When we opened Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery in 2008, it was strictly to save the farm. The milk market was crashing and we needed a way to diversify the family business – or else. Hurried, stressed, but frankly, pretty excited, the Barstow family flung open the doors of the farm to the public in June of ’08.
Eleven years later, the proverbial flour has settled. With the goal to save the farm, all of the other, unintended, wonderful consequences have become the best part of our family business.
While we were busy digging around in Grandma’s recipe box to build the menu, it never occurred to us that Barstow’s would become a time capsule for food traditions and family recipes. Perhaps noting this even before we had, Leona Chumura, Hadley resident, generous spirit, and proud Pole, offered to teach Shannon how to make her family pierogi recipe. The Barstow’s aren’t Polish, but our community is – which is why you can find frozen, handmade pierogi in our prepared foods freezer.
Wednesday mornings, in our earliest years at Barstow’s, was a gathering place for the “old timers” (their words not mine!) to sit, enjoy, and reflect on memories of asparagus picking, baling hay, and baseball games at the school house. Situated in the center of the Hockanum Rural Historic District, Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery has served as a place for retirement parties, anniversaries, funeral receptions, and baby showers for our neighborhood. The wall at the pick-up counter is covered with photos of kids wearing “Barstow’s Tiny Fan” tees. The next farm tour on the calendar is scheduled for the local Boy Scout troop, the one following is a class from Smith Vocational. Standing behind the counter, a quick scan of the restaurant will reveal a group of Mount Holyoke students post-hike up Skinner State Park, an Amherst College professor grading papers, a group of longtime locals laughing over coffee and croissants, Wayne watching for birds from the porch (in all weathers), Kery reading the news, Ken walking his dogs in the yard, and the 8th generation of Barstow girls ordering up a smoothie.
At Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery we are driven by a work ethic handed down from our ancestors – and by the community that we’ve been rooted in for 213 years. At the farm, I’m surrounded by my biological family, but also a new family of Barstow’s customers, supporters, neighbors, and friends. When I’m in search of community, there’s no need to look far, all I need to do is walk out my front door and go to work.