Litchfield, CT: Couture Cows
Amid the rolling fields of the Litchfield Hills, you’ll find the unlikely merger of dairy cows and high-end shoes. Arethusa Farm is where George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis, co-owners of Manolo Blahnik USA (of Sex and the City fame), have brought their philosophy of superior quality to the world of livestock breeding. In 1999, when the farm across the road from their home of 30 years was for sale and threatened by developers, Malkemus and Yurgaitis jumped in. Arethusa launched as a modest dairy operation, but, guided by cow-breeding guru Ernie Kueffner and farm manager Terri Packard, it has blossomed into one of the first-caliber dairy breeding farms in North America.
The farm now has 400 head–Holsteins and Jerseys–and they often rake in champion honors at dairy shows. Two of its star-status cows, Melanie and Veronica, made history by winning the top two awards at the 2004 World Dairy Expo. (Think Secretariat and the Triple Crown and you get the idea.) Sporting a bovine fashion sense, handlers paint their charges’ hooves with clear nail polish and use hairspray to tease their tails (yes, ’60s bouffant-style) before these heifers hit the “runway” at dairy shows.
Despite what some observers may assume, Arethusa Farm isn’t just some kind of investment. “To me, it begins with the love of animals and [a desire] to bring the farm back to what it was 100 years ago,” Malkemus says. “What we’ve tried to do, through the grace of God, is to support the industry and bring it back to Connecticut. Hopefully, we’ve accomplished something.”
For details on the farm’s breeding operation, dairy-expo news, and photos of its award-winning cows, go to: arethusafarm.com