The History of Meridale Farms
The story begins back in 1799 when Samuel Law, George Clymer and Samuel Meredith (who later founded the Town of Meredith) purchased a portion of the land around Meredith Square that later became Meridale Farms. Together they developed a model farm “for the express purpose of giving Note to the Settlement, inviting in Settlers and raising the price of the lands.”
In 1888, advertising tycoon, F.W. Ayer, purchased the farm and began transforming it into the dairy industry’s standard of excellence in selective breeding and butter production. Ayer developed an award-winning cattle heritage worthy of wintering Catskills conditions—robust, sturdy and productive. Seeing that the future of America resided in the most efficient production at the lowest cost, Ayer knew the key to milk and butter product success was not in the size of the herd but in its total output. “The dairy question of the day,” he said in 1890, “is how to secure the most butter at the least cost. Our experience proves to us that the Jersey cow is the answer to the problem”. Ayer bought his first Jerseys in December of 1888 and developed a strain of cows that were bred for large size, vigorous constitution, perfection of form, richness of quality, large milk production and above all, good butter and plenty of it.
Over the next 15 years, Ayer transitioned his herd of primarily St. Lambert’s cattle breed—the most prevalent dairy producers at the time—into a cross-bred, four-legged dairy machine that pumped out milk and butter with a vengeance. The quality of the dairy products, specifically the butter, produced at Meridale Farms by Mr. Ayer’s Jerseys, became so well known, demand from large cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Atlantic City allowed the dairy to thrive for decades. Capitalizing on Ayer’s advertising genius; the Meridale Butter brand survived many years even after the farm was long out of the butter business.
Meridale Farms served its community, consumers and worldwide patrons with quality milk products and the finest Jersey cows for nearly 100 years. Mr. Ayer’s farm survived the Great Depression and two World Wars. At one time, Meridale Farms spanned over 2,500 acres, employed sixty men and housed 700 head of cattle. Unfortunately, much of Meridale Farms history has been lost to fires and the effects of time.
While the farm is not currently being used for dairy production, neighboring farms still maintain the fields so the property looks much the same today as it did when Mr. Ayer’s Jerseys roamed the fields. Old stonewalls from bygone era make up many of the farms boundaries and vast forests teem with whitetail deer, wild turkey and small game. Meridale Farms is situated on one of the highest points in Delaware County offering some of the most breathtaking views anywhere in the Catskills. There are several large ponds, cool clear springs and small streams throughout the property. These ponds and springs provided abundant pure water to operate the dairy throughout its existence.
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