Davenport Farm shift marks new chapter in generations-long role in county

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Here are some brief thoughts on some of the events making news from around Franklin County and the North Quabbin area:

The sad news is that the slow demise of dairy farming in Franklin County continues, but the good news is that many of our milk producers are finding other ways to replace or supplement their dairy herds.

The latest example is the 365-acre Davenport Farm in Shelburne, which had cows grazing there when the first Davenports bought the property in 1913. In the 1960s, Massachusetts had 1,400 dairy farms. Now it’s about a tenth that.

Making milk has become an uncertain proposition for many small New England farmers, and so the Normande herd of dairy cows is to be sold to make room for animals that will be raised for grass-fed beef and pork. The Davenport Farm will turn to Devon cows and purebred calves for meat production and American guinea hogs and a breed of Berkshire hogs. They also will continue maple production and their restaurant.

We wish them the best in their new venture.

Buckle up

The owners of the Brass Buckle are calling it quits at 204 Main St. in Greenfield. JD Hairston and Anika Balaconis have decided it’s time to try new ventures, after their loyal fans guilted them into operating a year longer than they had intended.

In September 2016, they put the business on the market in hopes of pursuing a new challenge, but changed their minds the following January after receiving an overwhelming response from the community.

Now, Hairston and Balaconis have announced that the Brass Buckle will open and close its doors for the last time on Feb. 1, to the chagrin of faithful fans of the popular downtown eatery.

The couple has owned the restaurant since 2012. The Brass Buckle has served Southern and Tex-Mex comfort food with an emphasis on local ingredients, and has been a popular breakfast and lunch spot in Greenfield for the past six years.

While we are sorry to see Hairston and Balaconis moving on, we were happy to hear that already a new restaurant is in the works. Trail TOC on the Mohawk Trail in Shelburne plans to move in by mid-February.

Out front on recycling

Franklin County always seems to be out front in matters of recycling. And so it is when it comes to China’s new tougher policy on importing recycled material.

The new ban on an estimated 40,000 shipping containers a day from the United States filled with mixed recyclable plastic, paper and aluminum has already led to a backlog of recyclables at transfer facilities around the nation, but the state’s Materials Recycling Facility in Springfield — where Franklin County waste is shipped — sees no problem in nearly all its markets.

That’s because the oldest of the state’s eight MRFs requires strict separation of plastic and metal from paper, which many other recycling operations haven’t. So, Franklin County’s collection is likely to continue despite a new Chinese policy banning 24 types of solid waste, including various plastics and unsorted mixed papers. China has been receiving 55 percent of the world’s scrap paper and has been the destination for 40 percent of its plastic recycling, but now wants those materials separated and free of other trash.

Unlike the state’s seven other MRFs, the Springfield operation is a dual-stream facility, with mixed paper recycled separately from plastics and glass, explained Jan Ameen, executive director of the 22-town Franklin County Solid Waste Management District. Only 2 to 3 percent of the recycled material received by the facility, is contaminated with unacceptable trash or other waste, compared to contamination rates that she guessed are as high as 15 percent in other parts of the state.

From freezer to frying pan

After two consecutive weeks without liquid water outside, daytime temperatures finally rose above freezing late last week.

Greenfield spent the first eight days of the new year below normal, and the last six days of December below normal, according to the National Weather Service.

Then of course we have to deal with freaky Friday highs in the 50s before a messy weekend of precipitation.

What weather. What a winter so far. We can’t wait to see what deep winter will bring to New England.