As New England Dairy celebrates 100 years, we are looking back at how the agricultural landscape in New England has evolved.
The Williams family of Belden Farmstand located in Hatfield, MA recently shared stories on our Instagram about what life is like on their farm in 2020. A lot has changed over the past 100 years on the farm when it comes to innovation and technology, but family values and passion remain the same. The Williams family has been cultivating the land and caring for animals since 1661, across 13 generations of farmers.
Today, the family is committed to continuing their legacy of stewardship and sustainability. “Our lives are dedicated to what’s in the best interest of our world, especially this small piece of it that we are entrusted to care for,” shares Lucinda Williams.
Keeping up with technological advancements has always been part of life on the farm. In 1909, the Williams family had a booming onion business and built a state-of-the-art onion storage facility. At the time, this was such a big deal that the mayor of Northampton, Calvin Coolidge, came and dedicated the facility.
While the Williams family still grows onions in their garden, they now have a full-time dairy farm with over 300 cows. In 2017 they installed robotic milkers, a voluntary milking system that allows the cows to be milked on their own schedules. Transitioning to a robotic milking system has enabled the family to work more efficiently by freeing up the time they previously spent milking their cows. “We still wake up at the crack of dawn every day, but now we can focus on other chores,” Darryl Williams shares. On the farm they also have an anaerobic digester that turns liquid manure and food waste into electricity for the robotic barn. The energy that they don’t use on the farm goes onto the town’s electrical grid.
The Williams family’s commitment to the well-being of their cows remains the same year after year. “If you do good to them, they do good to you.” For Lucinda, mornings in the barn are a time for reflection and gratitude. “Cleaning the stalls, smell of fresh sawdust, cows lying on their water beds chewing their cud, the sound of their hooves…it’s so quiet and peaceful. In those moments it feels so good to contribute to something that is meaningful – making a product that we believe in that’s nutritious and delicious. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to do that.”
Darryl grew up on the farm with his family and shares that family values have always been an important guiding principle. “Growing up on the farm with my siblings I remember going out to collecting hay bales. Loading and unloading them into the wagon is hot, dusty, miserable work, but what I remember is the laughter and that we did it together,” he shares. Today, Darryl and Lucinda treasure the time on the farm when they can be all together with their kids and grandkids.
As Belden Farmstand looks to the future, they remember that they wouldn’t be here without their ancestors. “Farmers are the first environmentalists. If they hadn’t been doing the right thing 100 years ago, we wouldn’t be here today,” says Lucinda. Remaining dedicated to sustainability and innovation means that the farm will exist for generations to come.