When Emil from Dracut called the radio show last week full of questions about what we were building at Shaw Farm, it occurred to me that it might be a good topic for this week’s column. Many others have stopped by asking the same questions, and everyone seems excited about what the future will bring.
One of my personal goals always has been to modernize this 100-year-old family business and prepare it for what we hope will be the next century of providing fresh, local dairy products to the people of the Merrimack Valley.
I say the Merrimack Valley because we are now the last dairy in the entire valley — from what was formerly the Old Man of the Mountain landmark in New Hampshire to where the river empties into the Atlantic Ocean — to directly market its products.
Obviously, it wasn’t always that way, and over time, many small dairies have said goodbye.
That won’t be happening here.
Our plan started in the late 1990s with the construction of our ice cream stand, which provided an opportunity to retail our ice cream products and bring more people to the farm as part of the “farm experience.”
We followed that up by securing the land base for growing crops necessary to feed our dairy herd.
We partnered with the state APR program and preserved the New Boston Road property, using the funds provided to acquire additional farm land on Marsh Hill — no local tax dollars were required. In 2002, we built our new barn. This new facility provides the best in animal comfort to our herd and allows us to be the place where families bring their children to learn about where milk really comes from.
In 2007, we became the only dairy in Massachusetts to offer its own certified organic milk products to consumers.
This new farm building project is an attempt to solve a number of challenges we have faced in recent years, and allow us to keep the farm moving forward.
The project will have a state-of-the-art bottling facility, enabling us to become more energy-efficient and incorporate all of the latest food-safety technology.
The building will have geothermal heat, and use about 30 percent less energy than the current facility.
The building will also provide space for our new farm store.
In addition to our own dairy products, we will now be able to offer more local farm products, like produce, farm cheese products and fresh bakery products. For the rest of the list, you’ll have to make it to the grand opening, probably sometime this summer.
Warren Shaw is a former Dracut selectman who hosts a popular Saturday morning radio show on WCAP-AM from 6 to 10 a.m.