by Katie Spring, Outreach & Content Specialist at NE-DBIC
Massachusetts may be better known for cranberries than for cows, but the state holds the record for the longest history of dairy. After all, it was the first place where cattle were introduced in New England, brought along by the Pilgrims in 1624.
Today, Massachusetts dairy farms produce 200 million pounds of milk annually. According to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), “Dairy farming maintains 113,600 acres of open space and land preservation in the state…[and] circulates approximately $45 million to local economies.”
In early July, we headed to the Pioneer Valley in Western Mass, where we visited four Massachusetts Dairy Farms who received NE-DBIC grants.
Bree-Z-Knoll Farm & Gould Maple Farm
Bree-Z-Knoll Farm in Leyden is home to the Our Family Farms coop.
Co-owner Angie Facey gave us a tour of their farm and the new processing plant for Our Family Farms Co-op. The plant was partially funded by a $1M Massachusetts Food Security Infrastructure Grant, while a brand overhaul and new website for Our Family Farms was supported by a Dairy Marketing & Branding Grant from the NE-DBIC.
While 17 dairy farms used to operate in Leyden, Bree-Z-Knoll farm is now the only operating dairy in the town. The Faceys conserved their farmland with an eye to the future, and with the opening of their new processing plant, they’re investing in a future of fresh local milk.
Gould Maple Farm in nearby Shelburne Falls is a member of Our Family Farms coop.
With roots dating back to the 1700s, the Gould family has been milking cows and tending the land for six generations.
Recipients of the Dairy Innovation & Alternative Management Grant, Larry and Karen Gould showed us their barn where they’ll install Lely Discovery robotic manure scrapers to improve barn cleanliness, positively impact animal health, and decrease fuel use and emissions. Once this project is complete, they plan to install solar panels on the barn roof to create a closed-loop energy system for the new robots.
Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley
Another farm with deep roots, Barstow’s Longview Farm has been milking cows for seven generations. Always considering the future and long-term viability, the multi-generational farm conserved their land in 2014. They consistently invest in modernization, from installing robotic milkers and milk processing lines to generating electricity with a methane digester.
Their next project, thanks in part to funding from the Dairy Innovation & Alternative Management Grant, is the installation of two Lely Vector feed robots.
These robots will provide continuous feed monitoring and delivery of fresh feed as needed, which will reduce labor, decrease carbon emissions associated with current diesel-powered feeding equipment, improve animal health, and reduce feed waste.
Along with milking 300 cows, Barstow’s Longview Farm also operates a farm store and bakery – and we highly recommend their smoothies and sandwiches!
Mapleline Farm in Hadley
Our final stop was at Mapleline Farm, a woman-owned farm run by sisters Jessica and Jen. Established in 1904, the farm began milking Jersey cows in the 1980s and has been nationally recognized for the quality of their herd. With an on-farm processing plant, they pasteurize, bottle, and ship their milk across the state.
With their Marketing & Branding grant, Mapleline worked with a contractor to build their brand, develop materials and tools for accessing new markets, place ads, and wrap delivery trucks with their newly developed decals. The effort has yielded an updated logo, new labels, and increased visibility across their distribution channels.
With the Innovation Grant funds, they’ll install three Lely Discovery 120 manure collection robots that will provide consistent, automated barn cleaning. Paired with existing rooftop solar panels, the robots will decrease fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time reduce labor costs and provide more frequent barn cleanings.
With a combination of conserving land, installing solar panels, and generating electricity with a methane digester, these Massachusetts dairy farmers are showing how a range of approaches can support farm viability alongside environmental sustainability.
If you’re in Massachusetts, pick up a bottle of fresh local milk and thank the farmers for all they do!