By Krisy Gashler
A six-generation New York family farm with deep Cornell ties celebrated 200 years of continuous operation in August.
“Every generation has gone through tough times,” said George Lamont ’57. “You just have to be willing to persevere through the bad times and keep it going.”
The original 140 acres of the Lamont Farm in Albion, N.Y., were settled in 1815 by Josias Lamont. The first major obstacle—after clearing the trees—was access to markets, which was facilitated by the opening of the Erie Canal a decade later. In the 1890s, Josias’ great-grandson George B. Lamont became the first in the family to attend Cornell, with nine others following in his footsteps. George B. Lamont’s son, Thomas E. Lamont ’27, Ph.D. ’32, researched agricultural economics at Cornell and sent some of his paycheck home to help his family through the Great Depression, before returning to the farm himself in 1938. The family later persevered through an “apple depression” in the 1980s and 1990s, when low prices drove thousands of U.S. apple growers out of business.
Roger Lamont ’64 and his brother George—Josias’ great-great-great-grandsons—retired from the farm after careers notable for their impact on the apple industry at large. George helped organize fruit growers to cooperatively store and pack their apples and created an eastern U.S. apple marketing group. The family farm has collaborated with Cornell’s apple breeders, testing potential new varieties since 1957, and in recent years, Roger helped organize New York Apple Growers, LLC, which licensed Cornell’s newest apple varieties, SnapDragon and RubyFrost. More than 100 farms paid a licensing fee to grow the varieties, and the group helps farmers create growing and marketing plans to ensure farmers can get a good return on their investment.
It’s all in keeping with the family’s penchant for innovation, which has kept Josias’ parcel productive for 200 years.
“We worked on the farm when we were young, and it gets in your blood. You’d rather do that than anything else,” Roger said. “We’ve innovated, traveled to different countries, learned new techniques, and put in modern planning systems. It’s kept our yields and our quality up, so the farm is making money every year.”