BY KAREN SCHWALBE
Hoffmann Farm might literally be the new kid on the block, with its establishment in Franklin in 2013, but Nick Hoffmann has years of solid dairy experience behind him. Starting a new dairy enterprise is a rigorous endeavor – there are so many regulatory hurdles to achieve – zoning, building and health requirements to meet – on top of building a customer base and establishing the physical infrastructure of the farm itself. So when Nick, his wife Jeanine, and two children decided to pull up roots from New Braintree, Massachusetts and move closer to his wife’s family, it was not a small decision. Interested in moving from wholesale to direct sales, an area like Franklin made much more sense, with fewer farms and a denser population and a reasonably priced property in the family made the transition possible.
Along the lines of a microbrewery or micro-distillery, a micro-dairy is defined as milking 10 or fewer cows with 100% of the milk selling directly to customers. Hoffmann Farm definitely fits that description with three cows in milk. It is a small operation compared to the 65 goats that Nick used to milk in New Braintree but it is a manageable operation. A farmer’s work is time-consuming and physically demanding, but a micro dairy allows the farmer to have a regular life and still make a decent living while producing a delicious product. It also requires less land than a traditional dairy operation so fits well into the more suburban landscape of Franklin.
Farming enterprises on land over 5 acres are protected from town zoning bylaw but Franklin’s Planning Board was unacquainted with regulations for building a farm and had a few more requirements than might ordinarily have been necessary which added to the complexity of start up, but operations have been running smoothly now (or as smoothly as farming goes) for several years now.
The planning Nick did for the design and construction of the farm operation was considerable. The land was regrowth forest, needing to be cleared and the soil amended and the dairy, poultry barn and farmstand needed to be designed and built. The dairy is small, but spotless and purposefully self-limited to just a few cows with the intent of preventing too ambitious an expansion in the future – the three cows are enough for now.
The cows are 100% grass fed supplemented with hay Nick cuts himself and he uses no antibiotics or growth hormones. Milk from grass-fed cows has a type of unsaturated fat that has heart-healthy benefits, as well as higher levels of omega-3 fats, vitamin E and beta-carotene. Hoffmann Farm sells raw milk directly to the consumer. Raw milk is unpasteurized and is some people consider it to be nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk, with more beneficial bacteria and water- and fat-soluble vitamins. Raw milk must meet the same stringent health standards as pasteurized milk and are tested regularly by the state. What “grass-fed” and “raw” don’t adequately explain is how delicious the milk tastes, the sweetness of the cream layer, or the luscious cheese it makes.
Besides the dairy business, Nick raises chickens for eggs and meat, as well as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). The CSA offer a weekly supply of vegetables from June through October. Eggs and milk are available in the farmstand seven days a week. Having a diverse farming operation allows for a variety of income streams and a range of daily and seasonal tasks. Customers visiting the farmstand also have the benefit of a wide range of fresh, nutritious, local goods each week. This year’s CSA is sold out, but you can find eggs and milk in the farmstand seven days a week from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Hoffmann Farm also can be found at Franklin Farmers’ Market on Fridays from noon to 6:00 pm.
10 Hoffmann Farm Road
Franklin, Massachusetts 02038