We’re a family farm in the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, where we landed a 14 years ago after leaving Maine for my husband’s job in public broadcasting. Our site has always been a farm, historically of much larger acreage with large barns and a silo, but never in good repair. The scrappy 1843 farmhouse has been expanded many times, and we cringe to think of the underlying structural makeup. Our fields are only suitable for pasture, but the 7-stall modular horse barn was enough to lure us (me) here in the beginning.
I added horses within 2 months of our arrival, a story in itself, then our son requested chickens … years later, a day-long Joel Salatin session at a NOFA conference and a few CISA annual meetings with the farmers, and Dirigo Farm was born (Dirigo is the Maine state motto and means “I lead,” even if we’re only learning).
We’ve updated “the little barn” and much of the fencing, converted pastures close to the house to vegetable gardens, added permanent and mobile chicken coops, built a run-in shed for the horses and acquired 20 acres of pasture and forest across the road. We’ve even managed to hay two fields the last few years with some renovated equipment and generous farmer neighbors.
Soon we had three horses, were selling eggs, had a forestry plan for the woodlands, and every conference or class would yield a dozen new ideas for what we could do — from livestock, to mushrooms, to cut flowers and herbs. I had always wanted to learn to spin, so was set on sheep, until I took a dairy goat class at a NOFA session and decided friendly animals you could lead were preferable. Since I’m on the farm full time, I also realized my need for the daily routine that herd animals might not require.
After goat breed research that spring, we acquired Nubian goats and a Pygmy buck with intentions to breed for Kinders, a dual purpose meat/dairy breed that started in Washington state and hadn’t quite made it to New England. Our first Kinder kids were born on 2011, a doe and a buck, along with numerous Nubians as we grew and refined our herd. In 2014 we purchased Kinder breeding stock from Wisconsin, where the breed is more established and are awaiting Kinder and Nubian kids this spring.
I’m now in my 5th season milking, and make a variety of fresh and aged cheeses (Camembert, Valencay, Parmesan, Blue) and Goat’s milk soap. I’d misunderstood the laws around Raw Milk sales for VERY small farms, and now have a much better understanding of the regulations surrounding Grade A dairy and cheese operations. My research has led me to many great people with common goals (and frustrations) — and I’m still convinced there is a way to make micro dairying work for our farm.