Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 21

BARBER
BROS. DAIRY
by Kathryn Guare

photography by Christian Clark

C

onventional corporations measure time in conventionally corporate
ways, aided by glossy annual reports and five-year strategic plans.
The CEOs who lead them mark their achievements with incremental
goals and targets achieved.
For the family-owned business-and especially for the family-owned
farm-time is measured in generations. The goals are lifelong, and the
ultimate achievement of leadership is to pass the legacy forward.
Chad Barber is keenly aware of his responsibility as the latest family
caretaker in the life cycle of Barber Bros. Dairy in Schuylerville, New
York. As co-owner and manager of the operation since his father's death
two years ago, he has an appreciation of the role he's assumed, and a
calm acceptance of the challenges he'll face in keeping it safe for his
children. Recently, he's seen a report indicating that 90% of family-owned
businesses don't make it to the fourth generation.
"Have you ever heard of that?" he asks his mother, Linda Barber.
He looks bemused, thoughtful-but not alarmed. "I guess the odds are
against me, but I'm aiming to be a ten-percenter."
Linda has not heard of this statistic, but her reaction is as understated
as her son's. After all, for over 40 years, like all farming families, she and
her husband, Clint, made their livelihood from facing and overcoming
odds.
Clint Barber took up the management of the farm in 1967 from his
father William, who began the family's business in 1939. Along with the
existing farm and acreage, Clint brought in his own property, a small farm
not far from the main site, and as he got underway, he found a willing
partner in Linda, who grew up right down the road.
"Both my parents grew up on farms, and wanted nothing to do with it,"

she says. "My father worked for the county highway department and my
mother for an insurance company, but my best friend's family had one of
the big farms here, and I was just dying to be a farmer."
She and Clint were married in 1970. Along with lending a hand with
milking and calf feeding, and managing the financial operations, Linda
worked as a teacher for several years before the birth of their daughter,
Courtney. From milking 50 cows in a conventional stanchion barn with a
pipeline, they steadily expanded, adding acreage, animals and a milking
parlor over the years. The farm now stands at over a thousand acres and
milks 700 cows three times a day with a staff of 17 full-time employees.
When her son Chad was born, he took to the lifestyle at an early age.
"I started out playing in a six-by-six sandbox behind the milking parlor
while Dad milked. Now my sandbox is a little bigger," he laughs.
What started as play turned to real chores soon enough, and by the
time he was thirteen, the work was steady throughout the year. "I'd come
home from school and help finish the field work, and every summer I'd
bale and stack hay. Once or twice a year when a big push was on, Dad
would say 'you're not going to school today-I need you on the tractor.'"
After finishing school Chad took on the full-time job he'd been
preparing for since those early days in the sandbox, and with more time to
focus on the work, he began thinking about improvements.
"It was tough," he says. "Back then, it was 180 milk cows, milking 12
hours apart, and a good day was 14 hours. I wanted to change it. Make it
more efficient."
As he assumed greater responsibility, he was lucky enough to have a
father who knew a successful transition from one generation to the next
depended on adapting both to change and evolving styles of leadership.
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Perspectives - Winter 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Perspectives - Winter 2016

Contents
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Cover1
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Cover2
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Contents
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 4
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