Finally, a cool farm feature day. It was perfectly cloudy, a slight warm breeze, and the ideal temperature to walk around a dairy farm. I pulled up, camera equipment in tow and rubber boots snug on my feet, for my favorite part of the work week.
My crew consisted of my fellow communications co-worker Matt Ponte, and the dairy manager Ryan DeMello. We were greeted by a guy named Tony, who rolled up in a Land Rover, asking us to hop in and come along for a ride around the farm. Excitement in our eyes, we hopped inside and discovered a smiling and happy man.
He drove us down to the farm next door, where the cows were living and the milking parlor was set up. He was all laughs and just a genuinely happy person, and led us into the milking parlor building that was shared with the farm next door.
Tony mentioned that they were planning to build their own milking facility in about two years time, and was looking forward to having their own area to work in.
The cows were fed a diet of grass and corn silage, all 382 cows that were on the property, to be exact. I was bursting with excitement when we walked out of the milking parlor, shoes echoing against the walls as we filed out. I couldn’t wait to see the cows, and was not disappointed. The herd was shy at first, but inquisitive. I pride myself in being an animal whisperer, so I waited patiently for them to adjust to my presence before reaching a hand out towards them. Sure enough, the brave ones came sniffing over.
One of them decided to try out my dress for a snack, biting the corner of the fabric when I wasn’t paying attention. I laughed, and scolded the giant animal like it was my dog at home, and weirdly enough it seemed to listen. They were friendly creatures, and Tony mentioned that they are gentle giants who are usually pretty into getting pet and checking people out.
Next, Tony took us over to the pens where they kept the babies. They were skittish, clumsily scurrying into their crates and hiding the second we got anywhere near them. As we walked past though, they couldn’t help but stick their head out and watch. It was like a game of hide and seek, and you could tell they didn’t really understand their size yet.
I squatted down next to a pen and let my presence work its magic. Eventually, the little heifer’s curiosity got the best of her, and she wandered over to sniff my hand. I think I must have smelled good that day because this was the second cow to try and eat some part of me, nibbling on my knuckles like it was a treat. I managed to get a picture of the baby munching away.
While I was busy with the animals, Ryan and Tony were chatting away about machinery. Tony was showing him some of the newest equipment that was really helping out around the farm.
They had planted 200 acres of corn silage, and the giant machine below was used to make the hay bales that would feed the cows well into the winter. Tony definitely knew his stuff, referencing energy input and the importance of silage ratios for the herds.
Tony smirked and asked if we wanted to see the big tractor, and Ryan’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree as we walked into the large garage to check out the brand new tractor, whose tires were as tall as me. I really loved the feel of the space, he had a weathered old American Flag on the wall that had probably been around for years, with rusty tools and old paint buckets on the floor. A true farmers garage.
Back into the Land Rover we went, traveling across Stafford Road to the other part of the farm. This is where they kept the other babies and “teenagers”, as Tony liked to call them. We hopped out and into the red barn, which was peaceful as the babies were in there napping or checking us out.
A bird flew by, chirping away. It was magical in here, and almost hushed in a way. Jersey cows are my absolute favorite (they look like baby deer, it’s adorable) so I went straight for them. They weren’t as skittish as the other ones, and were very curious about my hands again. Tony mentions that these are mixed Jersey cows, which are usually friendlier than the others. As I sat crouched in front of them, all three babies leaned their heads out for pets and more hand nibbling.
Tony guided us around to the side of the barn, where the teenagers were hanging out. He got a real kick out of them, laughing as he mentioned they acted like human teenagers because they were getting into trouble all the time.
We hopped back into the car now that we had met the animals, and Tony turned towards us as we reached the end of the laneway, “an inspector came to our farm recently, and said you’re not the biggest dairy farm, but you are efficient and well run” he smiled with pride, “that meant a lot to us”.
He took us into the part we know you all want the insider info on, the place where Arruda’s beloved flavored milks are made. That’s right, we learned some secrets about the coffee milk you’re always craving. He explained to us the process of heating and cooling the milk, and how the facility is meticulously cleaned every time it’s used.
He gave us some secret insider info, “the coffee milk actually has espresso extract in it, in addition to the Autocrat syrup we put in it”. You could tell he was trying to reveal information without revealing too much. He smiled, “people always say they can’t recreate it at home with the Autocrat syrup, and that’s because of the extract that we add. It gives it that intense coffee flavor.”
Arruda’s adds sugar, coffee extract, and a more concentrated coffee syrup created just for them into their famous whole milk. It’s a recipe that their customers will try and try to recreate, but nothing beats the real deal.
All their flavors are processed right here, and Tony says he is usually up late into the night doing paperwork, and starts all over again bright and early in the morning. He works hard and long hours to make sure his family’s business thrives, one that started in 1917 and is still going to this day. They just celebrated their 100th anniversary, and are looking forward to really stepping their farm up a notch over the next few years. He mentioned that his niece was looking into different feed options with grass. The whole family helps out one way or another, and it’s truly special to experience.
You can find their famous milk at our stores, Lees Market in Westport, and Clements’ Market in Portsmouth. But you already know exactly which fridge it’s located in, don’t you?
As always, we want you to feel the connection we experience everyday in our line of work. It’s important you know where your food comes from, and choose to support the local farmers who care so deeply for the area we live in.
Until next time, at your favorite local farm,
Kelsey of Lees and Clements’ Market