The Van Amburgh Family

Featured Farm


       Dharma (as the perennially fixed set of natural laws governing causation) presents the structure of rules which if understood correctly leads to natural or skillful action (dharma) or if not understood and opposed leads to unskillful action (adharma) with unfortunate consequences. It is the persistence of the laws of nature (and the principle of causation) from day to day, from year to year and across the vastness of time that enables one to conceive dharma as eternal. Wholesome, fair-minded actions always bring forth positive future results whereas unwholesome and unjust actions lead to suffering, misery and future retribution.

       Lea by definition is a field covered with grass or herbage suitable for grazing livestock.

       What does this have to do with the featured farm?  Dharma Lea is the name given to the place where Paul and Phyllis Van Amburgh along with Grace(13), Vincent(12), Maggie(8), Oliver(6), and Ruby(5) call home. The core of this diversified Certified Organic farm in Sharon Springs, New York is its intensively managed pastures.  Their mission is to create groups of animals in a healthy pasture based ecosystem that produce food that allows for optimal human health.  So the name, I believe, was carefully chosen and is a constant reminder of the standards they must strive to meet.

            The Van Amburghs manage 500 acres (233 owned, balanced leased) for their 100% grass-fed dairy and beef operation.  Along with the 95 head of composite bred dairy cattle that includes Milking Devon genetics, there are 20 Devon beef cattle, hogs, goats, horses and a countless variety of birds as well as abundant woodland, stream, and wetland wildlife.

            Paul and Phyllis walked away from prominent successful careers and started farming and climbing a steep learning curve back in 1998.  Mentors and sources of information are Newman Turner, Jerry Brunetti, Hagedorn, Wendell Berry, Allen Savory and Gearld Fry.  “I met Gearld Fry over 10 years ago at Harrier Fields Farm,” Paul states.  “My wife and I know the truth when we hear it, and Gearld speaks the truth.”

            “Gearld has taught us so many things and with that knowledge we have developed a paternal breeding program from good maternal cows and continue to create the ideal model cow for what we do and what we need her to do.  We breed for efficiency and feed for production!!!!  We’ve come to learn that low quality hay is our most expensive feed.  A good mineral program is a must and we ALL graze too short”

         Dharma Lea’s 100% grass-fed milk is shipped Maple Hill Creamery (who has the highest milk pay price in the country) for a high-end niche market. The creamery’s 100% grass-fed yogurt can be found in many retail stores throughout the northeast, including most food Coops, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and others.  The farm’s 100% grass-fed meat is available at the farm and at Mohawk Harvest food Coop in Gloverseville, NY, and at Honest Weight Food Coop in Albany, NY.  The Van Amburghs are also re-developing the availability of pastured pork, and have a variety of vegetables, berries, and fruits, for sale in very limited quantities seasonally at the farm.    

        Dharma Lea raises registered Milk and Beef Devon, registered red Dutch Belt, and their own genetics: Ohonte™ cattle, named for an ancient Mohawk word for “grass”.  They are developing several A²/A² composite dairy bulls for sale which will be another niche market for them.  They have cows, bulls and replacement heifers available for sale in very limited numbers.  Orders for these animals may be made in advance and are recommended. The young stock is raised exclusively by their mothers, including the dairy breed heifers and bulls, and are weaned at no less than ten months. Therefore, there is a minimum one-year waiting period.  Folks - this is unheard of in the dairy industry.  Can you imagine the health, vigor and longevity of these dairy animals?    

      Paul and Phyllis manage the farm using Holistic Resource Management principles and are experiencing an explosion of health in their pastures and animals.  Their HRM plan includes the goal to be debt free in four years. They are moving towards that and find it very exciting and uplifting.  When asked what makes the farm tick, the response is “efficient cattle, good grass management and smart kids – the harder we work, the luckier we get.”

            Advice for others is: Feed your cattle, learn to make great hay and learn to manage your grass for higher energy returns to your operation.  Protein is not a problem in a grass-fed operation; energy is the thing that is lacking.

            Dharma Lea – it’s all in the name.



NOTE: Paul and Phyllis, being the first farm to ship to Maple Hill Creamery, have taken an active role in helping the creamery grow and meet the tremendous demand for their yogurt.  The Van Amburghs are now official Liaisons for Maple Hill Creamery and are actively searching for farms and farmers who are presently or eager to adapt to a 100% grass-fed, organic protocol.  They truly enjoy working with these farms; realizing they play a key role in helping this new, high quality, product get established and be available nationwide.  It is a win-win relationship for both the farmer and the creamery.  They were picking up grass-fed milk from just two farms in late 2011. “By the end of 2014” Paul says, “we will be over 40 farms strong!” 

Contact the Van Amburghs if you are interested in learning more on how to be a Maple Hill Creamery 100% grass-fed, organic milk supplier.