Things didn’t start off too well when Melissa Willis and Adam Griffin first met back in 2011 at the county fair. Adam was working for the National Holstein Association and he told Melissa that Clessons River had been eartagging their cows backwards for seven years. “He started picking on me,” Melissa recalls with a chuckle. “He said, ‘Your cows aren’t really registered.’”This young fifth-generation #Cabotfarmer sometimes does things backwards, but it’s worked well for her so far Click To Tweet
After the fair, though, Adam emailed Melissa and told her that, of course, the tags were fine. The two met up again at the Big E regional agricultural fair, went out to dinner and, a few years later, they were married with an on-farm reception and personalized eartags as wedding favors.
Melissa grew up the fifth generation on her family’s Buckland, Massachusetts farm and has been working there full-time with her dad, Paul Willis, since 2005. An accomplished musician, she earned a master’s degree in trumpet performance, but she wasn’t up for the auditioning required to become a professional musician. Plus, the young farmer adds, she always saw herself back on the farm.
She still spends plenty of time playing music, as many as four nights a week, in several different groups including a couple of orchestras and one of the oldest community bands in the country. “I really enjoy the music and a lot of the people I play with,” Melissa says. A particular highlight is playing beside one of her childhood music teachers.
Back in the barn, Melissa has taken over responsibility of the breeding program, which she loves for the constant challenge of making improvements. Adam now works for a robotic milking company and helps out on weekends and nights. Melissa’s mom and a few other family members also pitch in when needed.
“I see my parents every day and it’s great,” Melissa says happily. “Although farming is hard work, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it since you are there with family. It’s exciting to be able to make decisions as a family and share in the joys and successes on the farm and know your family is there on the not-so-good days.”
Melissa is also very involved in the Young Cooperators (YC) program, which involves representing the next generation of farmers at co-op board meetings. It was a particular feather in her cap when she and Adam earned the right to represent the co-op at the national level and then were elected chaircouple to speak for all young cooperators at the National Milk Producers’ Federation meeting.
In typical Melissa fashion, she admits she has done things a little backwards as far as the YC positions she has held: starting with secretary, moving up to President and now, backwards, to Vice-President.
But, overall, being active in the YC program is all about moving forward. “Being a YC officer and getting to go to board meetings, has been a great opportunity to learn and to meet a lot of people nationally,” Melissa reflects. “It’s impressive seeing how much discussion and how much time the board members spent hashing things out. They really care.”
Melissa Griffin’s husband, Adam, is a huge fan of her microwave edition macaroni and cheese, which dirties only one bowl – especially if you just grab a spoon and dig right in. It can easily be made gluten-free by substituting gluten-free pasta and flour. “My husband declares it is his favorite macaroni and cheese in the world and it is so easy to make!” says Melissa.
One-Bowl Macaroni and Cheese
2 cups uncooked macaroni (about 8 ounces)
2 cups hot water
1/3 cup Cabot butter, cut into pats
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/4 cups milk 8 ounces shredded Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar (or other favorite Cabot cheese)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1. Mix macaroni, water, butter, onion powder, salt, pepper, and mustard in a 2-quart bowl or microwave-proof casserole. Cover tightly; microwave on high (100%) 5 minutes; stir.
2. Cover tightly and microwave on medium (50%) to boiling, 4 to 6 minutes. 3. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover tightly and microwave on high (100%), stirring every 4 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and macaroni is tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
Serves 2-4 as a main course; 4-6 as a side dish. Try stirring in chopped, crisp bacon and steamed broccoli florets, or diced ham and peas for a one-bowl meal.
Note: Be really careful when uncovering the bowl between cooking steps as very hot steam builds up.