Friday, October 21, 2011

A Tour of SideHill Farm in Ashfield, MA

Yogurt anyone?

Paul Lacinski and Amy Klippenstein have managed to build a successful yogurt business with 15 cows, 23 acres of leased grazing land and their own ingenuity.  They make and sell over 800 gallons of yogurt per week!  (http://www.sidehillfarm.net)

SideHill was one of the farms I toured as part of Raw Milk Dairy Days, sponsored by NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association).  It's tucked away in the woods of Ashfield, and you're only really sure you're there when you see the cute little white milk bottle sign:


This farm is very well known in our area because they sell their yogurt at all the local grocers and it's gooood!!!  There are 4 flavors- whole milk plain, lowfat plain, lowfat vanilla and whole milk maple (to die for).  At the farm stand, (open from March-December) they sell raw milk and cream, raw milk butter (sometimes), paneer, yogurt, and grass-fed beef.  



On the day of the tour, there were quite a few folks gathered to learn about the dairy and how it's run.


Amy greeted us and answered questions while we waited for the "stragglers."  She told us Paul was at the farmer's market, but he would join us later.

Some of the tour participants were thinking about starting their own farms.  Others brought their children to show them where dairy products come from.  Others were just curious to see how a dairy farm works.  It's always a treat when farmers open their dairies for tours.


Before we started, we couldn't help but notice their incredibly cool straw-bale house which they built themselves 10 years ago.  (Paul was in the straw bale construction business before he and Amy became farmers.)   To me, it looks like a fairy tale house (where the fairies are dairy farmers who work very hard!).


We walked down the road to a field where the calves were being kept.  This is just one of many fields they lease.  (All their land is leased.)  They are currently looking to buy a farm in the area where they can own their own land and have room to grow.



Then, we walked even further down the road to their unique make room.  That 18 wheeler trailer is a fully equipped, certified dairy!  When Paul floated the idea past the dairy inspector, she thought he had totally lost his mind.  But, now, if they move to a new location, they're all set.



The little trailer holds the bulk tank.  The milk is piped from the barn where the cows are milked.  Amy prepared the foot wash so we could go in and look around.



While we were filing in, Paul arrived and joined the tour.



The large trailer where the yogurt is made was closed and there was no way we could all safely tromp through it.  However, I asked Paul if I could take a few pictures so you could see the layout.  I took my shoes off and quickly snapped a few pictures:





The farm itself used to be a dairy farm.  Now, Paul and Amy rent space there for their trailers and their cows.  There was already a milking room in the barn when they first arrived.  Grain was poured into the large bins through the ceiling.  These days, that would not meet the regulations, so Paul and Amy patched up the ceiling and painted the walls.




From there, we trekked out to the field where the cows were grazing.  Most are Normandes with a few Jersey mixes.  They were very friendly and seemingly happy with their way of life.  (I'm sure they appreciate their gorgeous view of the hills around them.) 





That was the end, so we hiked back to the dairy and enjoyed some samples of their raw milk and fabulous yogurt.



I was struck by Paul and Amy's pioneering spirit - the way they started all this with nothing and have built a thriving business with 5 employees.  It's hard work, but they've persevered and now they're ready to buy a farm.  I think that's called "The American Whey." 

SideHill Farm
137 Beldingville Rd.
Ashfield, MA  01330
413-625-0011

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