WADHAMS - Another local dairy farm is finding itself in dire financial straits in the midst of some of the lowest milk prices in the past decade.
Windy Valley Farm, owned by the Evens family, has filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy after a series of events made it nearly impossible to keep up with expenses.
"I'm not at all ashamed," said farm co-owner Bill Evens. "It can easily happen to anyone."
Evens said there were many contributing factors to the decision, not the least of which was a tragic barn fire in June 2007 that killed 14 cows and displaced the rest of the herd to five other nearby farms.
The cows returned to the farm last April, but the stress from the move has caused them to produce significantly less milk, Evens said.
"The cows are down to a third the amount they were making the day before the fire," he said.
In addition, poor weather conditions in 2008 were tough on the farm's crops. The rainy summer and fall prevented the usual second cut of hay.
On top of it all, milk prices have plummeted in the past six months, falling to the lowest point in years. Since January, the price has hovered right around $12 per hundredweight for farmers in this area. That equates to a little more than $1 per gallon.
"Every farmer in this county is having trouble right now," Evens stated. "There's no way you can make a living at the [current] milk prices, because the price of milking is higher than what you get for it."
Chapter 12 bankruptcy, a type of reorganizational bankruptcy designed particularly for family farms, places a stay on collections while a plan is developed to pay debtors with monthly installments. The payments usually last for three to five years and must include all of the debtor's disposable income. If the farm is unable to square their debt in that time period, Evens said, they may end up losing it all.
"A lot of it depends on the milk prices," he added.
The farm, which has been in operation for more than 40 years, includes 170 dairy cows and roughly 600 acres of land along Angiers Hill Road between Wadhams and Whallonsburg. The area has seen a steady decline in dairy farming through the past several decades.
"When I was younger, there were farms all over this place," said Evens. "There were at least five farms you could see from here."
"I think someday, there's going to be a lot of empty land in this area," he added.