KINGLSEY, Pa. — On visits in Northern Pennsylvania recently, we caught up with Rick and Dana Empet and their oldest son Alex, busy working on their 6th generation dairy farm near Kingsley — home to 150 milk cows plus youngstock, all registered Holsteins, Guernseys and Jerseys.
We learned about the American Portraits series they were selected to participate in — representing agriculture — among the various portraits of Americana presented in documentary form earlier this year on television, in theater locally, and online.
PBS and NPR affiliate for Northeast and Central Pennsylvania, WVIA, filmed the special presentation in February, and it first aired in March through the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).
The documentary gave Dana the opportunity to talk about agriculture and dairy, the work, the history, the legacy, the values, the opportunities, the challenges — while in the background plays video of her husband Rick, sons Alex and Aiden and daughter Chelsea, as well as Dana herself, going about their daily routines on the dairy farm. In wintertime in northern Pennsylvania, no less!
Rick said he learned a lot about what goes into making a video documentary, “so many little things you wouldn’t think about,” he said, admitting he was nervous at first to open the farm to such a production, although keeping the grounds and the cattle well-kept and beautiful is obviously important to this family every day, judging by my own unexpected impromptu visit this week.
Dana said it was interesting to do hours of taping and see the pieces the editors chose to present in the final portrait.
“It was a great experience, and it was amazing how much their crew learned about farming. They came here knowing very little. They were curious and left wanting to know more, and do more,” she said, adding that new opportunities could come from this to showcase agriculture in other types of themed presentations.
The opportunity came about when a member of the community who works for WVIA suggested Empet Farm to represent the Agricultural portrait in the American Portrait series after getting to know Dana at softball games and hearing her talk about her family’s dairy farm and answer questions others have about farming. Daughter Chelsea is currently a Dairy Ambassador with the Susquehanna County Dairy Promotion program. Promoting dairy and agriculture run strong in this family.
This is a tight knit and competitive community of farms, still talking about the cattle shows and tractor pull as the local Harford Fair just wrapped up with only a few days for routines to normalize before school starts this week also.
Empet Farm was one of the many family dairies in Northeast Pennsylvania that were affected by the abrupt Christmas Eve letters announcing Wakefern Foods’ January closure of the Readington Farms milk bottling plant in New Jersey, after providing high quality milk to that fluid milk market for many years.
Today, the cows here produce a herd average around 28,000 pounds with SCC normally averaging 120 to 130,000, and the milk goes to market through the Maryland-Virginia cooperative.
Alex won the drawing from the Empire Farm Days list of producers subscribing to the Comfort Matters Enews. We delivered the gallon of blue sprayable Udder Comfort.
“This comfort matters. We start every lactation with Udder Comfort,” said Rick, noting they spray fresh udders after each milking for 5 days after calving to soften udders. “It is the best product available, and it’s part of what we do for milk quality and production. Starting every fresh cow and heifer with Udder Comfort is an important step for that next pound of milk.”