February 2020.
One week later the whole world started to shut down. We began to take online orders and deliver them. I started a farm box program that we still have today and we would make weekly deliveries around town, to the buffalo area and eventually we expanded to Rochester.
Everyone always asked for milk but as you know NYS law requires that raw milk be picked up at the farm and could not be delivered.
In 2022 as inflation and the cost of materials went to sky high levels Kelby did the hard math and determined that our farm would not be able to continue much longer if we stayed with the modern milk market. We were working 12+ hour days and barely getting paid enough for our milk to cover just the electric bill. At this point in time there were 2.5 families on the farm and we were doing all we could to make sure their needs were met, often going without paychecks. I have never in my life felt so desperate.
But, Kelby and I knew that this dream of providing our community access to real food was put in our hearts by God for a reason so we prayed. God continued to remind us that it was in His hands and to remain faithful.
I however began to grasp at straws, I tried everything I could think of to save the farm. I cold called over 40 restaurants hoping to line up a wholesale market for our beef. I would run all over our area putting up fliers for our farm store and I posted like a maniac all over social media.
It finally came to a point where all my ideas were exhausted and nothing had worked, I came to the end of myself and I prayed the simplest prayer “God only you can do it.” I had to surrender so that He could step in.
It was through this time in my desperation that He would continually bring this scripture to mind:
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,”
Ephesians 3:19-20 NKJV
When I was at my lowest points and I began to doubt that any of this would work, I would proclaim this verse over and over again. Reminding the universe it wasn’t me in control but God. If you are at a hard spot right now I would encourage you to write this scripture down and remind yourself that this is a promise from your creator.
It was after I fully surrendered and said let your will be done that our whole world changed….
I woke up one morning and went about my usual routine of cooking, cleaning, chicken chores, and farm store. I wasn’t expecting anything extraordinary to happen but then, a customer named Brittany Lowry walked into the farm store and said “I wish I could pickup this milk for families in my area.” This idea seemed profound, I told her I would think about it and took her number down. I consulted Jerry about the law, he called a few lawyers and other people that were wise at interpreting the law and all of them determined there was nothing illegal about it. Then my phone rang and it was Nancy Anderson from Jamestown, she was wondering the same exact thing. It was then our first traveling Raw Milk CSA was born.
November of 2022 we hit the ground running. We started with just 5 Olean csa members. (shout out) . I had to make it up as I went, creating spreadsheets, and systems to filter orders for coming and going, who was picking up on what day and so many more details. Logistically it was insane but I was just so thankful for this opportunity to reach so many! I am also so grateful for the grace that our CSA members have given us as we have figured this out. So many of you have had life changing ideas, helpful hacks and so much more.
At that time of our first CSA start up Kelby had already sent in our termination papers to maple hill creamery notifying them that our last pickup date would be 6 months from then. April 29, 2023 I will forever remember the last day the milk truck came to our farm because it was also the 12 year anniversary of mine and Kelby’s first date.
Over the course of the next few months the milk csa’s exploded. We hit 50 members, then 100, by July we were at 200 and as of today we are 10 families shy of 300 members along with a wait list! We now have CSA locations in Olean, Pittsford, Hamburg, Jamestown, North Tonawnada, Clarence, Williamsville, Pittsford 2, Farmersville, Naples, Dansville and we are adding a second Clarence location!
The first day we sold out of milk I cried. As a matter of fact I cry almost daily as I stand back in awe of what God did with a few crazy farmers who had a couple mustard seeds of faith.
This is not just a farm anymore but a hub for community. Almost every day we are gathering with 1 or 2 or 100 folks and sharing stories.
Through this journey I have been forever changed. As a newlywed farmers wife and former city girl I had no idea where I would fit in. But as our farm grew the desires of my heart began to come to fruition.
Not many people knew how out of place I would some times feel on the farm. Culturally it is different out here. I felt kindof stuck in the middle of a passion for the land, a heart for hospitality and a desire to create boldly regardless of what other people thought. Us Buffalo (and Rochester) girls are loud, excited, passionate and we have crazy style…that’s just not common place down here.
I remember when John and I started the youtube channel before anyone knew who Sunny Cove was and we were deciding what to talk about. I would often struggle with insecurity and say to John does anyone even care about this? It was then he gave me some of the best advice of my life, he said “Kristina if you continue to be who you are, authentic then eventually you will attract the customers you want. You don’t ave to be in business for everyone, you just have to be in business for your people.”
Call John a prophet because one year later my phone began to ring. And on the other line were woman just like me. I began to spend hours on the phone with Olean, Buffalo and Rochester girls who grew up on McDonalds and Applebees but were now baking sourdough bread, churning their own butter and had ditched their high heels for bare feet! I had finally started to find my people!
As each new member joined we also gained new friends. I get the privilege every morning to serve you as your farmer, to celebrate the triumph’s like Evelyn your sweet son being able to consume dairy for the first time in years, Helen when you got sick and we talked about all the healthy ways Russian culture uses food to heal or cheering you on Jaylea as you took your own leaps of faith. I have seen so many get healed from psoriasis, autoimmune and infertility in just this one year. We are also here for ] each other through the hardships, like when our newborn baby had whooping cough and so many of you reached out to support us. Some even sent gifts back in their empty milk containers (that made my day!)
I realize now that Kelby and I are not just called to Sunny Cove Farm to be farmers but there is something bigger happening here. We are building a community. Through whatever life brings we will be here to lift you up, to teach you, to laugh with you, to pray with you and to feed you!
So as I conclude it is with my whole being that I am grateful. I am so glad that you found us, that you have welcomed our farm into your life and onto your table. I feel like this is just the beginning of a new chapter for our community and for our nation. Thank you for being a part of our journey, thank you for being the solution.
We love you all so dearly.