High Lawn Farm open house treats visitors to glimpse of heritage
LEE — Growing up in Winchester, England, surrounded by dairy farms, Carmen Brown wanted her family to see the source of their fresh, local milk from High Lawn Farm.
"We buy their milk every week, so I brought them here to see where it comes from," Brown said.
The Housatonic mother of two daughters and one son was among the hundreds to pack High Lawn's open house Saturday. The steady flow of visitors sampled free milk and ice cream, toured the renovated and new dairy facilities and dropped in on the new museum detailing the evolution of the century-old dairy farm.
The udder stars of the show were the 120 Jersey milking cows grazing in the grass or chowing down in the barn, occasionally getting some lovin' from the likes of Seren Brown as the 7-year-old petted the snout of one cooperative four-legged female.
"[She] felt a bit rough," Seren said of the skin. "I like them because they give you milk."
High Lawn General Manager Roberto Laurens was amazed by the turnout coming from throughout the Berkshire region.
"Holy cow! These are the people who buy our products; they keep us going," he noted.
Laurens and his staff of 26, most living on the farm, spent four hours showing off the farm's seven-year, multimillion dollar renovation and restoration, including the reconstruction of the original 1915 hay barn and other buildings that burned down in 1957. The switch to high-tech cow milking and dairy processing has dramatically increased High Lawn sales from close to $4 million in 2015-16 to $5.2 million for 2016-17, with further growth anticipated, according to farm officials.
The last dairy farm in Berkshire County with its own processing facilities and commercial delivery of a variety of milk, butter, ice cream and other diary goodies has boosted High Lawn's clientele to include colleges, cafes and grocery stores large and small across New England and parts of eastern New York.
High Lawn also processes milk from Dutch Hollow Farm in nearby Schodack Landing, N.Y., Laurens said in a previous Eagle interview.
One common compliment was how modern the farm looks, still maintaining it's historic character.
"It's so up to date and so clean. It's wonderful how they restored the buildings," said longtime lee resident Peter Scolforo, who grew up nearby on Prospect Street.
"I think it's magnificent how Lee's heritage is being preserved," Sharon DeLorme said after touring the barn museum.
DeLorme marveled at the farm's early, labor-intensive equipment, including a vintage tractor and a hand-drawn fire hose cart from the late 1800s. The walls are adorned with archival photos as far back as the 1890s and descriptions of High Lawn's operations since H. George and Marjorie Wilde acquired it in 1935.
A portion of the museum honors Marjorie Wilde, a second-generation leader of the family who played a crucial role in expanding and preserving the farm. She brought 40 Jersey milking cows to the site; Jerseys are prized for the higher protein content, nutritional value, as well as enhanced flavor of their more easily digested milk.
Fast-forward to 2017, and farm visitors touring the milk-processing facility learn that it produces close to 20,000 gallons of milk a week, on average, and also churns out multiple, customized flavors of ice cream, according to manager Jason Garnish.
The free samples were a hit with Barbara and Hank Kubli from Dalton, the missis a bit of a chocoholic.
"It was very special having chocolate, chocolate chip ice cream, and they offer chocolate milk," she said.
Hank Kubli and his local employer, Hill Engineers, Architects, Planners Inc. spent up to three years working on the renovation and expansion toward successful growth.
"The perseverance by the Wilde family and commitment to the future is why they are doing so well," Hank Kubli said.
That perseverance paid off Saturday with an overwhelming response to the open house that, Laurens said, was a big "thank you" to its longtime and new loyal customers, Gail and Roney Weis of Lenox among the loyalists.
"The welcoming that was free ice cream and chocolate milk — you can't go wrong here," Mrs. Weis said.
Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.