Depending on their shift, Charlie Lambert and his son might actually start a typical day on the farm around 11:30 p.m. the night before, when they begin milking three groups of cows.
They wrap up in about three hours, wash up, go home and get some sleep. Charlie’s brother Donnie arrives around 1:30 a.m. to feed the cows, while Charlie’s nephews arrive around 5 a.m. to finish feeding and scraping up.
Charlie and his son Wesley are back on the farm and working before lunch at 11 a.m. The cows need to be milked again at 11:30 a.m.
Welcome to the glamorous life of farming.
A third-generation dairy operation run by Charlie, Donnie and their families, Lambert Farms has been named the 2020 Farm Family of the Year by the Agricultural Business Council in partnership with The Great Frederick Fair and the Ag Education PR Committee.
Broadly speaking, Charlie Lambert handles the cows while Donnie handles the field work, though Charlie said that they both do it all. Overall, the Lambert family farms about 1,200 acres of land — located north of Walkersville — with crops including corn, soybeans, barley and mixed hay.
Charlie said he never considered a life other than that of a farmer.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “I enjoyed being out in the fields and being around the cows and nobody to answer to, just being your own boss.”
It’s a busy life, but one filled with family and purpose.
“My two granddaughters are here [everyday],” said Lambert. “You can’t get no better than that. Granddaughters hanging out with you all day. I work with my son every day. Sounds corny but … I’ll take it, I’ll take it.”
As for the dairy side of things, Lambert said it’s hours upon hours of hard work. Things have changed throughout the years — thanks in large part to technology — but there’s seldom, if ever, a break in the action.
Charlie Lambert is hopeful his children and grandchildren want to keep the operation alive, as long as the industry’s there to do it.
One thing Lambert said he wishes more people understood about farmers is their passion and care for animals.
“As a family farm, I take pride in the animals being healthy and producing milk and being comfortable out there,” he said. “I don’t think people realize how passionate a farmer is with what he does. It’s not just a job. It’s a life. It’s a life that I do 24/7.”
It’s a life Lambert enjoys. He likes working with the cows, being out in the field and working alongside his family, including his mother, who is 83 and still manages the financial books old-school without a computer.
The farm was also named a Dairy of Distinction this year and has been named the Cooperator of the Year for conservation work in both 2018 and 1995. Some of the conservation endeavors include underground piping to keep water from running through the barnyards and into the streams and having manure pits, the third of which is a 2.9 million gallon tank that holds liquid manure so it can’t leak into the ground.
The water that does run off goes through grassy areas, which Lambert says helps filter it. They also have cover crops, which help reduce runoff in the fields.
“We’ve done everything according to standards from the [Frederick and Catoctin Soil Conservation District],” he said. “We work with them to do all that.”
Conservation practices like these are important, Lambert said, because the family takes great pride in running a clean shop.
Lambert Farms also ships milk to Land O’Lakes, which is their co-op, and the milk goes wherever it’s needed.
Other families and people that have been singled out by the Agricultural Business Council include Kelli Wilson, Eddie Mercer Agri-Services, Inc. and Taylor and Brandon Huffman.
Wilson was named Agricultural Advocate of the Year. She’s a fourth generation farmer, according to information provided by Katie Stevens, associate director of Agriculture Business Development for the Frederick County Office of Economic Development, who grew up on Needwood Farms in Burkittsville and attended Virginia Tech as an agricultural economics major.
Among other things, Wilson works at MidAtlantic Farm Credit, is secretary for the Frederick County Farm Bureau and is a member of the Maryland Agriculture Council. She has also coached Future Farmers of America teams and been named an Honorary FFA Degree recipient, according to the write-up.
Eddie Mercer Agri-Services, Inc. was named the Frederick County Agribusiness of the Year. The full-service fertilizer, chemical, grain, seed and ice melter business is family-owned and operated.
The Young Farmer of the Year Award was given to Taylor and Brandon Huffman, who operate Winterbrook Farms, which is home to a successful agritourism business.
The two also own more than 300 acres near Thurmont that is part of the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) easement program, meaning it’s preserved in perpetuity. Additionally, Taylor Huffman is part of multiple organizations, including the Maryland Farm Bureau.
The Huffmans said, “Keep pushing forward because ultimately, we are the lucky ones doing what we love for a living.”