2016 Local Hero Awardee: Barstow’s Longview Farm
Each year, CISA presents Local Hero Awards to farms, businesses, or individuals who exemplify our mission of strengthening farms and engaging the community to build the local food economy. We applaud their hard work, social responsibility, and many contributions to sustaining local agriculture.
Owned by the Barstow family since 1806, Barstow’s Longview Farm has undergone many changes over the course of two centuries. The current generation has preserved the legacy of this Hadley dairy farm while introducing exciting changes to enable the farm to thrive in the 21st century.
After incarnations as a cooper shop (you can still see handmade barrels in the farm store from this era!), a sawmill, and an extensive vegetable operation, Barstow’s became a dairy farm in the 1930s. Today, the dairy operation is run by brothers Steve and David Barstow and Steve’s son, Steven II. Together, they manage 400 acres of farmland, milk 230 cows, and sell their milk to Agri-Mark, the farmer-owned cooperative that makes Cabot products.
Dairy farming is well known as a challenging business, with slim margins and heavy labor demands, and modern dairy farms have had to innovate to survive. The Barstow family has emerged as a leader in Massachusetts dairy as a result of undertaking three major projects in recent years.
First, the Barstows opened Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery at the farm in 2008, managed by Steven’s sisters Kelly and Shannon and their cousin Denise. Shannon had envisioned a little place to sell her baked goods, but the planning process led to something bigger: a farm store selling their own meat and a variety of local products, a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and lots of baked goodies, and a catering business. They also host farm tours and events. “The store is really our way of interacting with the public and helping people have a connection to their food. We try to educate people on what we’re doing here, and the store allows us to do that,” says Kelly.
In 2013, the Barstows completed construction of an anaerobic digester—a “huge undertaking,” according to Steven. Anaerobic digestion, a cutting-edge sustainable energy technology, processes manure and food waste into electricity, with heat and nutrient-rich fertilizer as byproducts. Every day, the Barstows’ digester generates 800 kilowatts per hour by processing all of the farm’s manure, some 5–6,000 gallons, plus 7,000 gallons of food waste from nearby businesses.
Finally, the family conserved 123 acres in 2014 through the Agricultural Preservation Restriction program, which enables farms to sell the development rights on their land to the state. Steven started thinking about investing the proceeds into innovations in the milking parlor. They have since added robotic milkers—machines that enable the cows to be milked on demand, and that test the milk and track health indicators and production levels for each cow. The farmers are still in the barn twice a day doing chores and checking on the cows. The robotic milkers, however, allow flexibility in the farmers’ daily schedule while providing data that enables them to manage the herd’s health even more effectively. Says Steven, “I’m not sure I could take over the farm if we’d left the milking parlor the way it was—I couldn’t do this alone when my father and uncle retire. Each new generation brings new energy and ideas, and this will make it possible for us to grow.”