Susan and Sam Shields run Lolans Farm about 15 miles from the ocean in southern Massachusetts. The location is ideal because the weather is temperate throughout much of the year, and it's easy to keep the cows cool. Susan's grandparents bought the farm in 1946 when her dad was 14, and her parents ran the operation after Susan's grandparents retired. Susan and her three siblings were raised milking cows and tending the gardens. Susan and Sam ultimately went into partnership with Susan's parents until 1997, when they took over the operation. They raised their three children on the farm, and while none have built a career in dairy farming, according to Susan, "There's no better place to raise a family. The kids helped out, had chores, learned responsibility, and developed a love of the land. I wouldn't have it any other way."
The Shields have recently reduced their herd to about 65 milkers and 50 young stock. Susan does all the milking. Dairy farming, of course, takes up most of their time, but they also sell red bags of composted cow manure for fertilizer. This helps the environment and their bottom line. In addition, the Shields have a very large garden, chicken coops, and a roadside vegetable stand on the farm. This does two things for the family. It helps even out cash flow a little bit as milk prices go up and down, and it attracts many visitors to the farm. The Shields open their gates to all comers and often have scout troops and school groups come by for a tour. Some of their best moments, however, are unplanned when visitors to the vegetable stand strike up a conversation and ask for a tour of the farm. Susan never says no.
Sam's dad was an executive and did not work as a dairy farmer, but Sam felt the calling all the same. He worked as a helper on a dairy farm as a teenager, studied agriculture at the University of New Hampshire, and was eager to make his living off the land after he completed his studies. Sam works the farm, grows crops, mends fences, does the haying, and still finds time to serve the broader dairy community. In fact, he is vice-chairman of the Massachusetts State Dairy Promotion Board, which promotes dairy products, highlights dairy farms and farming techniques, and educates the community about the health benefits of dairy products and calcium for strong bones. Sam and Susan were also active members in 4-H and church for many years as their kids were growing up, and they served on numerous town committees.
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