“We don’t ever sleep,” joked Molly Stevens-DuBois, describing life on the Carter and Stevens Farm.
It may be a slight exaggeration, but the Barre farm is seldom at rest. With three generations of family currently operating the 1,000-acre farm — the largest acreage of pasture in Massachusetts — you might understand why there’s always something going on.
The Carter and Stevens Farm is the 2014 Massachusetts winner of the New England Green Pastures Award. The award is given every year to one outstanding dairy farm in each of the New England states, with winners evaluated on production records; herd, pasture, and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying.
The Carter and Stevens Farm was established in 1938 by Donald Carter, who purchased a local farm and started milking cows under a tent. Five generations later, the farm continues to produce milk as well as feed for the milk producers.
Keeping track of the family dynamics is a chore in itself. Donald Carter’s daughter, Audrey, married Daniel Stevens in 1954, and Dan joined Donald in the dairy business. Dan and Audrey’s son, Philip, and his wife, Erin, purchased the farm in 1988 and the farm is now an LLC managed by Philip and two of his children, Molly DuBois and Will Stevens.
Ten family members work year round to make it all happen, and many of them live on the farm. They hire up to 20 additional employees during the year.
The entire clan is thrilled about the New England Green Pastures Award and their designation as Massachusetts Dairy Farm of the Year, says Molly.
“Everyone is excited, and it sure is a good pat on the back,” she says. “Lots of people have read the recent newspaper article (about the award).”
A lot has changed at the farm since Donald sat under that milking tent. The first barn built in 1938 was considered state-of-the-art back in the 30’s, with a stanchion barn and hay trolley. In 1962, one of the first milking parlors in the state was built at the Carter and Stevens Farm to accommodate eight cows. Today, the 110-cow herd is milked in a 20-stall dairy parlor.
This is a sustainable operation, with the buildings powered by solar panels and a wind turbine. A farm store, housed in a circa-1700s post-and-beam structure saved from demolition, provides added revenue, as does summer “Bar-B-Que Grill” nights that feature a Farm to Flame restaurant that features a hand built stone oven to grill grass-fed beef, and other BBQ favorites. The farm store has become a popular attraction for families to enjoy farm animals, fresh air and fine foods, in the area.
Carter and Stevens Farm sells firewood, hay and compost as well and sponsors the annual Harvest Festival and other events.
Lots of activity means continuing traditions, as the generations continue to grow and family ties strengthen, down on the farm.