Farmer Friday: Great Brook Farm
Every dairy farm is distinctive. There are different sizes, barns, crops, breeds of cows, secondary businesses and history. That said, Great Brook Farm is one of the most unique farms in our Cooperative.
There are many unique aspects to the farm. Mark and Tamma Duffy are first generation farmers and they don’t actually own any land. Their farm is located in Great Brook State Park in Carlisle, Massachusetts, just 20 miles North of Boston. Nearly three decades ago, the Duffys were selected by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to operate the previously abandoned dairy farm and they have a long-term lease to continue their work.
Agriculture has a long history on the site of Great Brook State Park and the farm is one of the only working dairy farms in the country located in a State Park. The Duffys have certainly made their mark on the farm, working with the Commonwealth to update the farm, including overseeing the installation of the first Robotic Milking Systems in Massachusetts.
Mark and Tamma’s three children Marlow, Chris and Blake have also taken a strong interest in farming, food and the outdoors. Marlow’s passion for good, local food has led her to a management position at Whole Foods. Blake recently finished college and loves working outside for a local landscaping company. Chris travels the Northeast working for DeLaval, helping other farmers integrate the company’s robotic milking systems on their farms. All three still lend a hand to their parents when they return home.
Great Brook Farm and the Duffys are also unique in that they host over 100,000 visitors per year in the park. As we included in our National Ice Cream Day Blog the Duffys run an ice cream stand. They also sell compost and have a cranberry bog in the park. Visitors are always welcome to take a farm tour and see all the action while the park is open.
Given the number of visitors and the family’s passion for showing how they farm, it is little surprise that Duffys love to promote Cabot. They have taken part in all three Cabot Open Farm Sundays, handed out cheddar at countless local grocery samplings and Mark and Marlow even traveled to New York City in 2013 as part of the Cabot Farmers’ Gratitude Tour.
This week we thank Marlow Duffy for taking the time to talk about her farm, her family and being part of the Farmers’ Gratitude Tour in New York City – which will be taking place again this March!
What was your favorite part of the first Farmers’ Gratitude Tour?
My father and I were able to participate in the first Farmer’s Gratitude Tour and it was an experience unlike anything we had done. It was great to get to spend a couple days in the Big Apple with fellow Cabot Farmers from other states. Many farmers don’t have the ability to leave the farm, so that experience was priceless. My favorite moment was walking down through Times Square dressed in plaid jackets and ringing cowbells. It caused quite the commotion and the next day people stopped us in the street and said they saw us wearing our Cabot plaid the night before.
Was there anything that surprised you during the first Farmers’ Gratitude Tour?
Many people associate Cabot with Vermont and do not know how close family farms are to them. My family farm is the closest to Boston and that made some people laugh thinking about cows in the city.
What do you think is your greatest accomplishment on the farm?
My family has moved into the next generation of modern sustainable agriculture. We have been fortunate enough to work with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and install a robotic milking system. The technology we have moved into has allowed us to stay viable in the marketplace. My two younger brothers have taken strong interest in dairy farming thanks to our technology investments.
What is your least favorite farm chore?
Feeding calves, no matter the weather outside. The babies are aggressive, they love to lick and nurse you. The first week feeding them a bottle of their mother’s milk is very time consuming. Not to mention how strong they are.
What is your favorite time of year on the farm?
Fall is my favorite time of year. My family is gearing up to harvest our crops and the bovine ladies are comfortable both inside and outside of the barn.
What is one thing you would like people who have never experienced farm life to know?
Many family farm members of Cabot offer farm experiences. It can be bed and breakfasts, a farm store, or even a farm tour. Be sure to check them out on the Cabot Cheese website and find a farm near your family. Our family loves sharing the farm with the public – and many others in our cooperative feel the same way!