Never trust a person who doesn’t like cows. – Unknown
In collaboration with New England Dairy , a non-profit education organization that serves as the voice of our local dairy farmers, I was able to visit Shaw Dairy Farm located in Dracut, Massachusetts for a fun tour. I spoke to Warren Shaw himself, the 5th generation owner of Shaw Farm, learned so much about dairy farms I did not know, saw the cows, and had some of the best ice cream in this area. When we think of dairy what comes to mind first? For me, it has always been about the things I love to eat, but it is a lot more than that. I was able to sit down with Warren Shaw and look at the big picture of dairy farming and honestly it was eye-opening. Here is a little history for those of you who didn’t know…
At the age of 15, Warren’s great grandfather left Nova Scotia and came to this area and got a job at a local farm. After some time, he saved some money and was able to buy some land – but the story of how the dairy farm came to be was because when he was working for a local business and the animals caught a disease, they had to shut down. They then told his great grandfather he could have all the accounts of those he had been delivering to and that is how Shaw Dairy Farm came to be in 1908. At Shaw Farm, they see themselves as a microcosm within the dairy industry – everything is done in-house, including processing, and bottling the milk. Many farms in our region belong to a co-op and have their milk picked up daily or every other day and it’s sent to a nearby processor. There, it is pooled together with milk from other dairy farms in the region and is pasteurized. The milk is then packaged and distributed to stores, schools, and other businesses. All these steps happen right at Shaw Farm. They have a retail store on-site, delivery trucks, wholesale, and sell locally made products from other small businesses which you can’t always find in the grocery store.
This mentality along with the ability to evolve with an ever-changing industry is what makes Shaw Farm such an incredible force. Warren Shaw always seems to be several steps ahead in terms of clean energy, how the business functions, the cows themselves, the people he hires, and more. Becoming a staple in the community is not just something that happens overnight, it comes from years of innovation and hard work. Now, with over a hundred years under its belt, Shaw Farm is known far and wide and goes to show how much we really don’t know about dairy or the industry that creates it.
Shaw Farm is one of the many farms New England Dairy represents. They work to share dairy farmer stories and highlight a lot of farms in New England and what they do for their communities. Shaw Farm is one of over 1,000 dairy farming families in New England. While Shaw Farm may be local to me, there are several dairy farms throughout New England. It is an incredible thing to see and be able to visit to get a glimpse into everyday life on a dairy farm.
Did you know?
Here are some things you probably didn’t know about dairy farming in Massachusetts:
- There are currently around 110 dairy farms remaining in the state of MA. There are about 1,000 dairy farms remaining throughout New England.
- Massachusetts dairy farms recycle cow poop to make enough energy to power nearly 2,000 homes in MA annually.
- Dairy farming in MA maintains 113,600 acres of open space and land preservation in the state.
- Dairy farming in MA circulates approximately $45 million to local economies.
At Shaw Farm, they have several green initiatives, that they have been doing for quite a long time because it just made sense for them. From soil management to the solar panel array they have on some of their property, they try to stay ahead of the curve while also keeping things in perspective. Something else that was just so interesting about how they do things at Shaw Farm is the fact that they do both organic and conventional milk and how rigorous that whole process is. They are one of the very few farms who do this, as most do one or the other, but it made business sense to Warren when he began the process and now it is ingrained in the core of the farm.
When you think of dairy now, and the farms behind it I hope this gave you a small glimpse into the life behind it. I loved visiting Shaw Farm, learning about the process and business, and of course meeting the cows. Enjoy these photos of me hanging with the cows and make your way to check them out when you can!
Life as a Maven