The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 3, 2009

Great Brook Farm State Park seeks funding for new dairy barn

Duffy noted that his family has farmed successfully in Carlisle for 22 years – through a combination of the Great Brook Farm dairy operation and the Carlisle Cranberry Bog. He grows hay, corn and cranberries on about 300 acres in Carlisle, Concord, Acton and Chelmsford. All of the hay is to feed his cows; some of the corn is sold at the farm, and some is cattle feed. Duffy said 2008 was “the best year he ever had growing corn,” crediting in part good seed.

The 2008 growing season also brought Duffy his first ever cranberry crop failure. He said his expert attributed this to oxygen deprivation to the vines the preceding winter, and that the problem was widespread among Massachusetts growers. Nonetheless, prices were good for berries that did mature. Duffy noted the need to replant those sections of the bog where the vines are well over 100 years old. Newer cranberry varieties are more productive and disease resistant. However, it can cost up to $40,000 per acre to rebuild and replant a bog.

Duffy emphasized that a planned new barn at Great Brook would be “key to whether we will have a farm in the future.” It will allow him to expand his herd and continue to make a livelihood from one of the fewer than 200 remaining dairy farms in Massachusetts. There was no farmer at Great Brook for 14 years prior to Mark and Tamma Duffy’s arrival, because no one could make it work financially.

Duffy indicated he has worked with the state Division of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for three years to design and build an environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art barn. The facility would hold 120 milking cows and include the first robotic milking system in Massachusetts. This efficiency measure would enable him to expand his herd. The present barn would continue to house 140-150 cows.

Noting that barns generally last about 60 years, Duffy pointed out: “This barn is not being built for me. This barn is being built so Great Brook Farm will have a farmer.” The Commonwealth has a firm to build the barn but the contract must be signed within two weeks. DCR must decide whether it is going to fund the project.

The farm already has the best milk room waste disposal system available. The new barn would have a USDA-approved manure storage system for about four months of manure, removing the need for transporting off-site during the winter. This would address concerns of some Curve Street residents about manure spilling onto the road and leading to problems such as dogs getting into it. Vice Chair Peter Burn emphasized that the Commission is sympathetic to both sides in that matter, and Commissioner Tricia Smith quipped, “Dogs and manure are kind of like magnets and iron filings.” ∆

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