Tuesday, January 19, 2010

We're Losing Our Dairy Farms

Dairy farms are going out of business all across our state.
In Wallingford this shows how development is taking over the land where dairy farms and orchards once thrived. Barns fall down from neglect or they are bulldozed for subdivisions and industrial uses.
Like many others, this farm in Coventry has lost the signs of activity (from tractors and tools to the cows themselves) that accompany the working farm.

In Willington, the Mihaliaks' farm has just given up its dairy business.

In a more hopeful sign, this Orange farm has lost its dairy herd - here is the empty ground floor stable barn (converted use of an older English barn) with the old stanchions -

but a new generation of the Treat Family has resumed farming, growing vegetables and Christmas trees.

And efforts are under way to keep dairy a part of our landscape and diet - groups like ctmilk.org and the Working Lands Alliance are working to keep dairy farming viable, preserve farmland, and promote local food.

Photo credits: Willington, M. Lacy; Others, C. Hitchcock

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dairy Farmers (and Cows) at Work

Even as we mourn the loss of a barn in Cornwall last week, let's salute the active dairy farms across our state. These are the folks who are holding out against the odds - through the freezing months they continue their work to provide us with our holiday eggnog, our melted cheese sandwiches, and so much more.

Here's a small sample of dairy barns and their residents.

This farm in Pomfret illustrates the progressive farm of the mid-2oth century, when stable barns with gambrel hay lofts were constructed from pre-fabricated kits, and the free-stall pole barn began to be the preferred home for the herd.

In Wallingford, the traditional farmhouse and English bank barn at the Co-Ag Farm looks like the postcard view of scenic New England,

but on the other side, here's the extensive modern farm with its pole barns.

The Knowltons have been farming this land in Ashford for generations.

One of their barns blew away in the great hurricane of 1938, but this unusual New England high drive barn, over a century old, has been jacked up onto a new foundation and continues to store hay while the heifers grow up nearby.

Photographs by: James Sexton, Charlotte Hitchcock

Thursday, January 7, 2010

MY BARN by Dean Hughes

Look there!
It stands today
As strong as six-score memories years ago;
A big barn built to hold fat crops in its massive mows,
As provender to last the long rows of sleek cows,
In the stables underneath,
The long dark winter through.
Examine, if you will,
These giant plates and beams,
These stalwart loins and limbs and thighs.
Each one was once upon a splendid time
A giant pine
Singing a hundred feet towards the skies,
Then topped to sixty feet of needed length,
Hewed from the round to fourteen inches square.
See there!
The marks of hewing axe and adze,
Swung straight and true.
Read there the tale
Of toil and sweat and a fine pride
In shaping these great timbers.
Stand with me
A wondrous moment.
In that crafted tree
Is history enough of old great-grandsire times
A century ago and more.
Those sheathing boards,
Those tenons, mortices and dowels,
Those thews and sinews,
Those mitres beveled true,
Fitted in tight embrace to fight the winds
And the strong side-thrust of the sheaves and hay.
There stands my barn!
Monument to the past!
Feast for the present!
Song for the future!

Arthur, Eric, and Dudley Witney. The Barn: A Vanishing Landmark in North America. Canada: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1972. Print.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Historic barn leveled by fire

CORNWALL — In a tragic prelude to New Year’s Day, an historic three-story barn in a picturesque section of Cornwall was leveled by a fire on Thursday.

At 7:57 a.m. a call was dispatched to 256 Town St. for reports of a barn fire on a dairy farm. A few farm workers who were tending the property saw the fire that reportedly began in the left front part of the building, said Gordon Ridgway, first selectman and volunteer firefighter. The witnesses then alerted authorities.