Bob and Barbara Williams operate a 350 acre spread in Sunderland, Massachusetts. They have 110 milkers and about 200 total head of cattle. And while Bob has several part time helpers, he is the backbone of the operation, working from dawn to dusk every day tending the herd, milking the cows, planting the crops, and maintaining the machinery. He is quick to praise the people who work for him, but he is the glue that holds it all together.
Farming is more than just a recent development for the Williams family. Their land and their business go back some seven generations, and Bob was simply born to the life, a life he loves. Bob understands the demands of dairy farming and takes it all in stride. He can plan and manage the work that goes with the territory. What he can’t manage or plan for, however, are the wild swings in milk prices and the havoc they wreak on dairy farming. Like so many other dairy farm families, Bob and Barbara look to take the edge off a difficult market by finding other revenue sources. This means selling compost, selling some timber from their untillable acreage, or looking to market their milk locally.
For most farm families, dairy farming is just not enough; they have to find ways to diversify. As Bob says: “Barbara and I are exploring other ways to generate revenue for the farm even though dairy farming will always be our mainstay. It is simply unwise to rely completely on the marketplace for dairy products to manage our farm.” These words are true for the Williams family, and for most other dairy farmers throughout the Northeast.
And while most of Bob’s time is spent doing chores on the farm and working to keep everything on a steady course, he also presides as the chairman of Sunderland’s Agriculture Commission, which works to preserve farm land and make sure the farms and the local community actively support each other to the maximum extent possible. “So far, so good,” says Bob. Sunderland loves its farmers, and all hands pitch in to work with the state and preserve as much farm land as possible.