Monday, September 19, 2011

Taproot Commons Farm in Cummington, MA

A very micro dairy!

Sarah Fournier-Scanlon and Janice Wadron-Hansen took a big chance and started a farm.   Now they're living their dream of aspired sustainability in western Massachusetts.  They're determined to stay small, to keep their lives simple and to stay our of debt.  Sarah studied sociology and ecology prior to becoming a farmer and Janice still works her day job teaching art and creative movement.

They are actively farming 10 of their 131 acres.  So far, they have 3 cows, some chickens and a few ducks.  Their income comes from their raw milk CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and currently they are bottling an average of 50 gallons per week. 

CSA members contract to receive a certain amount of raw milk every week.  Their milk is labelled and waiting for them on the top shelf of Taproot's farm stand refrigerator.

The rest is available to the public.  There is never enough to fill the demand, so they receive notes in their stand like, "I returned my bottles but there wasn't any milk."  That's the way it goes in the raw milk business-the demand is there and then some.

I toured their farm as part of NOFA's Raw Milk Dairy Days (Northeast Organic Farming Association) where 11 farms in Massachusetts opened to the public for a weekend.  To be safe, I called first for directions because their farm stand is way off "the beaten path."

Janice likes the combination of healthy food with art.  Those are her small paintings adding color to the space.

For sale:  raw milk, pastured broilers, organic-fed chicken and runner duck eggs, honey, handmade cards, and art.  Their friend Barbara, who has a commercial kitchen, bakes ice-cream sandwiches with Taproot's own organic eggs and snow's ice cream.  They were a hot seller for the summer!  Real cookies and local ice cream!

Their historic farmstead is up the driveway, overlooking the hills of western Massachusetts.  It appears large for two people, but Sarah explained that they can feed and lodge up to 6 "wwoofers" (willing workers on organic farms).  These are folks who contract to work 6 hours/day with Sundays off in exchange for room and board for a number of weeks.  (

Traditionally wwoofers would be students, but this year many of the wwoofers were older than Sarah, who is 25.  When I expressed surprise at this, Sarah pointed out that hers is the "lost generation."  She doesn't know anyone from her class in college who has found a job. 

When Sarah decided to sell raw milk, she wanted the dairy to be certified, so she worked with the state dairy inspector to convert a room in the barn to a processing room.  I have to say that I was completely shocked when we walked in.  The room and all the equipment were absolutely immaculate.  I was blinded by the shine!

They bought the smallest bulk tank available in the US (from Bob White Systems) and it was actually made in Slovenia.  The large sink was a steal on eBay.  The mirror opens up to a closet where they store the milk bottles.

As you can see from this equipment, they are bucket milkers.

This processing room and the house are heated with wood and hot water.  The milking room is not heated, but Sarah explained that the body heat from the cows is enough in the winter.

The day of my tour, the cows were lounging around in the milking room, even though they are always free to head for the pasture.  Sarah simply said, "Come on out." to them and they followed us into the fresh air.

That's Mercy in front, Dori standing and Sparkle at right.

The cows have a bit of a stroll to their pasture, but they don't seem to mind.  When they get there, they hang with the chickens who roam freely around the property (although they do have a cute little chicken house in a scenic location).

Mercy and Dori are Brown Swiss and Dori is a Jersey girl.  Taproot will be getting a Guernsey this winter.

Janice built this moveable chicken coop.

The bottling room and the milking room are located downstairs in the historic barn.  Upstairs, there is a fabulous space for parties.  In fact, Sarah and Janice will be hosting a wedding for 100 there next month.

The party will include a band situated in the hay loft, but they have been given instructions to take a break for a half hour in the evening, so Sarah can milk the cows!  It's a beautiful location for any event, so, if you're looking for a scenic, rustic space on a working farm, contact Sarah and Janice: 

Taproot Commons Farm
11 Porter Hill Rd.
Cummington, MA
(413) 634-5452

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