What does it mean these days to start a farm from SCRATCH? Who are the bootstrappers?, those who pull up their businesses from their own resources, ingenuity, and small bit o' capital, combined with a heaping does of PASSION?
Brendan and Katia Holmes epitomize bootstrappers- they are first generation farmers working to produce quality, organic food in central Massachusetts- an area with expensive land and a dwindling number of commercial farmers. Raw milk from their herd of 25 Jersey cows is the backbone of their business, not only generating the majority of their revenues but also dictating the management of most the land they rent- over 200 acres on 14 different properties! It takes that much land to run a truly grass-based dairy and to grow, harvest, and put up all the forages the cows will need when a blanket of snow covers all their fields.
The sound of their dairy cows rushing into their new 12 hour pasture, tearing off a mouthful of tall, succulent grasses and clovers, barely pausing to chew a bit before they wrapped their lips around the next clump, was almost deafening. If cows could squeel with excitement like pigs, we would have needed ear plugs. You can see some of that beautiful grass in the picture above with a proud farmer showing off her Jersey genetics. It takes Katia or Brendon only 15 minutes or so to set up a new fenced pasture, move over the water trough with a float valve for automatic filling, and open the gate for the anxious cows behind it. As a result of their high-intensity, short-duration grazing they have turned once overgrazed and overhayed pastures into species rich, verdant, and most importantly- nutrious forage for their 100% grassfed cows. You read that right- Misty Brook's cows are fed exclusively on green forage either when it's growing in their fields for 7 or so months of the year or with stored baylage, silage, or hay that they try to put up all on their own. Their cows looked healthy, not 'ribby' like many grassfed cows I have seen on this trip, and their rich milk has a golden color from their plant rich diets. Jack Lazor, their former employer and mentor from Butterworks Farm in Vermont, would be proud.
In addition to milk and cheese, they produce beef, pork, eggs, broilers, grains, and vegetables, all certified organic. They sell most of their goods through CSA, including a new All-You-Can-Eat whole diet CSA, and a self-serve farm store. And they do this all on rented land. Hopefuly one day that will change- this is one farm that Massachusetts is lucky to have around producing healthy organic (& biodynamically) grown foods.
Here is our inspiring interview below: