Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tour of Shaw Dairy: Dracut, MA

Written by Glennon Beresin

This Monday, we had a GREAT time visiting Shaw Farm, a 103-year-old, fully operational Dairy Farm located in Dracut, MA. When we first arrived, we pulled into the parking lot of their pasteurizing facility that doubles as a beautiful retail space/ice cream stand. The building, we later learned, was newly constructed to incorporate epoxy flooring for pasteurizing that deters bacterial growth and is heated and cooled geothermally! While we waited for our tour leader to arrive, we excitedly scanned the ice cream coolers for post-tour purchasing. I was happy to see they carried seasonal flavors like pumpkin and apple strudel, AND had coffee Oreo, an all-time personal favorite.

Our tour leader, Warren, is the owner and manager and represents the fourth consecutive generation of their family on the farm. With his son following his footsteps, he lends the farm’s success and longevity to planned self-sufficiency and innovation. When many of his friends in the dairy business chose to opt in to cooperatives to sell milk to industrial processing, the Shaw family made the decision to remain autonomous. Like the fancy farm stand, their barn was also recently renovated with state-of-the-art ventilation to keep herd healthy. They are also always looking to expand business ventures in and around Boston, have a souped-up milk delivery truck and even a facebook page!

As we walked across the street to see the cows, we passed two gigantic trailers for raw milk storage. One tanks is for conventional milk and the other is for organic milk. Yet another reason the Farm is doing so well is that they have the ability to manage both kinds of herds successfully. By keeping the organic herd very small and in-line with the minimal demand in Dracut, they are able to fill stores in wealthier areas with their organic product (We were happy to know that even in for the conventional cows, he doesn’t use rBGH or regular antibiotics.).

Our tour ended, of course, back at the stand, where we all bought a bunch of delicious ice cream to take home! If you want to learn more about the Shaw Farm, look them up on Facebook! Bailey, their pet donkey, who we all befriended during the tour, regularly updates the site. Aside from all the great info, meeting him (he is a real donkey, very loving) was one of my highlights, along with being licked by a dairy cow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Visit to the Cranberry Station

By Katrina Brink

A small group of 5 of us Friedman students, plus one intrepid medical student, drove down to the UMass Cranberry Station in East Wareham, MA. We were soon to find out it is the only one of its kind in the world.

We were welcomed by the Integrated Pest Management Specialist, Hilary Sandler, who taught us that there are only about 55,000 acres of cranberry production worldwide, with about 14,000 acres in Massachusetts. Our guide taught us about the typical pest management and harvesting techniques used for cranberries. We also learned about some of the difficulties organic growers face in the humid climate of New England and the competition they encounter from newly minted organic cranberry growers in Quebec.

Hilary informed us that the average cranberry farmer is about 58 years old, but that fortunately there has been a recent resurgence of interest from young people getting into growing cranberries. The Director of the station, Carolyn DeMoranville, explained to us how the Ocean Spray Cooperative works and which berries get packaged fresh in bags, which get dried, and which ones are used in concentrate.

After we learned all we could about cranberries we followed Hilary out to a bog to get a first-hand look. The growers had already left for the day, but we got to enjoy the results of their work, knocking all the berries loose from the vines, so they float on the surface of the water.  It was a beautiful scene of a field of floating red berries. The growers will return another day to harvest the berries by gathering them with a large boom to contain them and scoop them up so they can be packaged and/or processed. 

Ms. Sandler suggested we come back next year over Columbus Day Weekend for the Cranberry Harvest Festival, so we can enjoy all the fun festivities associated with this delicious, tart fruit that is native to New England!