Not the Cushiest Job in the World
Cushman Farm, North Franklin
August 7, 2010
Cushman Farm is part of the wonderful Farmer’s Cow.
The Farmer’s Cow is a group of six Connecticut family dairy farms working for the future of our families and dairy businesses. They produce milk, half and half, eggs and seasonal beverages.
People visiting our farms would often ask, “Where can we buy your milk?” That’s when we realized that people were looking for local, naturally-produced products, instead of milk and other products from unknown origins. So we formed our own company and The Farmer’s Cow was born. After a lot of hard work, The Farmer’s Cow products are available in Southern New England and New York.
If you appreciate fresh, humanely-produced milk, dairy products, and eggs that are free of artificial growth hormones (rBST), please become part of The Farmer’s Cow story by buying our products at your local grocery store or for where they are served at local restaurants, coffee houses or markets.
I’ll plop that blurb at the top of each Farmer’s Cow farm visit.
I had found out about the Cushman Open House a few days prior to our visit and convinced Hoang that a drive out to Franklin (yes, Franklin) would be a fun family activity. Of course in typical CTMQ fashion we were sure to hit a few other places on our journey, but surprisingly, Cushman Farm was the highlight of the day. I navigated the back roads of Franklin and made my way to the Cushman “home farm” like Google Maps told me to do. Before I knew it, I was in western Lebanon (yes, Lebanon) and realized Google had failed me.
I run into this problem a lot, and it’s partially my fault, but it’s still annoying. I figured out what went wrong and went back out to the main road using my intuition. I’m glad I did, as within a mile we came to a very inviting farm with Farmer’s Cow signage all over the place. Nice.
It didn’t hurt that the day was absolutely perfect, but really, when they’re giving away free ice cream – really, really good and rich farm made ice cream – how could we go wrong. We had a slightly rough morning, and I was pretty happy that Hoang would be sated with ice cream. Did I mention it was f-r-e-e, FREE?!
There was a baby calf for Damian to touch and for some reason, free cookies. Ice cream in hand, we joined the last farm tour of the day. We were led into the milking room and nope, I wasn’t about to eat my ice cream in a hot and humid room that smelled of cow crap. Darn.
The Cushman milking room is pretty cool though. Cows voluntarily mosey onto the rotating milking carousel when they feel “full.” A guy attaches the milker things and the cows just hang out draining their udders. When the cow themselves feel done, they kick off the milker sucker things and leave the slow turning carousel. (I saw plenty of cows kick the things off, which Hoang and I found surprising.)
The giant concrete spinning wheel is sitting atop a pool, so the thing turns way easier with much less friction and only uses a small motor to do so. The milk is pumped and stored in an adjacent room and then shipped off and combined with the other Farmer’s Cow milk and packaged and sold to locavore hipsters like me.
After the milking room, we walked to a cow barn to learn how these cows live their daily lives. Rather comfortably, actually.
For six generations the Cushman family has farmed acreage located in North Franklin. Although Cushman Farm started on 155 acres at the homestead, the Cushman and Smith families manage nearly ten times that acreage today in Franklin, Lebanon and Bozrah, thanks in part to Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Program. Their newest dairy complex includes a rotary parlor that milks 30 cows at a time, and their barn offers free movement and private stall space for nearly 600 milking cows. The calves and heifers are still raised at the home farm.
The Cushman Farms employs 14 employees to manage its 900 acres of corn, 300 acres of grass and to milk the cows three times a day, every day. Each milking takes five hours, and each day more than 5,000 gallons of milk are produced—enough milk to supply a city the population of Norwich! To produce all that milk the cows feast on a mixture of corn silage, grass silage, canola, hominy and minerals. Oh yes, and bagels, too.
All the cows seemed pretty happy there. Amazingly, Damian didn’t touch a single thing in the cow barns! We were shocked!
The tour was informative (much moreso than my writing about it) and interesting. It was also the perfect length for kids. Well done, Cushman Farm (even though our guide was actually from a different farm up in Thompson that we’ll visit someday.)
After the tour, we went back to the info and food tents. Wow, we could have had all the ice cream and cookies we wanted, but I opted for the limitless supply of grilled sweet corn. Let me tell you, it was the best corn I’ve ever had. I never knew grilled corn could be any good – let alone incredible. I ended up buying 6 ears and it’s just the best.
Then they gave us a bunch of half-gallon containers of iced tea and lemonade! The farmer people were wonderfully nice and really did the Farmer’s Cow a huge service. The event was well-run, well-attended, and good enough to keep us coming to future open houses.
Heck, a few days later Hoang remarked that it was a really fun thing to do for all three of us (might have just been the free ice cream talking), which really is the top compliment she ever gives. So thumbs up Cushman Farm and Farmer’s Cow!
There’s also a hiking trail here from this farm through the woods down to the “home farm.” I didn’t get a chance to hike it, but probably will someday. That’s just how I do.
(I’m actually stopping off at the store tonight and will pick up some Farmer’s Cow milk. Promise!)