Every year, one farm in each of our New England states wins the prestigious Green Pastures Award. The winning dairy farms are recognized and selected for their production records; herd, pasture, and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying.
Meet the 2016 Massachusetts Dairy Farm of the Year!
Was there ever any question Steven Barstow II would end up a dairy farmer?
Located on a scenic stretch of Route 47 in Hadley, MA, Barstow’s Longview Farm has been in operation since 1806, so the odds were slim to none that Steven would be a doctor, lawyer or car mechanic. Steven has been working alongside his father, Steven Barstow, and Uncle David Barstow, who are 6th-generation dairymen, since he was a small boy. Now in his 30s, Steven II is a full partner along with his father and uncle, helping manage the farm that employs three full-time employees, a staff the Barstows say make the success of their business possible.
Barstow’s Longview Farm, wedged between the Connecticut River and Skinner State Park, has been named this year’s winner of the Green Pasture Award, and as Massachusetts’ Dairy Farm of the Year, Steven is proud the farm has been singled out for the honor. “It’s great to have some positive exposure for New England dairy farmers, and when you shine a spotlight on farms like ours, well, it benefits everyone in the dairy business.”
The farm may have a long history, but as Steven points out, it’s very modern. “Since 1806, our mission has been to look forward. We are always looking forward with sustainability and the future of our farm and the planet in mind.”
Barstow’s Longview Farm expanded in 2008 to include Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery. The store is open year-round and run by sisters Kelly and Shannon Barstow, and their cousins, sisters Denise and Claire Barstow. The dairy store has 11 employees to help make the operation run smoothly, serving breakfast and lunch daily, and selling local food products from area producers.
The dairy’s anaerobic methane digester, installed in 2013, turns cow manure and feedstock into electricity. Installed in partnership with Vanguard Renewables, the digester produces over 18,000 MWh of electrical energy, 70,000 MMBtu’s of thermal energy, and 58,000 tons of liquid fertilizer. As Steven notes: one Barstow cow produces enough electricity to power an average Massachusetts home and the digester removes the equivalent greenhouse gases of three cars per cow from the atmosphere.
Looking to the future, the family also conserved 123 acres in 2014 through the Massachusetts Agricultural Preservation Restriction program, which enables farms to sell the development rights on their land to the state. Selling the APR rights allowed the Barstows the opportunity to add the latest improvement on the farm: robotic milking. Four milking stations accommodate the 225 milking Holsteins at the farm. Since the addition of the robots, Steven reports that daily production per cow has increased from 67 to 82 pounds of milk. The reason is simple: the more you milk a cow, the more milk the cow produces, and when cows can milk themselves – they choose when and how often, thanks to stations that are ready and waiting, 24/7 – the result is more milk, says Steven. A member of the Cabot Creamery Cooperative, a 1,100-farm dairy cooperative, Barstow’s milk is picked up every other day at the farm by the Coop, and transported to their West Springfield plant.
The farm continues to evolve (a fifth milking station is in the works, and plans call for a robotic calf feeder) and as Steven explains, the improvements are designed to make Barstow’s Longview Farm more sustainable and efficient. His role as co-manager is to look ahead to the future, while safeguarding the farm’s history.
And yes, he’ll admit his life as a dairy farmer may have been preordained, pointing out with a laugh, “It is the family business, after all.”