The Green Pastures Award judging team visited three Connecticut farms on Friday, September 13, 2013 before making their decision to choose Arethusa Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut as the 2013 Dairy Farm of the Year. The annual award is presented at the Big E Green Pastures’ banquet where each New England state presents their winning farm. The farms present a slide show of their management strategies and innovative goals that result in a successful dairy operation that will grow into the future.
Located in the rolling pastures of Litchfield Hills, Arethusa Farm has a proud tradition of raising award-winning purebred Jersey, Holstein and Brown Swiss cows. The judges found that ‘cow comfort’ infiltrates the farm management at Arethusa Farm, where the farm team prides themselves on providing the highest level of care. Wide open barns, tunnel ventilation, stall mattresses, comfy bedding, and quality feed in front of all animals is evident. The team is knowledgeable and proud of the ‘girls’ under their care.
Arethusa Farm was established in 1999. Owners George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis purchased the Litchfield, CT property with the intent of restoring the farmland once owned by the Webster family. The Websters began “Arethusa Farm”, an all Guernsey herd, named after a rare wild orchid that grew in the back bogs of the property. The intent of the new owners was to bring back the dairy roots, making cheese and bottling milk for sale to the local community. However, as new barns were built and old ones remodeled, a new plan started to take shape. George and Tony became interested in the world of show cows. Just a few short years later in 2004, Arethusa made history at the World Dairy Expo. Farm matriarchs, Hillcroft Leader Melanie 3E 96 and Huronia Centurion Veronica EX97, were named supreme and reserve-supreme champion respectively. The pair are proven show-winners, have produced a tremendous quantity of high-quality milk and continue to be outstanding brood cows through their many descendants. These traits, combined with deep pedigrees, keep their family members and genetics in high demand to this day. Offspring and genetics from these top quality cattle are sold throughout the world each year. http://www.arethusafarm.com/farm/
Overwhelming show success fueled major growth on the farm. New heifer, calf and state of the art milking facilities were built, and the herd is now almost entirely home-bred. A core of fifteen exceptional employees work hard with one core principle in mind — the cows always come first. When one enters Arethusa’s milk barn they are greeted by a sign reading, “Every cow in this barn is a lady, please treat her as such.” That philosophy is put into practice on a daily basis as the team focuses on the continued breeding and development of home-bred Holsteins, Jerseys and Brown Swiss.
The clean barn environment shows up in the high quality products sold as bottled milk, yogurt, ice cream, butter, and cheese at the dairy, local shops and restaurant. The farm website provides a detailed flowchart of how the milk is processed into these different products.
The rations comprise as many locally sourced items as possible, including dry hay, corn silage, and grain mixes. Other high quality feeds, like large bales of alfalfa and cotton seed, are located to complete the ideal feeding program. Electronic feed carts distribute the total mixed ration to the cows in the stall barn, with a computerized system identifying each stall to which that cow is fed additional grain from an automatic DeLaval grain cart traveling by rail around the barn. In addition to the inside ration, the dairy herd visits large pastures each day, staying clean on the engineered gravel laneways.
With the latest project of Arethusa Al Tavolo restaurant, featuring locally sourced items to complement the farm products, off to a great start, other ventures begin to take focus. A new state of the art composting facility will process the manure from the barns under cover. This compost will be bagged and sold to local gardening centers.
We are proud to welcome Arethusa Farm into the family of past Green Pastures’ Award winners since 1948 when the New England contest first began. The governor of New Hampshire challenged the other governors to find a better pasture than in New Hampshire. Governor Dale lost his wager, presenting a top hat to Connecticut Governor McConaughy at the Eastern States Exposition in front of 6000 people. Now each state chooses a winner, based on the overall dairy farm management. Congratulations all!