Family dairy shows resiliency in uncertain times

Leila Naylor
Farm Service Agency, Rhode Island

Meet the multi-generational family owners of Wright’s Dairy Farm and Bakery, one of the oldest dairy operations in northern Rhode Island. They focus on cow comfort, value-added products, and accommodating the needs of their customers.

Focusing on future

On their 200 acres of land, the Wright family grow corn and hay to feed their 115 Holstein cows. Over the past three years the Wrights have worked to transition to a no-till cropping system, which helps store carbon in the soil, improves soil structure and biodiversity, and minimizes tractor time. They’ve noticed an increase in worm activity, which is a sign of healthy soil.

“It’s been a huge time saver,” said Clayton Wright. “If it weren’t for the work we’ve put in over the past years with no-till, there’s no way our corn would have grown as well as it did.”

The family harvested 13,000 tons of corn this past year, which will become silage and fed to the herd.

Beyond caring for their cows, the Wrights also take the extra steps to pasteurize and bottle their milk on farm. Since the 1950s the family has been bottling their milk and selling directly to customers.

“Most of our customers live in the area and many families have been coming for multiple generations,” said Ellen Puccetti, fourth-generation Wright family dairy farmer. “People love being able to come to the farm, see the cows being milked, and then take some of that milk home with them.”

To protect the operation from market downturns, the family participates in USDA Farm Service Agency safety net programs like the Dairy Margin Coverage Program and Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs.

With the ongoing pandemic, the dairy signed up for relief through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which provided direct relief through two waves of funding for agricultural producers facing market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19.

The creamery

Ellen’s daughter, Cathryn Kennedy, took over and grew the creamery operation beyond selling milk and ice cream exclusively through their farm store. Cathryn has worked to expand their brand through wholesale delivery. In 2019, she started “The Wright Scoop” after converting a 1966 Streamline trailer to serve their homemade ice cream to their customers. Both ventures helped diversify the business during the pandemic.

When grocery stores had issues keeping shelves stocked, the dairy continued to provide fresh milk, ice cream, bread and other pastries from their trailer.

“We felt a responsibility to show up and be there for our community,” said Cathryn. “The cows have to get milked and people still need to eat.”

The family emphasizes authentic customer service and strengthened many business relationships by being able to pivot quickly to meet market needs.

“I had wholesale customers calling and texting me every day,” said Cathryn. “Restaurants and schools were cancelling their orders and the small grocery stores and farm stands were asking for extra deliveries to keep up. We were able to accommodate almost every customer request and I’m proud of that.”

More information

Visit local farms, ranches, forests, and resource areas through our #FridaysOnTheFarm stories. Meet farmers, producers, and landowners who are working to improve their operations with USDA programs.

USDA offers a variety of risk management, disaster assistance, loan, and conservation programs to help agricultural producers in the U.S. weather ups and downs in the market and recover from natural disasters as well as invest in improvements to their operations. Learn about additional programs at https://www.farmers.gov/.

For more information about USDA programs and services, contact your local USDA service center at https://bit.ly/3nIiN1E.

Clayton is a fourth-generation dairy farmer.
Since the 1950s the family has been bottling their milk under their own name and selling it directly to customers.
Cathryn Kennedy is a fifth-generation dairy farmer and worked to expand their brand.
(top) Cathryn Kennedy is a fifth-generation dairy farmer and worked to expand their brand. (below) The dairy has continued to provide fresh dairy products to the community throughout the pandemic.