For Murcrest Farms, next generation never pressured to take reins
By Norah Machia
When their four children were younger, Lynn A. and Peggy L. Murray, owners of Murcrest Farms in Copenhagen, decided they would not pressure any of them to take over the dairy farm that had been in the family for generations.
Instead, they offered their children the option of earning money by working on the farm when they were in high school, and if one of the kids wanted to work at McDonald’s instead, well, that was OK, too.
The Murrays knew that in order for the family business to be successfully passed down to the next generation, they would need to have at least one of their children develop a real passion for dairy farming, and not feel forced into taking over the operation.
They also knew they would have to expand their farming business so it would be successful enough to support multiple generations.
The Murray family managed to define their goals through a mission statement: “At Murcrest Farms we strive to be environmentally responsible and efficiently produce a quality product while growing our business with a strong financial position to maintain a suitable living for our valued employees and family members.”
The Route 12 farm was purchased in 1951 by Mr. Murray’s grandparents, who had been farming in St. Lawrence County but were looking for better land to grow their crops. Mr. Murray’s father, Douglas L. Murray, was 23 at the time and helping his parents with the farm operation.
When the Murcrest farm was established, the Murray family owned 40 cows. That number was increased to 60 cows within the first year of operation.
Eventually Mr. Murray, who was one of three boys born to Douglas and Helen Murray, joined his father in the farm operation. More land was acquired, more buildings went up, and the number of cows increased to 350 head. When Mr. Murray’s son, Mark, was ready to join the family business in 2006, the number of cows reached approximately 700.
Mark graduated from Cornell University, Ithaca, in 2006. It was the same college that Mr. Murray graduated from in 1978 and his father graduated from in 1949.
Although Mark said he was “probably 90 percent sure” he would return to Murcrest Farms when he started college, it was the growth of the family’s dairy farm into a viable business operation that drew him back home to stay after graduating with a degree in animal science.
“When I was growing up, we were all given the option to work on the farm, but nobody was forced to,” he said. “If we decided to work on the farm, we were treated like any other employee.”
It was the exposure that he got while working on the family’s farm, combined with his education at Cornell University that made Mark realize his heart was in farming.
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