Meet the Modern Farmers: Margot Brooks and Alex Eaton

Photograph by Ben Stechschulte

Sugar House Creamery
Upper Jay, New York

Margot Brooks may be a sixth-generation dairy farmer, but she hasn’t exactly followed in her family’s footsteps. “My parents ran a large operation with a 100-head herd,” the 32-year-old explains. “We only milk 10 cows, the number our land can handle. We’re dedicated to pasturing the animals and don’t want to manage a bunch of employees.”

Brooks and her husband, Alex Eaton, 32—“I dragged him into this,” she quips—graze their hardy Brown Swiss bovines on 50 acres in the Adirondacks, most of them purchased five years ago. “No one else wanted to buy this place,” she says. “It was overgrown, with high taxes and no water or electricity. But climb to the tops of the hills, and you feel like you’re in The Sound of Music.”

At first, Brooks worked as a waitress, while Eaton held down “a crappy retail job.” As she points out, “You can’t ease into dairy like you can with vegetables. Buy a cow, and you’ve got to plan for milk. The excavators started digging cheese caves the day we closed on the start-up loan.”

Though the two have since ditched those side gigs, their schedules remain packed. “We start milking at 6 a.m. On Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, our farm store is open. We also sell our Dutch Knuckle cheese at farmers markets twice a week,” says Brooks. “It’s relentless, and you don’t make real money, which seems silly to business-minded people. At least my folks understand.”

Meet the Modern Farmers: Margot Brooks and Alex Eaton