Sylvie and Segolene tell good jokes.
Welcome to Sidehill Farm – our small dairy farm nestled on the eastern slopes of the Berkshire Hills. We sell yogurt and raw milk from our own grass-fed cows, and our farm shop is stocked with our own grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and other delicious farm-made dairy treats!
We have a wriggling horde of adorable calves in the barn right now! Come on up and visit Kate Middleton, Loretta Lynn, Cream Puff, Mildred, Hashbrown, Flash, Pippin, Gaspar, and Baby Spice - they've been practicing their rodeo show for you! Or check out their photos on Facebook!
Our farm shop is now open year-round! Stop by any day of the week from 7am to 9pm. We're stocked with our own delicious raw milk, yogurt, grass-fed beef, Hawley blue cheese, and paneer; and a yummy selection of farm products produced by our friends: cheeses and eggs from Cricket Creek Farm, Italian Grace cheese from Chase Hill Farm, feta cheese from Sangha Farm, granola from Bola Granola and El Jardin Bakery, pickles and sauerkraut from Real Pickles and Hosta Hill, and ICE CREAM! from Bart's! Click here for Directions!
We didn't start out as farmers — we started out as good eaters. Juicy heirloom tomatoes, fresh salad greens, spicy basil, sweet and crunchy carrots — these are the vegetables that first lured us into gardening. It was a big garden, and a few fruit trees and raspberry canes - enough for us and some friends. We were producing nearly all our own food, with one glaring exception. Yogurt. We were eating nearly four quarts of yogurt a week, and the grocery bill was adding up. So we did what any sensible consumer would do in that situation. We bought three dairy cows.
Today, Sidehill Farm has grown into 225 acres of certified organic pastures, hayfields, and woodlands, and a herd of nearly 80 grass-fed Normande and Jersey cows that produce delicious yogurt, raw milk, and grass-fed beef. Our cows graze certified organic pastures in the spring, summer, and fall, and eat certified organic hay and baleage in the winter.
Farming on this small scale permits us to focus on health — not just of our customers and cows, but of our soils, our crops, the local working rural landscape, and the robust biological and human community within which we all thrive. It also allows us to build good relationships with our customers, many of whom we know by name from farmers' markets and visits to the farm. We like to think that explains why we have been blessed with sweet stories of kids hugging jugs of their favorite milk, parents proudly showing off babies they claim must be made of at least 75% Sidehill Farm yogurt, and anonymous handwritten notes thanking us for the opportunity to not only eat local and organic, but more deliciously than they had ever imagined.
Garlic and scallions are the first crops up in the spring.
The sound of munching fills the air
Winter hoop houses double as summer bean trellises.
Ah, the Mediterranean climate of Ashfield…
A farm, by definition, is a departure from nature — it is land taken from its wild state and turned to human ends. But it is possible for a farm to learn from natural systems, to work with mother nature and integrate her patterns. This is the soul of organic agriculture; it is also a practical way to produce high quality food while building soil and conserving the habitat and biodiversity that come with well-managed open land. No farm will ever approach the ecological sophistication of nature, because the balance of activity is focused on the needs of our one species. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take good care — and a little better care every year, as we learn, and learn. This is organics at its best — good stewardship of the various communities that overlap to create a farm.
At Sidehill Farm, we are constantly improving our systems, so that they flow more directly from the examples we see in nature. We resist quick fixes like antibiotics and organically approved pesticides that ameliorate short-term problems while hiding or creating deeper issues. We select for plants and animals that balance productivity with ruggedness and adaptability. We work with and foster the various microclimates found on our farm. We are mildly obsessed with soil and the density of life within it. We select and develop technologies that respect natural systems and use energy efficiently. And we are amazed at how much better we can always do, how much we have to learn.
The grass is always greener…
For a long time, we joked that we would never certify the food we produce because the National Organic Program isn‘t strict enough to acknowledge how we farm. More seriously, we believe that farming organically is a management decision; but certifying organic is a marketing decision. We are blessed with local customers who enjoy our food and know us by name and face. They know they are welcome to stop by the farm anytime, and observe our management practices. They have given us one of the most precious things a farm can earn from it‘s customers: their trust.
But now that we have grown, and sell our yogurt all over the state of Massachusetts, we find that we have no longer met most of our customers face-to-face. Food labeling is confusing and complicated, and it is hard to know what to believe, and who to trust. For that reason, all of the land that we manage for the dairy is certified organic. Everything that the cows eat is certified organic - meaning they graze exclusively on organic pastures during the growing season, and eat certified organic hay and baleage (those giant marshmallow bales) in the winter. We also feed a small amount of organic grain as a treat at milking time. If a cow has health issues, she is treated with herbal and homeopathic remedies, and a lot of TLC, and we find the girls respond best to those treatments.
We are currently working to certify all of our products as organic. We have begun the official year of transition for our raw milk and grass fed beef, and look forward to their certification sometime in 2014. Following that, we will look to certify the yogurt, so look for that USDA organic seal coming sometime in the future! Learn more about our dairy.