No visit to the charming seaside farming town of Westport would be complete without a stop at Pine Hill Dairy. Situated on a mostly-wooded 70-acre parcel, it is Westport’s first licensed raw milk dairy. The Ferry family, local dairy farmers for nearly four generations, purchased the property in the mid 80s, leasing it until the infrastructure on the farm fell into disrepair. The senior Mr. Ferry then put the property into hay production. In 2011, his son Andrew took a leap of faith: he asked his father to allow him to restore the dairy farm, manage a herd of his own, and operate a raw milk dairy.
The response? “He supported me a hundred percent,” says Andrew. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without him. I learned so much from him. We grow the feed together, mix the feed ingredients together; I help him and he helps me. I have watched how hard he has worked all my life, long days, every day, year round and the profits just go down year after year. I want to do it another way.”
No stranger to hard work or long days himself, Andrew starts before sunrise. Mornings begin around 5:00 am with cleaning. “I feel like I am ALWAYS cleaning!” jokes Andrew. “You can’t imagine how much cleaning I do every day.” He shakes his head and chuckles. Once the barn is cleaned and the parlor is readied, “the girls” are brought in for their morning milking. Andrew manages a mixed herd of 45 cows. “Swiss are my favorite,” says Andrew. “They are so docile and friendly. They can be stubborn though, kinda like a really big dog,” he adds. After the morning milking there’s more cleaning, feeding, and the never-ending list of projects that require attention.
Providing a comfortable life for his cows is the first step in delivering a safe and delicious product to his customers. Andrew has his milk tested three times more often than is required by the state for a license to sell unpasteurized milk to the public. Andrew’s most recent investment in the farm was to purchase equipment that will allow him to test the milk in house, before every bottling. “Ultimately,” Andrew says, “the only way to produce a clean, consistently good milk is to be here every day. It’s more than just a job, it’s my life.”
Building community is what motivated Andrew to choose a raw milk dairy as his business model, and community is what made his plan a reality. Andrew credits a very supportive farming community and lots of willing helping hands with making his dream come true. Andrew bottles his milk to order, along with a little extra which he keeps on hand at the self-serve farm stand. He sells excess milk to the Dairy Farmers of America co-op to minimize waste and sustain himself while he grows his raw milk market. Andrew recommends calling ahead to arrange for your milk to be bottled to order.
Pine Hill Dairy
272 Pine Hill Road
Westport, MA 02790
Kate Levin is an artistic, sarcastic, curious, concerned, introspective extrovert working as a photographer/writer/marketer and living on the endlessly beautiful Southcoast of Massachusetts with her partner, their nine-year-old vegetarian taxidermy enthusiast, and a Bernese Mountain Dog who thinks he’s a cat.
Photos: Kate Levin ©2014