A feature from the 2020 Farm Prodcuts Guide.
Dairy farming has never been an easy way to make a living. However, for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, strong work ethic and the ability to navigate changing consumer tastes, there can be great reward.
The Gable family of Conebella Farm in Elverson, led by Don and Pam Gable, are no stranger to changes in the dairy market. That said, this 5th generation farm family has found success with their award-winning range of locally made dairy products including cheeses, yogurt, smoothies, raw milk and butter.
"The reason our farm is still here is the diversity of our business," says Don.
Nominated for the county's Farmers of the Year Award by the Chester-Delaware Farm Bureau, the Gables are not only ambassadors for the Ayrshire cows they raise, but for the county's local dairy industry as well.
"We are honored to recognize the Gables for their ability to rise above difficult market conditions and thrive as part of our county's top industry: agriculture," says Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline.
Conebella Farm's current success did not come overnight; it is the sum of the good business planning, conservation efforts and the talents of generations of Gables.
In 1938, Harold Gable brought the first Ayrshire cows to the farm. Ayrshires, a rare breed in Chester County, produce milk with a high butterfat content relative to other breeds. This special quality lends flavor and richness to the award-winning dairy products the farm has become known for.
Harold's son Charlie continued to build their Ayrshire herd and introduced innovative, environmentally friendly farming practices like terracing and waterways the family still uses today. He also preserved the farm, serving as a champion for open space preservation throughout the county.
Don and Pam, the current generation of Gables at the farm's helm, knew they also had to make changes so Conebella would remain a viable business for their sons one day. Selling value-added dairy products directly to the public would be their path forward.
The Gables' first step was selling raw milk to the public from a small store on their farm, an expansion of their milk sales to a local dairy cooperative. Energized by the response from their new customers, Don and Pam collaborated with two area cheese makers to develop a range of antibiotic-free, preservative-free, fresh and aged cheeses.
"It's important for us and for our customers that there is nothing extra in our products," says Pam.
Their cheeses have earned them a loyal foodie following and industry praise as well.
In their first-ever appearance at the PA Farm Show Cheese Competition in 2020, Conebella Farm's sharp cheddar won first prize in the Cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack category and third in Best in Show. Their cheese curds won third in the Cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack category.
Today you can purchase Conebella dairy products at their on-farm store, on their website, and at several area farmers markets, local festivals, and at over 40 retail accounts across the region.
The farm and the Gable family have continued to change and grow. Sons Josh, Tyler, Kevin, and Kevin's wife Emily all have roles to play in the success of the farm and contribute in different ways. Don's mother Josie still cares for the calves and helps with the lawn mowing.
"I think my father and grandfather would be proud to see Conebella Farm today," says Don.
Each year the Chester County Board of Commissioners and the Ag Council select a Farmer(s) of the Year. Learn more about our ag awards program and past winners.