Bees and beef at Holly Berry Farm

by Laura Rodley

Customers can buy honey and USDA grade beef from steers raised by Holly Kellogg, owner of Holly Berry Farm, at her farm and local venues in the Pioneer Valley and hilltowns of western Massachusetts. Kellogg also sells eggs from 30 mixed breed chickens. Her products can even be home-delivered.

Melissa Krueger, owner of Elbow Room Coffee in Williamsburg, incorporates Holly Berry Farm honey into a sauce she pours over burritos made with Holly Berry Farm beef at her store, and sells jars of her honey. Kellogg currently owns a mixed herd of 10 Belted Galloways and black and red Angus.

She grew up in the house across the street from where she lives now in Chesterfield, MA. Her father, Walter Kellogg, bought property on both sides of the street in the 1950s. He built the house where he lived with his wife Bonnie Mae Kellogg, who still lives there, age 81, providing a continuous source of inspiration to Kellogg.

As a wedding gift, her father gave her 10 acres. At the time, Kellogg’s brother was also gifted a piece of land. Walter passed away in 2013, but he was able to see her begin homesteading her property. “The barn went up in 2008. We slowly added electricity and water,” said Kellogg. She and her now ex-husband purchased their first cows in 2008 but did not become established as a farm and start selling beef until 2017 under the name Fuller Farm. They raised registered Belted Galloways, choosing them because they are a polled breed, stockier with lower legs than some other breeds, and can withstand a harder winter.

In 2019, she faced her own hard winter, when she went through a divorce, and her husband wished to sell the farm. Kellogg said, “My friends are surprised when I say ‘I had to buy the farm,’ but it was a good thing” – not connoting what the phrase is more often used for.

Bees and beef at Holly Berry Farm

Owner Holly Kellogg with new dam Marble her calf Allisson at Holly Berry Farm. Photo by Laura Rodley

Kellogg worked 84 hours a week to raise the money. She worked a 40-hour week as a bank manager, in the evenings as a bartender and nights at different catering jobs – plus fed her animals. “I was frantic to save the farm; crying wouldn’t save it. My father kept this land through all those years, went through a lot holding onto this land. I had to save it,” she said. “It was either sink or swim and I swam.”

She’s been able to reduce her workload to a 40-hour week as project manager and farm full-time and is still too busy to put up her new farm sign.

In 2020 she made changes to her herd. Her herd was getting old. “First I had a bull to try to impregnate them. The girls didn’t take.” She tried AI and still it didn’t take. So, she bought some black Angus and red Angus, resulting in the current mixed breed herd. She sells 4,800 pounds of USDA grade beef, 480 dozen eggs and 480 pounds of honey a year.

The most hives she has owned is 17. This year just one hive is left due to winter kill, probably due to the abrupt changes of weather. When checking the hives, she found no evidence of Varroa mites.

She has several mentors. “Dan Connolly and Bonita of Warm Color Apiaries (in Conway) are excellent, always willing to help. I started with them. Another is Sue Godard of Mineral Hills Winery at Red Hen Farm in Florence.

Kellogg had been working with her bees for two years, wearing a bee jacket and gloves, when she was stung across her legs three times. “I started to have trouble breathing; it hurt. With bees, you have to move slowly, so I made it through, put the frame back. In the house, I instantly took Benadryl,” she said. However, an emergency room visit revealed she had an allergy to bee venom.

She found an allergist in Northampton and went through a series of shots to desensitize her allergy. “Now I can keep the bees. I decided to do this because I had done so much work with the bees,” she said. Godard harvested her honey for her while she built up her resistance. Kellogg takes precautions, purchased a better bee suit and now keeps an EpiPen on hand.

Due to her allergy, she does her extracting in an enclosed space so that no bees will come searching for the honey as it’s extracted. She lights a fire in her fireplace to heat up the honey and allow it to run into the waiting honey jars. She has heard feedback that her raw honey helps people with their own allergies to pollen.

“Life has come full circle. I have a new man in my life with two wonderful boys that love the farm and help me,” she said, referring to Mike Papillon and his two sons Cody and Liam. “I work hard to offer the highest quality products for my customers and community. I have about 30 customers I run deliveries to before work” in surrounding towns.

“I’ve created a lot of friendships along the way with different farm owners. We exchange products, like the old barter system. I’d like to give a shout-out to Josh Porter of Porter Family Farm in Ashfield,” she said. This March, she encountered her first difficult calving. Her cow Marble was three hours into labor when the unbroken birth sac began emerging and she called Porter. “He said I could try it on my own or he could come up after his chores, which he was just finishing.” She asked him to come up; he did. He said the cow would have been fine but this way she wasn’t tired and the calf wasn’t tired. She named the calf Allisson, with two Ls like her own name, Holly, and because the calf is on Kellogg land, which she has kept in the family.

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