Owned and operated by The Woodstock Foundation, Inc., a non-profit educational institution founded by Laurance and Mary Rockefeller in 1968, the Billings Farm & Museum was established in 1983 to preserve the historic Billings Farm as well as the character and heritage of rural Vermont.
Billings Farm History
Billings Farm was established in 1871 by Frederick Billings, a native Vermonter known for his work as a lawyer, railroad builder, and pioneer in scientific farm management and reforestation. Billings set out to make his 270-acre farm a model dairy operation for farmers in the region, founded on the principles of efficiency, sustainability, and responsible land use.
In 1884 Frederick Billings hired George Aitken, an innovative and successful professional farm manager to oversee his Woodstock operation. Aitken imported cows from the Isle of Jersey, hundreds of Southdown sheep, Berkshire hogs, and other livestock. By 1890, the year that Frederick Billings died, the Billings Farm had grown to nearly 1,000 acres and was widely acknowledged for the superior genetics of its premier Jersey herd as well as an extensive butter-making operation that produced 5,000 pounds of high-quality butter annually. Three years later, at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, cows from the Billings herd took top honors in the dairy division, with Lily Garfield designated “Champion Heifer of the World.”
The herd’s performance in Chicago was the victorious culmination of Billings Farm’s early years. Following George Aitken’s sudden death in 1910, the farm experienced several periods of change, including a successful commercial dairy operation beginning in the 1948. In the mid-1970s, the farm resumed breeding championship-caliber Jersey cows. A string of regional show winnings throughout the 1970s and ’80s culminated when Billings Top Rosanne won top honors in both American and Canadian competitions, designating her the finest Jersey in North America.