National Dairy Month: ‘It's not all about milking cows'
LEE -- Got ice cream? High Lawn Farm does, having recently introduced four flavors of the frozen treat to its loyal customers. The vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and coffee ice cream are the first additions to the farm's product line in nearly a century. High Lawn has been producing highly coveted Jersey cow milk, cream and butter since at least 1918.
General Manager Roberto Laurens said an excess of heavy cream prompted farm staff to expand its offerings.
"People say Jersey cow milk makes the best ice cream," he said.
"Besides, ice cream was the next logical choice," added Beth White, head of business development for High Lawn.
Next year, the Summer Street dairy farm that delivers milk from the Berkshires to Boston and other parts of New England, also plans to produce, package and distribute its own cheese.
High Lawn's expansion in the marketplace is one of several examples of the growing demand for locally produced dairy products, -- an industry trend that is being highlighted during June, National Dairy Month -- despite the decline of dairy farming across the state.
While the U.S. Census Bureau reported last month the number of Massachusetts dairy farms dropped from 261 to 150 since 2007, the Berkshire Grown campaign and similar promotions across the state have since helped stabilize the commonwealth's dairy industry, according to a farming trade group.
"The benefits of buy local and eating healthier products such as dairy is paying off," said Rena Sumner, executive secretary for the Massachusetts Association of Dairy Farmers. "Dairy farms must also be very diverse, such as offering ice cream -- it's not all about milking cows."
Diversity is at the heart of Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, which produces baked goods, beef, pork and eggs, along with raw milk, cheese and butter. The farm store on Oblong Road also sells locally made foods and goods from throughout Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont.
By state law, Cricket Creek must sell its raw milk on site, but the limitation doesn't seem to hinder its sales, according to Suzy Konecky, the farm's creamery manager.
"Many people like the taste; it's flavorful and they like the probiotics that come from the cow," she said. "Raw milk is also easier to digest, especially for those lactose intolerant."
Cricket Creek's biggest dairy seller is the eight varieties of cheese, all handmade from original recipes with the most popular being Maggie's Round, which takes up to six months to age.
"A lot of people are surprised artisan cheese is made locally," Konecky said. "We turn milk into a value-added product."
Last fall, Phil and Jen Leahey saw the value of adding the dairy business to the family farm. After a 40-year absence, the Leahey farm in September began producing milk, along with yogurt, selling it to a dozen local stores and restaurants, with plans to add more clients as they gradually increase production and eventually develop more products, Jen Leahey said.
The return of Leahey pasteurized, non-homoginized milk brought back fond memories for some locals, according to Phil Leahey.
"People are saying they haven't had milk like this in 40 years," he said. "One said, ‘This is milk I remember from my childhood.'"
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