Local for Locals

It’s a dairy farm that focuses on local demand for its local supply.

It’s SideHill Farm, located ‘up high’ in the small town of Hawley, and this year’s Massachusetts winner of the Green Pasture 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.

Co-owner Paul Lacinski explains SideHill Farm was founded to supply “local to locals.” It produces yogurt and sour cream from grass-fed cows who lazily munch their way through greener-than-green pastures at 1830 feet of elevation. The farm is practically brand-new, founded in 2012 after Paul and co-owner Amy Klippenstein decided to expand their successful vegetable growing operation into a full-fledged dairy farm.

Paul and Amy may not boast generations of farming ancestors – he designed and built energy-efficient homes, she is a landscape architect – but in 2000, Amy started growing and selling veggies. It wasn’t long before Paul’s part-time help grew into a full-time commitment, and with the addition of three dairy cows to help feed their yogurt habit (making it themselves was a money-saving move, they say), the couple had dipped a toe in the dairy business.

After a few years of leasing farmland, Amy and Paul met up with an organic potato farmer in Hawley itching to retire, and in 2012, SideHill Farm and its dairy operation had a permanent home.

Today, SideHill Farm includes 225 acres of certified organic pastures and hayfields, with 80 grass-fed Normande and Jersey cows, half of which are milked twice daily. The cows eat only certified organic pasture in the spring, summer, and fall, and organic hay and feed in winter, and a few of pounds of organic grain at milking time.

Thanks to that rich diet, creamy SideHill Farm Yogurt has become a successful brand, and is not only sold locally, but can be found in stores in the metro Boston area. The on-site farm shop also sells, sour cream, grass-fed beef, and pastured pork, all produced on the farm; as well as cheeses, pickles, and other products from neighboring local farms.

SideHill Farm’s selection as Massachusetts Dairy Farm of the Year was a delightful surprise, says Paul. “It’s exciting to be recognized for the quality of the work we’re doing, since that’s what really matters in the long run,” he explains.

Any plans to expand, given the award and the success of the yogurt business and other SideHill products? Another New England yogurt brand, Stonyfield Farm, comes to mind, a company that has become the world’s largest maker of organic yogurt, but which started like SideHill on a small farm in a small New England town.

Nope, says Paul. The plan was to provide local foods for the local community, and that will continue to be the proud mission and message of SideHill Farm.

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