State, local officials kick off Dairy Month at Leyden farm

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-31-2023 6:40 PM

LEYDEN — The Facey family had about 30 guests over for milk and cookies on Wednesday afternoon. How else would you want to usher in National Dairy Month?

Warren, Randy and Angie Facey, who own and operate Bree-Z-Knoll Farm on North County Road, welcomed friends and state officials to their small family business to mingle, see the new processing plant and visit with the cows in the barn. Angie, who is Randy’s wife and Warren’s daughter-in-law, detailed the milk-processing operation as small groups of visitors took turns watching employees at work through a window before a quick stop in the cow barn.

“We’re really proud of our creamery, and to show it off to everybody and our lovely ladies makes us really proud,” she said, referring to her farm’s 120 dairy cows.

The plant began bottling its own milk on April 5, and products were shipped out to stores the following day. The creamery allows Bree-Z-Knoll Farm and Gould Maple Farm in Shelburne — the two remaining members of the Our Family Farms dairy cooperative — to produce quarts and pints of milk as well as heavy cream and half-and-half.

Construction on the farm’s 4,500-square-foot processing plant started in November 2021 but completion was significantly delayed due to cost overruns, unexpectedly shifting processors mid-construction and supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. A former maternity barn, the creamery was largely financed by $1 million awarded to Bree-Z-Knoll Farm through a state Food Security Infrastructure Grant. However, the Faceys took out a loan when the project went $800,000 over budget.

South Deerfield native Ashley Randle, who recently became commissioner of the state Department of Agricultural Resources, was on hand to visit the farm and present the Faceys with a proclamation signed by Gov. Maura Healey designating June as Massachusetts Dairy Month.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see this come to fruition, the plant,” Randle said before presenting the proclamation. “I have visited the farm before but it’s incredibly exciting to see this project specifically because it does allow the farm to take control of their income stream and the price they receive for their product. And we’re also seeing a lot of farms go this route, with diversification and value-added production because the costs of production are typically exceeding what they’re receiving for their milk.

“We have about 108 dairy farms across the state, and certainly western Mass. is a really vibrant community for our dairy farms,” she added. “We’re also very fortunate [to have] a consumer base that supports and appreciates local.”

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Randle, who grew up on Indian Acres, her family’s fifth-generation farm in South Deerfield, explained Dairy Month is a state and national event to celebrate a rich history of dairy farming and the nutritious products it generates. She said there were at least 800 dairy farms in the state as recently as the 1980s. Costs of labor and production have put many of these farms out of business.

“So June Dairy Month is a way to draw attention to the dairy industry, the contributions that dairy farmers make, as they really are stewards of the land as well, and preserving and farming so much open land and ensuring that it remains in agriculture,” she said. “The dairy farmers do have our largest land base in terms of agricultural sectors, and so, it’s an opportunity for them to be environmental stewards of the land as well as local employers.”

Before presenting the Faceys with the governor’s proclamation, which was also signed by Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll and Secretary of State William Galvin, Randle mentioned Angie was once her 4-H Quiz Bowl coach. In reading the proclamation aloud, Randle said dairy farming maintains 49,744 acres of open space and contributes roughly $45 million to the state economy each year. The proclamation also states Massachusetts dairy farmers produce roughly 188 million pounds of fresh milk each year to make cheese, yogurt, ice cream and butter.

Also in attendance was Rebecca Busansky, who last month left the Franklin County Community Development Corporation for Berkshire Agricultural Ventures. She worked closely with the Faceys to help secure the funding for the new creamery.

“Isn’t it mind-boggling?” she said standing outside the 4,500-square-foot facility. “It’s been a long journey but it’s really, really worth it.”

Guests were invited to help themselves to plastic pints of whole milk to wash down the baked treats inside the creamery. There was also a carton of vanilla ice cream that Townline Ice Cream in Bernardston made using milk and cream from Bree-Z-Knoll Farm.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.

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