July 6, 2010

Work, love converge at organic dairy farm

By Jason McKibben
Staff Photographer

SKOWHEGAN -- Sarah Smith loves her job. Which is a good thing, because it's a rare moment that she isn't working.

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Sarah Smith fills milk bottles as her son, Reed, naps. Grassland Farm in Skowhegan is certified as organic and sells most of its milk to the Organic Valley cooperative. They also sell a small percentage of raw milk directly to consumers at farmers' markets.

Photo by Jason McKibben

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Running a small dairy sometimes keeps Sarah Smith up late at night, finishing work such as washing milk bottles.

Photo by Jason McKibben

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Smith and her husband, Garin, operate Grassland Farm in Skowhegan.

"I don't think my customers have any idea how hard I work to provide them with this food," Smith said recently as she filled half-gallon glass jugs of raw milk from a herd of 40 cows, while keeping a watchful eye on her daughter, Cedar, playing nearby. Her son Reed was sound asleep in a pack on her back. And every now and again an intern would pop in with a question about what to do in the vegetable garden.

Meanwhile Garin was out moving fencing in the pasture so the cows would have fresh grass for grazing.

Days at the farm start early and end late. Garin is up at 4:30 a.m. to milk the cows by 5. They are milked again at 5 p.m. But what happens in between depends on the day and the most pressing need. There is always something that needs doing. Some days Sarah is washing milk bottles well into the night.

Sarah Smith says one of the best parts about their work is direct relationship they have with their customers at area farmers' markets.

"It's a really noble career," she said. "It's very empowering to be providing something that's so basic and so important for everyone, which is good food."

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Additional Photos

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Garin Smith milks his herd every day at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Photo by Jason McKibben

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A calf enjoys a bucket of fresh milk as another anxiously awaits a bucket of its own.

Photo by Jason McKibben


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