Cliff Hawbaker (Hamilton Heights Dairy) – Interview

When Cliff Hawbaker approached us with the information that he was certifying his farm, we knew we wanted his milk and we were able to start buying his milk in 2011! Cliff is another one of those great farmers that we purchase our milk from that was doing the right thing long before it was the “right thing”. He wanted to understand what it took to make great milk, even though his milk was going into a tank with hundreds of other farmers’ milk who were operating their farm in the easiest, most efficient way possible. Cliff took the time to improve his herd and feeding procedures in ways that would be the best for the cow and land, in return he has very unique milk that we can highlight in our small creamery.
COMING SOON!! Would you like to try a product made specifically with Hamilton Heights’ milk? Watch for our new lineup of cheeses that will use milk from specific farms identified on the packaging!

TSC: Hi Clifford, Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions that we know our customer would like to know about your farm. “Hamilton Heights” is the name of your farm, where does that name come from?
Hamilton: When I joined my father, Levi, upon graduation, we started a partnership as a way for me to enter into the family business and because we live in the community of Hamilton Heights, we chose to give it that name.
TSC: This is a multi-generational farm. How many years has your family farmed this land and which generation are you?
Hamilton: This farm has been in the family for over 180 years and I’m the 6th generation operating this dairy farm.
TSC: Tell us about your family.
Hamilton: Maggie and I have been married for almost 36 years (July 26).

We have 4 children Daryl, Juanita, Emily and Dawn.

Daryl, our firstborn and only son passed away in 1983 due to a tragic tractor accident. He was 6 years old. We miss him but know we will see him again someday soon.

Juanita married dairy farmer Zane Garber in 1998 and have their own farm. They have four kids named Micah, Nathan, Jennifer, James.

Emily married Andy Helman in 2004 and they also have four kids named Levi, Gideon, Ezra and Boaz. They live on their own farm in Chambersburg, PA.

Dawn lives at home after graduating from Messiah College in 2010. Currently she is employed by Red Lobster Restaurant in Chambersburg.

TSC: When did you start farming on this land?
Hamilton: I’ve been part of the farm all of my life and in 1970 I joined my father in a partnership.
TSC: So you’ve been milking cows here for 41 years. When did you switch to grass based dairying and why?
Hamilton: We switched to a grass based dairy in 1998 as a means to give the dairy cow more access to the grasses for herd health and to balance the soils, crops and waste management.
TSC: Do you feed your cows any grain?
Hamilton: We presently do not feed grain to the cows. This was a decision following a trip to Switzerland. I visited with a dairyman there and he told me how they produce great tasting milk by not feeding grain and fermented forages.
TSC: We know that in our area of the country during the winter the grass stops growing, so how do you feed your cows through the winter?
Hamilton: To feed cows in the winter, we let some of our pastures grow for stock piling for pastures in the winter, so our cows stay on pasture for much of the winter as well if the weather is good. In addition we feed baled hay from the excess growth in the spring, but no grain.
TSC: I know, of course, a bit about your farm here and you have been farming “organically” for years, what was your biggest challenge when you started farming organically?
Hamilton: There really wasn’t a challenge to farming organically because it has been a part of my management and thought process for many years.
TSC: You are in transition to become certified organic, when will you be 100% certified?
Hamilton: We should be certified organic by April 30, 2012.
TSC: Being on the farm so long, I’m sure you have a lot of stories to tell about animals and working with them. What is one memory that stands out from your years of farming that made you think: “Wow! I am blessed, to be able to do this!”
Hamilton: My wife, Maggie and I are always thrilled to see a newborn calf representing new life and we love watching cattle and calves grazing on our beautiful green pastures.
TSC: Can people visit your farm if they wish to?
Hamilton: We always welcome visitors to come to the farm to see how we work with the animals. Note: if you are interested in visiting the Hamilton Heights farm please send an email to us at
TSC: Thank you very much for your time and for the great milk you supply us with so that we can send it to consumers from New Jersey to Virginia and points in between! Consumers really want to know where their food is coming from and we love to be able to offer them insights behind the scenes to the real producers of their food!