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2015 Massachusetts Outstanding Dairy Farm

Side Hill Farm
Paul Lacinski and Amy Klippenstein
58 Forget Rd, Hawley, MA 01339

Sidehill Farm is a small, family-run dairy producing fresh, delicious yogurt, sour cream, and raw milk from the milk of their grass-fed cows. Sidehill’s Normande and Jersey cows graze and kick up their heels on a little piece of big sky country right at the top of the Berkshire Hills – 225 acres of rolling ridgetop and waving grass at 1830 feet of elevation, under the watchful gaze of Mount Monadnock.

Unlike most dairy farmers, Paul Lacinski and Amy Klippenstein didn't take over a family operation from previous generations; they started a brand new dairy from scratch. Their entry into farming in 2000 was through vegetables — juicy heirloom tomatoes, fresh salad greens, spicy basil, sweet and crunchy carrots - sold to restaurants and through local farmers markets. Amy and Paul were producing nearly all their own food, with one glaring exception. Yogurt. They were eating four quarts of yogurt a week, and the grocery bill was adding up. So they did what any sensible consumer would do in that situation. They bought three dairy cows. And so, with lots of trial and error, and lots of help and patient advice from many experienced valley dairy farmers, Sidehill Farm began producing milk.

For six years, Amy and Paul and a growing number of cows leased farmland from as many as 14 different landowners, milking in a parlor with state-of-the-art 1950s technology, making yogurt in a creamery the size of most people’s guest bathroom, thawing frozen outdoor water lines, and cutting hay around every wet hole, rock, and tree stump in the town of Ashfield. But the local food movement was growing, and customers were excited to be able to buy local yogurt and raw milk. Soon, Sidehill Farm outgrew its leased facilities, and Amy and Paul started looking for a farm of their own. After four years of searching, they met Ivan Donovan, of Donovan's Organic Potatoes, in Hawley. Ivy always rotated his potato crops with hay, to reduce erosion, and help rebuild fertility. As he moved closer to retirement, fewer and fewer acres were tilled for potatoes each year, and more land went into hay.  By the time Amy and Paul took over the farm in 2012, only 4 acres were still in potatoes, and the vast majority of the acreage had been returned to grass, making it a perfect farm to convert to a grass-based dairy.

Today, Sidehill Farm has grown into 225 acres of certified organic pastures and hayfields, woodlands, and big sky, with a herd of 80 grass-fed Normande and Jersey cows. Their cows eat certified organic pasture in the spring, summer, and fall; organic hay and baleage in winter, and a few of pounds of organic grain at milking time. The creamery produces 1500 gallons of Sidehill Farm Yogurt per week, and the yogurt can be found in stores all over Massachusetts. The farm shop sells raw milk, sour cream, yogurt, grass-fed beef, and pastured pork, all produced on the farm; as well as cheeses, pickles, ice cream, and eggs from other local farms.

Farming on this small scale permits Sidehill to focus on health — not just of their customers and cows, but of their soils, their crops, the local working rural landscape, and the robust biological and human community within which we all thrive. It also allows the farm to build good relationships with their customers, many of whom Amy and Paul know by name from farmers' markets and visits to the farm. They like to think that explains why they have been blessed with sweet stories of kids hugging jugs of their favorite milk, parents proudly showing off babies they claim must consist of at least 75% Sidehill Farm Yogurt, and anonymous handwritten notes left in the farm shop, thanking them for the opportunity to eat not only local and organic, but more deliciously than they ever imagined.