Narrowing the gap: Stillman Quality Meats and the Turkey Farm

Young turkeys at Stillman Quality Meats, Hardwick. Photo: Cathy Stanton
Young turkeys at Stillman Quality Meats, Hardwick. Photo: Cathy Stanton.

On a humid July day, the barn at the first of Kate Stillman’s two farmsteads in Hardwick is filled with cheeping. Dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of young turkeys occupy one side of the nineteenth-century structure, their pink faces wearing the perplexed look that young turkeys always seem to have. Their short lives will end a few months later at a second farm in the southern part of town, where Kate has recently added a poultry abatoir that gives her greater control over the growing meat business she started ten years ago.

The presence of the turkeys links Stillman Quality Meats with the past of this particular farm at the corner of Thresher and Jackson Roads. But it also represents an interesting moment in the longer history of agriculture in central Massachusetts. Continue reading Narrowing the gap: Stillman Quality Meats and the Turkey Farm

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Slaughterhouse with a view: Adams Farm, Athol

Adams Farm, August 2015. Photo: Cathy Stanton
Adams Farm, August 2015. Photo: Cathy Stanton

There were five local slaughterhouses in Athol when Beverly and Lewis Adams began to sell packaged meat as part of a transition away from the increasingly unprofitable business of dairying. Lewis slaughtered the cows and pigs they raised on their Bearsden Road farm, an Italian butcher from Donelan’s market in Orange did the cutting, and Beverly packaged the meat for her husband to sell around town. The business grew, and after Lewis died suddenly in 1973, Beverly kept it going as a way to support her five children.

She was also continuing a trust from her mother-in-law, Hester (Comerford) Adams. Continue reading Slaughterhouse with a view: Adams Farm, Athol

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Deindustrial dairy: Chase Hill Farm, Warwick

chase-hill-blue-sky
Chase Hill Farm, July 2015. Photo: Cathy Stanton.

Chase Hill Farm in Warwick feels like one of the most peaceful places on earth. It’s on one of those roads where you look twice when a car happens to drive by. There’s a view of Mount Monadnock across the fields to the northeast. Brown and white cows are usually to be seen grazing on one of the hillsides. A mysterious little doorway—the entrance to the cheese cave, it turns out—leads into the side of a hill. The only disruption is from the sheepdog who comes to meet you, but when Mark Fellows appears in response to her barking, he simply advises, “The best way to get her to stop is just to ignore her.”

The calm is partly a reflection of the farm’s location. But it’s also something that has been achieved gradually over the three decades since Mark and his wife Jeannette took over his parents’ business. Slowly and thoughtfully, they’ve been disentangling what was once a conventional commercial dairy from the surprisingly complex processes that have made cow’s milk one of the most fully industrialized of food products. At the same time, they’re part of a new partnership between farmers and land conservationists, a relationship that was by no means always amicable. Continue reading Deindustrial dairy: Chase Hill Farm, Warwick

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