I grew up in the Pioneer Valley, and as the kid of dairy farmers, my parents perfected the economical values of a “stay-cation.” I love my home and I’ve been lucky to have gotten to explore as a kid – and now as an adult.
One place I had never been until very recently was the Northampton Meadows. I had of course looked down on them from the porch of the Mt. Holyoke Summit House many many times – and grabbed eye-fulls of the meadow from i91 as I strained to see the silo of Longview Farm across the river.
I signed up for Historic Northampton’s “Amble in the Meadows” for April 3 and arrived with my binoculars, hiking shoes, and $12. Laurie Sanders welcomed me at check-in “Barstow? Like Barstow’s Longview Farm Barstow?”
Our gracious host spoke to us about meadows that we stood in, once bearing acres of broom corn and tobacco. I learned that of the thousands of miles journey from Northampton Meadow (and presumably the fertile meadows of Hadley across the way), over to Europe, the most expensive leg was the non-navigable rocky rapid-y Connecticut River stretch between South Hadley and Holyoke. Before the dam, food and goods traveled around that piece of river, not on it.
Walking along the mud rutted trail, I gazed at the Mount Holyoke Range before us. With the farm tucked right beneath the mountain, the expansive view of the range is something I have to travel to town to get – but it never gets old. At the edge of the river, I found myself with more familiar views: my house, the farm, the acres of cover crop laid out in front.
Laurie Sanders at this point turned it over to me for a brief history of Barstow’s Longview Farm.
This was not a planned part of the tour, but I was grateful for the opportunity to share my ancestor’s history of our our 213 year old farm. Founded in 1806, the farm started off as a crop farm growing asparagus, broom corn, squash, tobacco, and a number of livestock. In the 1920s we transitioned to all dairy, growing our herd over the years and building a more sustainable business. Today our sixth and seventh generation dairy farm raises 500 head milked by robotic milkers. We produce green electricity with an anaerobic digester, operate Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery, and offer hundreds of farm tours to our community.
It was a joy to join this group on this beautiful evening.
Thank you Laurie for sharing your knowledge of the meadows from both a historical and ecological standpoint, I was very glad to meet you! I’m happy I live in a community where this type of programming that connects us to the past – and to each other – exists (and sells out – twice!).