In the bound book put together by David Tully entitled Tully Farms History 2000, there is a family tree of the five generations who have farmed in Dunstable, Massachusetts since 1872. Seventeen years ago, when the book was created, the box representing the next generation was filled with a question mark. On a recent tour of the farm, Jake Tully, who is the same age as the book, looks like he’s well on his way to filling that sixth-generation spot.
Teaching is as much a part of the #FarmLife as being in the classroom. #FarmLove @cabotcheese #CabotFarmers Click To Tweet
Charlie Tully and his wife, Jennifer, raised Jake and his three older siblings on the family farm set in a quiet corner of conserved land sprinkled with old stone walls and houses belonging to family members. “My grandparents always wanted to keep family around,” Charlie says. Two of their four children, Erin and Steven, have pursued careers in nursing and law enforcement, while the other two have followed in the footsteps of their parents. Jake has been devoted to the farm since he was tiny just like his father before him; Kristina is finishing up her masters in reading and literacy after completing a bachelors in elementary education and will become a teacher like her mother.
Of course, just as we appreciate the farmers who feed us, we appreciate teachers every day for their commitment and contributions to shaping future generations. But since May 7-12 is Teacher Appreciation Week, we’re giving a special call-out to the Tully family for not only providing their community with multi-generation farmers, but also teachers. (Nursing care and law enforcement are great, too, but we’ll save those for another post!)
Ironically enough, Jennifer Tully was not destined to be a teacher, at least according to the career test she took in high school. “It said I’d be a good farmer, mechanical engineer or machinist and all my friends laughed,” she recalled with a smile. “I said, ‘Well, I’ll show them, I’m going to be a teacher.’” Then she met Charlie at the Grange during college and married a farmer.
As a kindergarten teacher for the last 16 years, Jennifer has combined both her knowledge of agriculture and education by serving on the Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom board as well as hosting regular field trips at the farm, a very popular destination for both her students and their parents. “I really feel like it’s important for people to understand that their milk does come from somewhere,” she explained.
Like her mom, Kristina also hopes to stay involved in the farm and agriculture as her teaching career builds. Her senior thesis was on agriculture in the classroom with a focus on school garden programs. Kristina is also part of the family’s exciting new project, which involve bottling some of their own milk and working in a partnership to use their milk and cream as the base for farm-fresh ice cream in flavors like maple-walnut (her dad’s favorite) and coffee-cookies ‘n cream (her mom’s).
Keeping tradition while also evolving for the future is a lesson the Tullys have learned well over the last 150 years. “You’ve got to keep that next generation interested,” Charlie Tully acknowledged. In the barns, the family has undertaken several other new efforts including a smart robotic feeder for the calves. It has proven a great way to raise the most content and healthy young animals, Charlie and Jake explained on a visit to the calf barn. As if on cue, a young calf headed into the feeder where the computer read her ear tag and knew exactly how much warm milk to let her suckle. The others curled up in fresh bedding or playfully butted a big rubber ball hung from the ceiling. During a recent open barn event, Jake said, 500 visitors came through and he spent the entire time showing off how the new calf feeder worked. “I never left this room,” he said with happy surprise.
Make Your Own Ice Cream
This is one of the hands-on activities Jennifer Tully does with her kindergarteners. We’ve found that kids of all ages (yes, even the grown-up kind) get a kick out of this activity.
1 tablespoon sugar
One-half cup half and half or cream
One-quarter teaspoon vanilla extract
About 3 trays of ice cubes
2 tablespoons coarse salt (found in baking aisle)
Put sugar, milk or half and half, and vanilla into a quart-size zippable bag and seal it. Fill a gallon-size zippable bag half full of ice and add the salt. Place the small bag inside the large one, nesting it within the ice, and seal carefully. Shake until mixture is ice cream, about 10 to 15 minutes. Wipe salt off the small bag, open carefully, and enjoy. Note: you can double ice cream mix quantity, but it will take longer to freeze.
Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).