Four farms named winners of this year’s New England Green Pastures Awards will be recognized at this year’s Eastern States Exposition (Big E) in September in West Springfield, Mass.
Each year, one dairy farm from each New England state is selected as a Green Pastures Award Winner. They are chosen based on pasture quality and forage management; production; herd; milk quality; financial stability; and community involvement.
This year’s winners are Harris Dairy Farm, Dayton, Maine; Bree-Z-Knoll Farm, Leyden, Mass.; Windyhurst Farm, Westmoreland, N.H.; McGarry Dairy, Enosburg, Vt.
Harris Dairy Farm
This 600-acre farm has a rich history in Dayton, Maine. Jake Harris, who manages the dairy herd, is the fourth generation of the family to continue the tradition of producing quality milk, along with other diversified farm products.
John "Papa" Harris bought the original 100-acre dairy in 1944 from Manley Buzzell. He milked cows, added land and began to grow sweet corn to wholesale to local stores.
His son, Bill, bought the farm in 1977. Along with his wife, Dixie, Bill began expanding the sweet corn business. The couple started a 25-mile cross-country ski business in 1987 to use the land in winter and preserve the surrounding forest from development.
Their son, Clint, took over the dairy operation in 1990, and vegetables were added to supplement the growing corn business. Clint and his wife, Rachel, began to take corn and veggies to Saco Farmers Market to meet the growing demand for fresh, local food.
In 1996, the farm began transitioning to all retail when the family started selling its milk in glass bottles and marketed grass-fed beef directly to consumers. Clint and Rachel added greenhouses and expanded the vegetable business as more and more locals shopped at the farm.
Clint and Rachel’s son, Jake, graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2014 and now manages the 35-cow dairy herd, and is working to expand and improve the rotational grazing system.
Cows are moved to new pastures every 12 hours during the growing season on the 65 acres reserved for grazing. This year, the farm grew 150 acres of hay or haylage and 15 acres of corn silage. In addition, Jake grows 14 acres of winter triticale and 3 acres of sorghum-sudangrass to diversify forages, providing resilience against changing weather patterns.
Located on a scenic bend in the road in Westmoreland, N.H., this farm was founded when Lois Adams married Lawrence Leach in 1951 and moved to the farm with her sons, including Roger Adams.
Lawrence died a few years later, leaving the farm to Lois. Roger and Ellie Adams were married in 1958, and they took over managing the farm.
In 1985, Roger and Ellie and their son, Stuart, formed Windyhurst Farm Partnership. Stuart and his wife, Robyne, are the third generation who run the farm. Several of their children work and live on the farm, too.
Upon forming the partnership, they also put most of the acreage into conservation. Currently, the farm is milking 270 registered Holsteins with a total herd around 525 head. Between the land owned and leased, they are maintaining about 600 acres of farmland in the Connecticut River Valley and Cheshire County.
The herd averages 24,547 pounds of milk, 978 pounds of butterfat and 754 pounds of protein. Milk is shipped to Dairy Farmers of America.
The farm works closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in many capacities. It participates in a nutrient management program with the agricultural land, as well as rotational cropping and no-till.
In 2013 the family was awarded the Cheshire County Conservation District’s Cooperator of the Year and the New Hampshire State Cooperator of the Year.
There have been several major building projects. In 1992, a drive-thru freestall barn was added to the existing barn. A new heifer and dry cow barn was built in 2014, and the previous heifer barn was renovated in 2015 to accommodate calves, putting them closer to the restaurant and accessible to the public.
After completing the heifer barn, a brand-new 1.8-million-gallon manure system was installed.
The family leases the Cheshire County Farm to house 80 heifers, which has allowed them to add 60 more milking cows in the main cow barn. Last year, a modular milking parlor unit was added to expand the old parlor to a 15-stall herringbone parlor.
The farm also operates Stuart & John’s Sugar House, which has been in business since 1975. This is a large maple operation with more than 10,000 taps with a vacuum system, reverse osmosis and a restaurant.
McGarry Dairy is a 115-head Holstein operation in West Berkshire.
Ed and Diane McGarry operate the farm in partnership with their son, Brian. They started farming at their present location in 1993, but purchased a second farm in 2018 as they needed more cropland. They rent out a six-bedroom 1860 farmhouse on the second property as an Airbnb.
The McGarrys milk 100 cows twice a day in a double-four herringbone parlor, shipping their milk to Agri-Mark/Cabot Creamery. Their average daily milk production is 79 pounds per cow with 4.1% butterfat and 3.1% protein. Their somatic cell count is consistently less than 100,000.
These numbers can be attributed to overall excellent herd management, selective breeding through artificial insemination, and careful attention to herd health and cow comfort.
Cows are housed in a freestall barn lined with rubber floor mats with foam underneath and bedding with separated solids. The younger animals are on sawdust with bedded pack in the maternity area.
The McGarrys raise all their own replacements, breeding their heifers to produce their first calf at about 22 to 24 months. They breed for longevity, high fat and protein content, good foot and leg conformation, and daughter pregnancy rate, striving for a calving interval of 13.4 months.
They have 430 acres of owned and rented land, including 200 acres of grass and 35 acres of pasture. They put their lower-producing cows on pasture until June, using rotational grazing for their dry and bred heifers, which helps reduce feeding costs.
The McGarrys were among the first dairy producers in Vermont to experiment with Agolin, a plant-based feed additive, in their cows’ diet to increase the butterfat and protein content of milk while helping to reduce methane emissions. The study was supported by Barry Callebaut, an environmentally conscious company in St. Albans that manufactures high-quality chocolate and cocoa products.