Five Farms: Stories From American Farm Families
Photographs by Steve Schapiro
CDS Porch will feature excerpts from each of the five farm locations weekly. This week’s feature is on Chip and Sherry Hager’s farm in Colrain, Massachusetts.
The Hager Brothers Farm is set on more than 700 acres of rugged, hilly terrain in Colrain, Massachusetts. Chip and Sherry Hager run the farm, along with daughter Kim and son-in-law Aaron, and another son, Todd. Both Kim and Aaron — college graduates with degrees in agriculture — bring to their passion for farming a new understanding of the science of dairy herd management. The family continually merges traditional and innovative approaches to dairy farming.
The Hager farm has approximately 110 milkers. Like most farms in the Northeast, the Hager farm has had to diversify its production into other areas in order to succeed. In addition to their dairy operation, the Hagers tap nearly 12,000 maple trees, relying on maple sugar production for a portion of their income. Recently, they have added beef from their small herd of twenty-five Herefords to their home front store.
Meeting rising production costs in the face of unstable milk prices is just one of the challenges the Hager family faces. With limited pastureland, keeping cows well fed, healthy, and producing the optimum amount of milk without causing stress on the animals are all major concerns. Affordable labor is usually limited to neighborhood youngsters who eventually move on to higher paying work in tech or service industry jobs. With a day that begins at 4 in the morning and ends around 7 p.m., the Hagers are an excellent example of the kind of dedication it takes to produce one of our most important staple food products.