The farm is a constant buzz of activity. Starting early in the morning, the cows get walked into the milking parlor. Around 40 or so Jersey cows get milked, then led out to pasture for the rest of the day until the evening when they go back in for their second milking. While one group of employees handles the milking and making of dairy products like whole-milk yoghurt, kefir, cream, buttermilk, and raw milks cheeses, another group of employees are out running tractors, mowers, balers, combines and other equipment in order to plant and harvest all of the food needs of the cows during the winter months. The growing season is short and intense and rain often thwarts the best laid plans for seeding field crops or making hay. But with over 30 years of organic farming under their belts, Jack and Anne Lazor of Butterworks Farm have built the wisdom and experience to successfully coax a herd of doe-eyed Jersey cows to thrive and churn out nutrient-dense milk from a wind-swept mountain pasture.
What initially started out as a little homestead for a couple of young post-college graduates has scaled up to become one of the most respected certified organic creameries in New England. While it is still true that many organic dairies don't put their milking cows out on pasture, Butterworks Farm does it every day that snow does not cover their pastures. Of course it is more labor-intensive, but the resulting high-butterfat milk with a yellowish tinge has created a reputation of quality and dairy products with unparalleled flavor. Butterworks Farm not only practices rotational grazing with their animals, they also focus intensely on improving soil fertility through crop rotation, rock dusts, and returning all of the composted manure from the dairy barn back onto the fields. They reduce their dependency on fossil fuels with a monstrous wind turbine recycled from Tehachapi Pass in California and a new wood boiler that will provide steam heat and water heating from lower-grade forest trimming and whole chunk logs. Jack and Anne are also good to their employees, providing living wages, medical care reimbursement, and involving them in the decision making of the farming operation. Despite being located in a very remote, rural area, they have attracted highly skilled employees that tend to stay for awhile- turnover is low. They are also working on slowly transferring over the management and eventual ownership of the farm to their daughter Christine and her husband Collin.
Since Jack was already growing corn and other feed grains for his animals, he thought he might as well produce human-grade grains as well. He is part of a small group of dedicated NE farmers trying to reintroduce grain production in the region and is writing a book on the subject right now (check Chelsea Green website for updates). He has grown wheat, barley, corn, oats, buckwheat, dry beans, and is even milling organic feed blends for livestock producers.
Listen to our conversation about how they got started, how regulations forced them to scale up, passing the farm onto the next generation, building soil carbon, and more. This is an interview not to be missed...
Bottom picture show the gorgeous patina of the unpainted siding on their unique dairy barn and feed mill with a stand of summer wheat in the foreground.