Climate change threatens Daisey Hill Farm’s future

Jessica Cookingham and her husband, James, have been farming at Daisey Hill since they were teenagers. They raised their daughter Hailey Cookingham on the farm as well.

Photo courtesy Daisey Hill Farm

Climate change threatens Daisey Hill Farm’s future

After a series of floods and droughts, the Cookingham family turned to the community for help.

MILLERTON — Daisey Hill Farm, a small independently owned farm steeped in the principles of hard work and a deep connection to the land, is facing unprecedented challenges.

Recently, the farm launched a GoFundMe campaign which is not only a cry for help but a stark wake-up call to the ways in which climate change is affecting the rural landscape and reshaping our lives.

Unpredictable weather patterns, extreme weather events, and shifting seasonal cycles have made traditional farming methods increasingly untenable. Daisey Hill Farm, like many others, has experienced firsthand the devastating impact of these changes.

Hailey Cookingham’s mother and father run Daisey Hill Farm, where she grew up. She is spearheading the GoFundMe and paints a vivid picture of a family dedicated to their land and community. Her parents have both been working on the farm since they were teenagers and only recently bought the business in 2018.

They do not own the land it’s situated on, which leads to challenges in securing various types of insurance.

Cookingham said: “We’ve seen our fields flooded, droughts lasting longer than ever before, and crops failing where they once thrived. It’s a struggle not just for us but for the entire community reliant on agriculture. This GoFundMe is our beacon of hope.”

The Cookinghams have felt the harsh reality of climate change. Inconsistent rainfall patterns and unpredictable weather have wreaked havoc on their crops. One year, drought forced them to irrigate from a local brook; this past year, excessive rain caused water rot in their pumpkins. These challenges illustrate the broader crisis facing farmers globally.

The Cookingham family is seeking support to keep their tradition of providing local homegrown vegetables and cherished farm experiences alive.

Cookingham’s mother, Jessica Cookingham, said: “My husband and I really love being able to provide essentials for people to grow their own food and, you know, take flowers to loved ones. And my husband, this is his passion. He loves farming, loves to do the field work.”

She reflects on a lifetime spent on the land and shared: “It’s been so awesome to see all the families, when they would bring their children in, then now their children are bringing their children. It’s kind of like a little congregation, a place that they can come and chit chat and catch up. It’s just what we do, you know? It’s what we want to do.”

The community response to the GoFundMe has been strong so far. To date, the campaign has raised over $14,000.

“Anything helps,” said Cookingham, who is a stylist at The Hair Salon in Millerton and helps out on the farm as much as she can. “We just need enough to keep going,” she remarked, gratefully acknowledging the support so far and excitedly sharing plans for a thank-you barbecue on the farm “just as soon as we can.”

Despite a myriad of challenges, the family is remaining hopeful. Of the community of other small farms nearby such as Silamar and Paley’s, Jessica shared, “We’re all kind of bound together. We look out for each other and if we don’t have something here, I send them [customers] over to Paley’s, and vice versa!”

Reflecting on her family’s struggles, Cookingham shared: “Farming is unpredictable and cruel. We’ve seen our crops fail due to weather extremes, and it’s heartbreaking. This farm isn’t just our livelihood; it’s a part of the community’s fabric. We don’t just grow crops; we create memories.”

To support the farm, go to gofund.me/3edd324c or send a check to Daisey Hill 438 Indian Lake Road, Millerton, NY 12546 or Venmo to @Hailey-Cookingham

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