With a herd of more than 200 Jerseys, Guernseys, Holsteins, and Brown Swiss cows, Eastleigh Farms in Framingham is one of the few raw milk dairies in Eastern Massachusetts.
But it is far from easy to run a farm, said Doug Stephan, who bought the 114-acre spread a decade ago. On a typical day he might fix a tractor with a broken hitch; mow acres of hay before dusk; and move cows from one barn to another.
“Cows are sensitive, kind, loving and smart animals,” he said. “Most farmers look at them as machines that give milk, but I have become very connected with them, which I think leads to quality milk.”
What is the most difficult part of farming?
The hard physical labor is no surprise to me, but because I am selling raw milk, I am amazed at the amount of government intrusion and the state and federal regulations which make it difficult to survive as a business.
Why did you decide to become a farmer?
I’ve been around cows all my life. When I was a kid, my first job was sweeping out a local farmer’s school buses for 50 cents apiece. It was a tradition in New England that most farmers took time off chores to drive buses. I spent every waking moment, when I wasn’t in school, at my neighbor’s farm.
What ensures the quality of raw milk that you produce?
Raw milk from grass-fed animals has a lot more nutritional value if properly produced. It takes constant vigilance over the cleanliness of the animals and the bottling plant. The cow’s milk goes down a pipeline into a holding tank, then into a cooler. In minutes, the milk goes from the temperature of a cow, which is about 101 degrees, to 34 degrees. This is how the milk is preserved and bacteria is prevented.
Who is your favorite cow on the farm?
The grand dame, Peaches, is the oldest. She has a wonderful intellect and curiosity. She follows me around and watches everything and if she doesn’t like a pasture, she’ll make a lot of noise and let you know.
You’re also host of a syndicated radio program called “Doug Stephan’s Good Day.” How does that fit into farming?
Everyone who listens knows that I’m a farmer. The spirit of the show is flavored by my agrarian background.
The farmer look has become vogue — canvas coats, plaid shirts, and work boots — is that your attire?
I’m not campy and don’t want to set any fashion trends. I don’t want to look the part but just be comfortable and warm.
Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at email@example.com