Gratitude Journal: 520 Gallons of Milk

Last spring, in the height of the pandemic, we were worried. Thanks to our drive thru window and dedicated team, Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery was handling more business than we’d ever seen. But spring on the dairy farm side of the business held a lot more heartbreak. With restaurants, schools, and institutions shuttered, dairy producers lost 50% of our market in an instant. Barstow’s Longview Farm was forced to reduce our production, and with sorrow, we sold some of our cows and tightened our belts (just when we thought they couldn’t get any tighter.)

A dear friend and neighbor said to us “I want to help” as she pushed a check across the bakery counter. The arrangement was to use the funds to donate 20 gallons of milk, every other week, for one year. Neighbors Helping Neighbors would be the recipient, a local food pantry that serves families in South Hadley and Granby. Her gift covered the retail price for the local milk, supporting not just those who’d receive the donation, but also the farm who processed it (McCray’s Country Creamery) and the family business who sold it (Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery). A generosity that provided nutrition to those in need and sent dollars sailing through our rural economy in a tumultuous time for all.

Yesterday, June 1, the first day of Dairy Month, we watched Neighbors Helping Neighbors load their van with the 520th gallon of donated milk. Our dear friend, retired now and moved away, taught classes on the history of agriculture and brought her students to Barstow’s “to see that reciprocity with nature and between a farm and the community doesn’t just have to be a memory of another era.” This is just one of many of her lasting impressions on our Pioneer Valley community.

We are taking this moment to reflect on an unprecedented year, an extraordinary gratitude for our supportive community, new connections with our neighbors, and a great deal of thanks to this donor. We are delighted to report that this act inspired another local family to continue the gift through the end of 2021. The pandemic highlighted many things and one of them is how connected it all is. Happy Dairy Month!

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