Butterworks: An Organic Farm
I'm sure you've heard about lots of dairy farms in Westfield, but have you ever heard about Butterworks Farm? How it got its name was Jack and Anne Lazor, the people who own Butterworks, decided to call it Buckhill Butterworks because there was a "B" beginning each word. Then when they became bigger, they shortened it to Butterworks because not many people knew where Buckhill was. Back in the fall of 1979, Jack and Anne started Butterworks by delivering organic dairy products to 25 people that continued buying from them. Their farm has grown very successful over the years.
At first, Jack and Anne lived in Irasburg. They made their first products in their house, and their small barn was connected to their house. In this house, Jack and Anne started out with one family cow. This cow started giving so much milk; they started raising calves to use up the milk by drinking it. But as you know, calves only drink their mothers milk for a couple of months, so after the calves stopped drinking the milk they didn't know what to do with the extra milk. They then decided it might be nice to start making organic dairy products, although they still let the calves drink all the milk they wanted. They learned to make organic products by trial and error, on a kitchen stove in Irasburg, and by a wonderful book called Making Your Own Cheese and Yogurt by Max Alth. A reason why they decided to make organic products was because Jack says that he and Anne once tried putting commercial fertilizer in the pastures, but they didn't like the way it worked at all. Once, one of Jack's brothers tried to give them commercial fertilizer, but they refused it because they knew how it worked, and didn't like it. Jack says, "it is important to farm organically because you need to think about the earth, and leave it better than you found it." Jack and Anne learned to farm organically by farmers they worked with, by trial and error, and some really good organic farming books they had. The first organic dairy products they started making were raw milk, cottage cheese, farmer's cheese, plain and maple yogurt, butter, and cheese curds. That's a lot to start with, don't you think? Next, they started knocking on peoples' doors and asking if they wanted any dairy products. By the time they had knocked on everyone's doors, 25 people continued buying from them. That was a good start considering that they knew nothing about farming because none of their parents or relatives were farmers!
Jack and Anne had one memorable experience during this time. In the beginning, they kept their cows in the barn connected to their house. They had to bring the milk up the road to deliver it to the people they had to deliver it to. Sometimes the snow was so deep that before bringing the milk up the trail in the sled, they had to just bring the sled up first to make a trail!
The next step to Jack and Anne's farming business was to buy a big farm, in Westfield, Vermont, so they could start making more quantities of the products they were making, and to start making some new products. So they moved from their small farm, and found a bigger farm. When they first started it, it must have been very dismal, because all you could see was 40 acres of bare land, 20 acres of forest, and no buildings. (They hadn't built their barn yet.) During this period of time, Jack and Anne had a couple of memorable experiences to share. In the winter one day, Anne had to go feed the chickens, but she couldn't because when she tried to go up the hill to feed them, it was so icy, and the wind was blowing as hard as the ocean waves, she couldn't! The poor chickens must have been hungry! Another year there was an ice storm, and when Jack and Anne tried to get up to the barn, they couldn't because of the wind and ice! As you can see their farming grew a big step since they moved to their bigger farm.
Over the 26 years Jack and Anne have been farming, their farm has grown a tremendous amount. There has been a great change in the products they make. They now make maple, lemon, vanilla, and plain (whole or nonfat) yogurt, heavy cream, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese; sunflower oil and whole wheat flour. They grow wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat; chicken and pig feed; black beans, kidney beans, Jacobs cattle beans, and soldier beans. Wow! That's a lot! You can buy these products at stores, even little ones, all over Vermont. You can also buy them right at their barn in Westfield on Buck Hill Road. Jack and Anne got these delicious products into stores by giving the storekeepers free samples of their food if they wanted it. Then Jack would sweet talk the storekeeper, tell them where it came from, and make them get interested in buying their products.
Jack says one reason they really succeed is because of their 11 excellent workers that he got by advertising for them in a Canadian magazine, Willing Works on Organic Farms (WWOOF). They also got them from the Farming Association, and apprentices they had. One reason I think Butterworks is successful is because of Jack and Anne's love for animals. They treat their animals very well, so they give good healthy milk to make dairy products with. They also have built a solar barn, so the cows could have more space. A solar barn is a big barn where the cows stay in the winter, and are free to roam wherever they like. Every couple of days they put new hay on top of the old hay and manure, and it builds up to make compost. Jack and Anne own 45 milking cows and 54 mature cows, 90-100 cows in all, for manure and mainly milk. You may wonder how they ended up with so many cows when they started out with one. Well, how that happened was they always raised the calves the mother cows birthed. One year they bought a lot of calves to raise, and another year they bought 6 cows. Jack always had visions of being a big dairy farmer. Eventually, through the 25 years they have been farming, they now have 90-100 cows. Jack and Anne also have 2 pet horses; 2 pigs for meat; 10 chickens and 1 rooster for eggs; rats, and mice (not that they want them). Jack and Anne say they love spending time with their animals because they have individual personalities, and don't talk back. They had a windmill built in 2003 so they could find benefit from all the wind they get. They use it for electricity. A windmill is a big stand with a 3-pointed wheel like thing that faces the way the wind is blowing. The stand of the Windmill is 75 feet tall. Each blade is 25 feet long, so the whole thing is 100 feet tall.
Jack and Anne also know what new machines they want to get, and what new products they want to make! They are going to get a bean planter, which plants the beans in 18-inch rows. They plan to get a Harrigator. A Harrigator is a spiked tooth harrow, or in other words a big piece of iron with spikes on it that you drive over the ground. It smoothes out the ground, and takes the grass and big weeds out too. You might think the grass would just grow again. After being exposed to the sun for so long, it dies. Jack says he wants to start making linseed oil. Don't you think working on a farm like this all the time would be hard? Well, for Jack and Anne it is only occasionally. When things go wrong, they get frustrated, and sometimes all they want to do is relax. Some difficulties they have are sometimes they have to get up in the middle of the night because a cow is sick, or a cow is having a baby. They think it is worth all this work to own a farm. They say it helps a lot to have good helpers. Do you think Jack and Anne would stop farming if they could? Well, no. They say it hasn't killed them yet, and the quality of life is excellent while owning a farm. I would think owning a farm would be very hard work, especially if you had to work 16 hours a day with a 2-3 hour lunch break!
In conclusion, I hope you can now see how successful Jack and Anne's farm is. Although farming may be hard at times, you can eat delicious food every day, and know where it came from. You know you learn from your mistakes, right? Well, as you know, after you make the mistakes, you never make them again, and what you are doing becomes more successful. Well, that is just what happened to Jack and Anne. I hope you have learned a lot about this great farm's history, and know more about a wonderful farm.