CISA to Screen Documentary on “Forgotten” Dairy Farms

The Recorder, November 9, 2016, by Richie Davis

Dairy farms, which have been the backbone of agriculture in Franklin County and around New England for generations, are often left out of the celebration of “local food” in recent years.

That’s at the heart of “Forgotten Farms,” a new documentary to be presented by Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture and Amherst Cinema on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.

“There’s a huge disconnect,” says Sarah Gardner, a Williams College land-use professor who produced “Forgotten Farmers.” She and director David Simonds of Williamstown wanted to spotlight production dairies, which produce the bulk of the local food that’s consumed and care for the bulk of agricultural land around New England, though they aren’t celebrated as part of the so-called “new food movement.”

New England has lost over 10,000 dairy farms in the past 50 years; about 2,000 farms remain. Collectively, they tend 1.2 million acres of farmland and produce almost all of the milk consumed in New England. Dairy farms totaled more than 125 in Franklin County 40 years ago, but are now fewer than 35.

Through conversations with farmers and policy experts, the film reconsiders the role of these farmers, who will be essential players if there’s to be an expanded agricultural economy.

The special event includes live appearances by the filmmakers and a panel discussion, including Amy Klippenstein of Sidehill Farm in Hawley, Darryl and Lucinda Williams of Luther Belden Farm in Hatfield and Jim Larson of Larson Farm in Sheffield.

“These people just keep milking cows,” said Simonds. “With their relentless determination to farm, we should kind of get on our knees and bow down because they ‘re willing to do this. If we lose them all, it’s going to be tragic for all agriculture,” since the infrastructure for farming, including equipment sales, depends on dairying.


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