WEST SPRINGFIELD — Farm stands like Barstow’s Longview Dairy Store and Bakery in Hadley used to be able to pick up Cabot Creamery-brand cheese and other dairy products at Agri-Mark’s butter and dry nonfat milk manufacturing plant on Riverdale Street in West Springfield.
But that was before coronavirus restrictions imposed in March made it impossible for outsiders to visit food plants.
Barstow’s sells the milk it produces to Agri-Mark, which processes it into Cabot products like yogurt and cheese. But the Barstow’s farm stand is too small to warrant delivery of those products from a big truck. Other farm stands were in the same position.
In stepped the Eastern States Exposition, which allows Agri-Mark to distribute its Cabot-brand products to farm stands for pickup at the Mallary Complex on the Big E grounds in West Springfield.
“It was a big deal for us and for a lot of other farm stands in Massachusetts and Connecticut that rely on that pickup to stock our farm stands with groceries,” said Kelly Barstow.
Barstow’s saw a spike in business with the pandemic — especially when it started selling staples like milk, cheese, eggs and produce through a drive-up window originally constructed to sell ice cream.
“We had a hard time sourcing things,” Barstow said. “We could have been buying far more grocery items and selling them to our community.”
The Barstows are now transitioning to fall products, like apples, while keeping up the grocery business.
“The Big E to the rescue!” said Bill Beaton, Agri-Mark/Cabot CEO, in a statement. “COVID-19 cut-off our ability to sell our farm families their own products. Each farm stand depends on buying Cabot for their resale. We could not stage the Cabot products sale in our West Springfield plant for fear of risking essential workers. With deepest gratitude and respect for supporting Agriculture for decades, this time The Big E team did our farmers an exceptional favor to allow us to stage delivery on its grounds. Their long-term support has meant the world to us.”
Eugene J. Cassidy, president and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition, said: “Eastern regional agricultural production, food production, food security and promoting our local economy are all at the core of the Exposition’s mission. The Cabot cooperative is an important part of the food chain and ESE is always ready to lend a hand. Giving Cabot this central location helps area farmers continue to feed America. And our hope is that our friends and neighbors support Cabot and regional agriculture at this difficult time and beyond.”
The Cabot Creamery Cooperative is owned by local dairy farmers throughout New England and New York as members of Agri-Mark.
The Big E was canceled this year due to coronavirus restrictions. The 17-day fair had been set to begin Sept. 18.
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