Melissa Greenbacker can’t take a day off because of arctic-like temperatures. She has 20 calves to take care of at Greenbacker Farm in Durham. At 7:00 a.m., as the sun is just peeking over the horizon, Greenbacker dresses in layers and heads out into frigid 5-degree weather to care for her young charges who live in hutches next to the farm’s dairy barn. After giving them water, milk and grain, she cleans their hutches. To help keep them warm, she dresses them in jackets during the coldest months and gives them a double layer of hay. “I take better care of the calves than I do myself!” she said. “You can’t do anything about the weather, so I just keep thinking about the warmer months to come.” As for the cows, they prefer colder weather. “Over 70 degrees, they start to feel heat stress,” she said.
Greenbacker is a 12th generation farmer at the dairy farm that dates back to the 1720s. Originally located in Meriden and Wallingford, the Greenbackers moved to Durham in the 1980s to a 410-acre spread that straddles Rt. 68. A Cornell graduate with a degree in animal science, she opted to return to the farm after graduation rather than becoming a veterinarian because she loves working on the farm even though the work is hard and unending. But the weather? “It’s part of farming,” she said.