New Film Showcases ‘Forgotten’ Dairy Farms

Dairy farms, which totaled more than 125 in Franklin County 40 years ago, are now fewer than 35 and slowly dwindling. Despite a new appetite for local farms and food, cow farms have been left out of the celebration of local, says a new documentary about the plight of dairying in the region.

“There’s a huge disconnect,” says Sarah Gardner, who produced “Forgotten Farms” after realizing her land-use students at Williams College may be typical of the larger population as they overlook Williamstown’s two large dairy farms. She and director David Simonds of Williamstown wanted to spotlight production dairies, which produce the bulk of the local food that’s consumed and care for the bulk of agricultural land around New England, though they aren’t celebrated as part of the so-called “new food movement.”

Despite a complex federal pricing system that puts small, New England dairy farmers at a disadvantage — causing 10,000 dairy farms to go out of business over the past 50 years, with only 2,000 left — “These people just keep milking cows,” said Simonds, who worked on one of Williamstown’s dairy farms when he was in high school. “With their relentless determination to farm, we should kind of get on our knees and bow down because they’re willing to do this. If we lose them all, it’s going to be tragic for all agriculture,” since the infrastructure for farming, including equipment sales, depends on dairying.

Farmers like Bar-Way Farms in Deerfield and Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley are installing methane digestion systems to use their cow manure to lower energy costs, while others produce their own premium ice cream, artisinal cheese and other products. And although they are by far the exception, there are still young farmers, like Ed Carter and Travis Whitcomb of Carter & Whitcomb Dairy in Ashfield, who started their own farm to make milk.

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Article by: By RICHIE DAVIS
Appearing on: The Recorder Website
Tuesday, June 28, 2016

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