Ever since Eugene and Esther Freund began farming in 1949, caring for the earth has been a family priority. In the 1970s, Esther became fascinated with the idea of putting dairy farming’s most abundant byproduct—cow manure—to good use as a renewable source of power, and the family actually built an early methane digester prototype. Over decades of work, the Freunds have become recognized national leaders in sustainable practices and recently received the inaugural U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Resource Stewardship. “Doing the best we can for the environment has always been a strong emphasis for our farm. Our parents very much instilled that in us,” says their son, Matt, who now runs the farm with his brother, Ben, alongside their spouses and several members of the third generation.
Among the many earth-friendly efforts on Freund’s Farm, the most high-profile is their invention of CowPots. These patented, biodegradable, seed-starting pots are crafted out of the composted, odorless solids left after manure is run through the methane digester that provides renewable power for the farm. The pots—which were called “fabulous” by none other than Martha Stewart—are sold around the country, including at the Freunds’ own bountiful market, featuring many farm-grown foods and flowers started in those very pots. In addition, the farm installed 1,200 solar panels that generate enough electricity to meet their needs and even send surplus to the grid. The Freunds employ crop cultivation techniques that specifically reduce erosion and build soil health. They also protect the watershed by collecting and recycling rain and wash water and by planting native species along the banks of the two rivers that pass through their farm. Their newest dairy barn was designed for maximum energy efficiency and cow comfort including Connecticut’s first robotic milking machines, which enable cows to choose when and how often they get milked.
Back in the 1970’s, explains Matt’s daughter, Amanda, the farm vision statement highlighted the environment, profitability, animal care and respect for neighbors and community. The four goals remain intertwined and integral to the family’s mission as evidenced by everything they do from investment in new green technologies and state-of-the-art infrastructure to the Cabot macaroni and cheese they make for the local volunteer fire department and the fact that the family dinner table can always fit one more person. “Community connection is just a part of life,” Amanda says. “It’s how we were raised. Connecting with your neighbors and being there for your neighbors is incredibly important.”