This Sunday, I'm getting in my little brown car and heading to Poland, Maine to visit the Ferland Farm for Open Farm Sunday. On that day, 29 of the more than 1200 family farms that make up the Cabot Creamery Cooperative will open their farms to visitors from 11 am - 2 pm. The farms are located all around New England and New York; in Maine alone one-third of the dairy farmers are Cabot farmers.
At first, I was going to head to Massachusetts to visit the Duffy Farm in Carlisle. Located 22 miles outside of Boston, the Duffys have leased 300 acres of land from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 22 years. Last year alone more than 100,000 visitors saw the Duffy's farm in action. Says Mark Duffy: "This is a full time dairy farm with the same long hours and the same problems farmers face everywhere. For us, bringing awareness of dairy farming to the broader community is a big part of what we do. We have tours five days a week, and we think the more people know about dairy farming, the better off every farmer will be."
Duffy's words capture the spirit of Open Farm Sunday. The facts today are grim. Dairy farmers are getting the same price for their milk that they were in 1979. Due to these plummeting milk prices, family farms are disappearing at an alarming rate. These farms are an important part of the fabric of each community and vital to the sustainability of local food and energy. Seeing a dairy farm in operation can help us all understand the labor, but more important, the love that goes into producing healthy, delicious milk products.
So instead of traveling to another state, I decided I'll drive up the road to visit the Ferland Farm in Poland, Maine. Dennis Ferland, a third generation farmer, and his wife, Cindy, manage 270 cows on 550 acres. While the principles of farming are timeless, Dennis thinks that farmers should use technology to educate the public about what they do. He'd like to see farmers make videos of their activities. "People just have too many mistaken notions of what dairy farming is all about, and this would be great for schools and the industry. There is also nobody better at recycling and reusing everything than farmers. It's in our nature to be friendly to the environment, and people could learn a lot from our business," says Dennis.
Cows! Tractors! Milking machines! And so much more. Open Farm Sunday is the perfect way to spend an afternoon with the family. I'll be at the Ferland farm from 11 - 2, taking videos and posting on Twitter. Stop by there or any of the 29 farms around New England. You'll definitely be glad you did.