At Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley, MA they serve their own beef as hamburgers on their special Burger Night at Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery from May through September. The meat contains no antibiotics, steroids or hormones.
The farm store is the only place anyone can buy the beef that the Barstow family has been raising and selling since 2009, shortly after the store opened in 2008. Over 150 to 200 people attend the light-hearted Burger Night.
Denise Barstow, seventh-generation dairy farmer, said, “It’s fun. It’s a chance for people to eat burgers, something not usually on the menu.”
They have 550 Holsteins, the breed chosen as their dairy cows. They raise 20 of the Holsteins a year as steers. “They are born and raised on the farm, right alongside their sisters,” said Barstow. There are 10 to 15 calves born a month, and for beef, only the strongest bull calves are kept.
Bull calves are neutered by the vet at four or five months. “They think they’re girls. Because they are together, they are more sustainably raised, not taking up any extra space or land.” They are kept with the dry cows awaiting birth of new calves in a separate barn, away from the milking cows and five Lely Astronaut A4 Robotic Milkers. The steers have access to the outdoor pasture for foraging after the age of 12 months and come in and out of the barn at will for the next year and a half.
“They eat what the girls are eating, entirely from the land that we farm. [It’s] a mix of corn, hay, alfalfa, and clovers, with additional grain,” of a soy blend. Therefore, the beef contains a higher fat content than solely grassfed beef, allowing for superior taste and grilling capacity.
“My father’s rule on the farm is to check each animal at least twice a day,” said Barstow. The cows and steers are checked even more than that as they live alongside the store and family’s home.
The steers are processed on a schedule and by demand. “We just ran out of ground beef. With winter coming, people want a bunch of roasts,” a popular choice for Christmas and holiday time.
The farm has a naming contest each month for the new dairy calves. “We’ve always named our cows…The store gave us an opportunity to go public,” said Barstow. She gets to choose the winner, who gets a free ice cream cone and a feeling of connection to the farm. “That’s why they care about us [and] they care about what we’re doing. That’s how New England dairies are going to keep themselves alive,” she said. Meanwhile, they are in a unique position to represent both dairy and beef farmers.
Barstow is committed to teaching others about farming and shares the farm life by giving farm tours, for a small fee, to school groups, college groups and people who want to get out of the office. “It’s important to be an educational resource for your community.” The farm has been designated local farm hero status.
Visitors learn about the Farm Powered Trademark Anaerobic Digester that was installed in 2013. So many area food producers with food waste signed up to bring waste to the digester that it forced a waiting list. The digester burns 14,000 tons of food waste annually along with manure to produce methane gas that powers a 300-kWh engine. This produces electricity for the farm, and, in the process, burns enough heat to heat the digester, the hot water in the barn and supply three homes with forced hot water. Barstow’s home is already heated by the heat produced from the engine.
There was such a call for it that they have installed a second engine, with 500-kWh capacity. They are in the process of putting in the final piping before the ground freezes. It will produce heat for the “Barstow’s and two other neighbors, who put up with the farm noise and farm odors. These guys will have free heat,” said Barstow. “Our neighbors across Route 47 have the option for paying for piping.”
The Barstow family has owned the land since 1806. “We’ve been here for 211 years. It’s really nice to be part of that [and] striving to be here for another 211 years. My intention is to stay right here in this beautiful place. I like that mentality,” said Barstow.