Last dairy farm in Buckland honored with Green Pasture Award

  • Melissa Griffin of Clessons River Farm in Buckland with one of her cows. The farm received the 2022 Green Pasture Award from New England Dairy. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Melissa Griffin of Clessons River Farm in Buckland with some of her cows. The farm received the 2022 Green Pasture Award from New England Dairy, a Boston-based nonprofit. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Clessons River Farm at 253 Ashfield Road (Route 112) in Buckland. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • At Clessons River Farm in Buckland, Judy Willis, state Rep. Natalie Blais, Adam Griffin and state Sen. Adam Hinds view the robotic milking machine during a tour in April. The farm recently won the Green Pasture Award due to its electronic innovation that increases the business’ efficiency. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/16/2022 12:34:26 AM
Modified: 9/16/2022 12:30:32 AM

BUCKLAND — New England Dairy, a Boston-based nonprofit, has shone a spotlight on a local dairy farm as the recipient of its 2022 Green Pasture Award: Clessons River Farm, the last operational dairy farm in Buckland.

The award is given every year to one outstanding dairy farm in each of the New England states. Winners are evaluated on production records, environmental practices, contributions to agriculture and the local community, and overall excellence in dairying. 

“It’s a big honor,” farmer Melissa Griffin said of the win.

The farm, at 253 Ashfield Road, won the recognition due to its electronic innovation that increases the business’ efficiency. In 2020, the farm installed a robotic milking system made by Dutch company Lely. The sophisticated milking machine has a screen that includes each cow’s health and milk quality information, as well as the quantity of milk being produced and how much will likely be produced in a milking session.

It also measures the milk’s fats and proteins, and dispenses grain pellets to meet each cow’s specific nutritional needs.

“The robot gives the cows the freedom to do what they want,” Griffin explained. Before the machine, there were set times Griffin and her family would milk the cows. Now, the cows are trained to visit the “Lely Astronaut” two to three times a day. This machine has increased production from about 65 pounds of milk per cow to 86 pounds.

The farm is part of the Agri-Mark co-op, which uses the milk for Cabot products. Griffin explained being part of the co-op makes the business easier because they do not need to worry about processing and marketing their products.

While many farms are adding robots to cope with a lack of laborers, Clessons River Farm uses the robots to free up time for other tasks.

Griffin said the farm recently installed flexible stalls, increasing comfort for the cows. Additionally, they are in the process of adding an electronic manure collector. Without this machine, the workers clean the barn twice daily.

“The machine is like a giant Roomba,” Griffin said.

The owners of Clessons River Farm use manure from the cows to fertilize the fields where they grow corn and hay, which in turn gets directly fed to the cows on the farm.

“All the waste goes back to the cows,” Griffin said.

The farm is also working with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service to build a septic-like system for wastewater from the milk production. The water that is used to wash the milking robot is placed in a separate system, keeping it away from local rivers and streams.

This fifth-generation farm is completely family-run, with no employees. There are 52 cows on the farm, with most being Holsteins along with a few Brown Swiss. Griffin’s parents, Paul and Judy Willis, still work on the farm, but Griffin is taking increasing ownership of the business.

“I would hate for us to not still be here farming,” Griffin said. She explained having the last dairy farm in Buckland right on Route 112 makes the farm a recognizable and beloved landmark to locals.

Griffin, who received a master’s degree in trumpet performance before she went to work on the family farm, has also been known to play music for her cows. There is a YouTube video that has more than a million views of her playing trumpet for the cows.

“It’s more of a lifestyle than a job,” Griffin said. “I’m on call 24 hours a day tending to the cows.”

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.


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