Gratitude Journal: the Farmstand Order

Cabot Connection

“I thought Cabot was in Vermont?” It’s a frequent question we get from visitors at Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery as they point to the grocery section, the sign at the peak of the store, or the branding on the back of our tour wagon. But this farm is, indeed, a Cabot farm!

Producer cooperatives have farmers as their members, and provide services involved in moving a product (like milk!) from the point of production to the point of consumption. Most milk produced in Massachusetts is sold into a regional wholesale market that bottles and processes milk for sale within the Northeast.

It’s a system that works, moving high volumes of milk from farms to processing facilities to grocery stores, schools, and your refrigerator with great efficiency and little waste.

The Barstow family is one of 800 family “farmer-owners” of the Cabot AgriMark Cooperative, a co-op that serves farm members located in all six New England states and New York. The cooperative owns and operates four dairy plants: two in Vermont, one in West Springfield, MA, and one in New York. In addition to Cabot branded products, Agri-Mark also manufactures blends for ice cream, bulk cheese, butter, milk powder, and whey products for food service and ingredient uses.

The Farmstand Order

As farmer-owners, we are proud to sell Cabot products produced with our farm’s milk at Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery. Since the store opened in 2008, Barstow’s has been eligible to place a Farmstand Order with Cabot, picking it up directly from the processing facility loading dock in West Springfield.

The coronavirus sent processing plants across the nation into a necessary lockdown. And while production has continued and adjusted to consumer needs during this time, the co-op is operating with an abundance of caution: staff temperature checks, nurses on-site, and no extra visitors or pick-ups at the facility.

That left us (and lots of other Cabot family farms) scrambling to find Cabot from other suppliers. Many didn’t have products in the packaging we needed, and most didn’t have what we needed at all.

It’s a priority for our family to sell Cabot’s award winning products at our farmstand. Settling for anything else is settling for less. We demand high quality cheese in our sandwiches and on our shelves. It’s the brand we stand behind, a B-Corporation that sets the bar high for what a regional food cooperative can offer their community and their farmers. But without the Farmstand Order, we were having a hard time meeting our mission.

Neighborly Spirit

After lots of calling around looking for loading docks, it was Cabot processing plant’s West Springfield neighbor that, despite uncertain times, rolled out the welcome mat. The Big E was happy to take in our Farmstand Order for pick up, monthly, along with 12 other farmstands in the area!

Driving down the Avenue of the States and up to the Mallory Building loading dock, we were so excited to get our Cabot order. “Gee, you farmers are really thankful people, huh?” said the young man helping to load the truck and we thanked him for his help, for the Big E’s hospitality, and for helping out local dairy farms. We weren’t the first farm pick up that day.

Shout out to the Big E, the Cabot AgriMark Cooperative, Nick Managan, and everyone else who was able to bring this crucial program back! As some things head in the direction of normal, (like picnic table and porch seating at your favorite dairy farm and later weekend hours to name a few!) we are very happy to have our deli Cabot cheeses for our menu back, and a FULL case of Cabot premium cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, spreadable cheddar, and more!

As always, we are happy to be your personal shoppers! Give us a call at 413-586-2142 to place lunch, breakfast, bakery, produce, and grocery items, or just pop through the drive thru. We are looking forward to welcoming our customers back inside for in-person shopping and dining, but will continue with drive thru only service for at least another few weeks. Thanks so much for your patience and support!

Barstow’s 12 Year Anniversary

Back in 2008 when we opened Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery on June 30, things felt…. scary. Similar to how things feel now in some ways. Like then, the price we receive for our milk is below the cost of production, and today much of our dairy markets, like schools, restaurants, and institutions, remain closed due to the virus. We remain optimistic thanks to our staff, our customers, and this community that consistently makes purchases and decisions that sustain local agriculture.

Caroline and Steven Barstow with their son Nelson,1 at their home in Hadley on the farm.

Amidst these trying times, dairy has made the press. And that’s because, as CISA said in this recent article, “Massachusetts has about 120 dairy farms left, representing under 2% of all the farms in the state — but this tiny number of farmers steward 10% of all agricultural land and account for 9% of agricultural sales. They are vital to our agricultural system.”

Barstow’s was recently featured in this article, the Daily Hampshire Gazette “Checked in with” Steven Barstow II and his family, and Northeast Organic Farming Association wrote this piece and video including our anaerobic digester. You’ll be able to spot our family in New England Dairy’s latest video. We’re in this video too.

Wrap up June Dairy Month by reading this powerful article from a dairy advocate, catch up with our neighbors, the McCray’s, in this read, finish up the Dairy Crawl, and share what having dairy farms in this community means to you here.

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