STORRS, Conn. — Looking for cows at Brush Hill Farm? Look no further than the pasture. Other than a few hours a day when the cows are being milked in the barn, they enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and lush greens.
The herd spends their days — and nights – outside, from the moment the grass sprouts in April to the beginning of November, when winter starts to take hold.
The dairy farm in the small town of Bozrah isn’t the biggest dairy farm in the state, but this year, it’s been named Connecticut’s Dairy Farm of the Year, the 2017 Green Pasture Award winner.
The Green Pasture Award is given every year to one outstanding dairy farm in each of the New England states, with winners evaluated on production records; herd, pasture, and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying.
Sarah and her husband, Texas Moon, oversee 35 Holsteins on about 160 acres. The farm’s been in the Brush family since the late 1800s, but while Sarah’s great-grandparents milked Jerseys, her grandfather and father rented the fields to local farmers for haying. Her dad had pigs, with little interest in cows, but Sarah and her husband used to raise heifers on the farm and sell them, then repeat the process.
Finally, in the early 90s, she and Texas rented the farm from her dad. They converted his pig barn to a freestall barn for their cows, started milking and haven’t looked back since.
Their three children were all involved in 4-H, and since this is a family operation, they help out when they can. The oldest, April, earned a degree in agricultural economics and worked on the farm until two years ago. Recent high school graduate Dixie loves being on the farm, says her mother, and is an award-winning member of the National FFA Association, while son Levi, 15, likes tinkering with tractors and other machinery.
Family is the focus of life on the farm, says Sarah, who admits dairying isn’t an easy way to make a living. “But it’s what we want to do,” she explains. “This is our comfort zone, our passion. My mom lives with us here on the farm, and though she’s never been a farmer, she’s part of the farm.”
The Green Pasture Award came as a welcome surprise. “It’s a huge honor to be nominated by our peers,” says Sarah, “and it shows that there is definitely still a place for small ‘ag’ in this country. Small or big – there’s room for all.”
Being a small operation, Brush Hill Dairy relies on community support as a key to success, whether it’s loyal customers showing up to browse the small farm store or the members of Brush Hill’s CSA garden. She and Texas are also gratified by assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which has provided financial and other support to help establish the farm’s intensive rotational grazing program, as well as grants for other improvements. “We’re as sustainable as we can possibly be,” says Sarah, and that includes being mindful of the farm’s environmental impact.
But back to those ever-grazing cows. Think they mind being outside in all kinds of weather? As Sarah explains with a laugh, “In the spring, they’re ready to go out, and in November, they’re ready to come back in!”
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