Skip to main content
Fall 2012
Print Bookmark and Share


Benefit Turns Sandal Sales into Scholarships

By Stacey Shackford

George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis
Credit: Erika Harvey, Courtesy of Edible Manhattan

George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis bought the 100-year-old Arethusa Farm in 1999 to save it from development. Since then, their herd of 80 Holstein and Jersey milking cows and 350 dairy cattle has become renowned for making high quality milk, including two top awards at the 2004 World Dairy Expo.

It was the ultimate in country couture—strappy $800 sandals on sale near a barn full of $100,000 designer cows.

Hundreds of fashionistas flocked to a farm in Litchfield, Conn., on July 28 for a chance to purchase some reduced price Manolo Blahniks, the shoes made famous by the TV show Sex and the City.

The sale also represented opportunities for Cornell University undergraduates, who will benefit from more than $120,000 of its proceeds through a scholarship fund set up by Arethusa Farm owners George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis. The two are at the farm every Thursday through Sunday, with their non-farming days spent in Manhattan running Manolo Blahnik USA as president and vice president.

There are reminders of the fashion world all over Arethusa: the resident bull is named Valentino, and a sign over the milking barn reads, “Every cow in this barn is a lady, please treat her as such.” But Malkemus and Yurgaitis are just as passionate about farming, and they are committed to grooming the next generation of America’s dairy farmers.

The Cornell connection was made a few years ago at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., where Malkemus and Yurgaitis ran into Cornell Dairy Fellows and were so impressed with the students’ training and professionalism that they decided they wanted to support the program by establishing a scholarship fund.

Dairy Fellows is an educational and exploration program for juniors and seniors that began in 1984 with 60 students. Since that time, hundreds of students have taken advantage of this partnership between dairy producers, agribusiness professionals, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to educate future dairy industry leaders.

Sharon Detzer ‘88, senior director of alumni affairs and development at CALS, said Malkemus and Yurgaitis’ philanthropic commitment to the program is inspiring.

“Their generous commitment to scholarship speaks to one of the highest priorities of the college,” Detzer said. “Scholarships help keep Cornell within reach of talented students from all backgrounds and support two of the university’s enduring principles: access and opportunity.”