On March 21, Ferdia Farms located in Millen, Georgia, auctioned off their herd of 700 cows, heifers, calves, tractors and milking equipment. Owners, Colin and Niamh Matthews, devoted their lives to raising and caring for their top quality herd.
Niamh posted on Facebook at the beginning of March about their decision. She wrote, “Colin and I have come to the difficult decision to close down our dairy farm. We will hold an auction on March 21st to sell our cows in the hope that they help to build someone else's dairy dream. Through our dairy we have made the best of friends and memories and will treasure those for life. We wish our dairy family the best as they make their way through these tough economic times.”
This decision was extremely heartbreaking for the Matthews family. They came to America to follow their dream and own their own dairy farm. They worked hard for many years, grew their family and contributed to their hometown community. To process their decision, Niamh wrote a poem to share with her friends and family.
“I wrote this poem to help me process my thoughts and emotions over the past couple of months, it's not meant to be depressing, it's an insight into how I feel about this whole process. We have been blessed to be able to take the chance to chase our dreams and have no regrets because we gave it our all.” To view her poem, click here.
Niamh does more than dairy farming, she’s also a warrior for child hunger in her community. With the help of a few friends, Niamh founded Weekend Blessings, a program that sends needy children home with a backpack filled with nutritious snacks and small meals each weekend and on school breaks.
The mission of the Weekend Blessings program is to ensure that the children in Emanuel County do not have to experience the feeling of going hungry. At first Niamh’s kitchen served as Weekend Blessings’ headquarters, but eventually the organization moved to an office space donated by a local realtor.
Ferdia farms and the Matthews family will be missed by those working for Georgia’s dairy industry. There are many dairy farm families like this one that contribute so much to their communities. Each Georgia dairy farm supports local businesses, jobs and economic development. They are often overlooked and do not receive credit for their ability to efficiently feed the world while protecting the environment.
Americans have grown accustomed to cheap, convenient and high quality food. They don’t realize that day in and day out, American farmers meet strict guidelines and regulations to produce food and fiber for families around the world.
As our industry moves forward, we must work to shift thinking from price to the farmers growing it and where it is grown. Our industry must share experiences, promote, be transparent and support one another. Regardless of size, cooperative or location, all dairy farms are owned by families like the Matthews - who tried to make their dairy dream come true.