2009-08-11 19.48.42In 2004 the Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts began a campaign to save the last working dairy farm, the Historic O’Neil Farm, on the South Shore. At the time I was serving on the Open Space Committee in Duxbury. One of my colleagues asked me to come to project planning meeting.

From 1921 through her death in 1963 Rosa Chandler O’Neil inherited some of the Winter St. and Autumn St. parcels and purchased the remaining Avery and Horatio Chandler estate from her sister Mabel. She deeded the farm to her grandchildren, Carl O’Neil, his brother, Edward O’Neil, and sister Barbara (O’Neil) Young in 1958. Carl and Edward ran the dairy until Edward’s death until Edward’s death in 2002 and Carl has continued the farming legacy.

The O’Neil farm has been in continuous operation since the 1700s and has been in the O’Neil Farm for generations. The current farmer, Carl O’Neil, inherited the farm with his sister and brother in 1958. Carl and Edward ran the farm until 2002 until Edward’s death. Carl still runs the farm today.

Edward’s passing presented an estate-planning problem. Edward’s children now inherited his share of the farm and there needed to be a payment. Carl wanted to ensure that farming, hopefully dairy, continue on this special land rather than it being sold off for housing lots. Thus began a fundraising campaign spearheaded by the Wildlands Trust to raise the funds to purchase the Conservation Restriction and Agricultural Preservation Restriction on these 145 acres. Fortunately, Carl’s’ nieces and nephews understood the vision and were willing to wait for this successful campaign to be completed. It was and they received their inheritance. It was way more complicated than that but that’s the “cliff notes” version.

Are you wondering what this has to do with mozzarella? Well, I got interested in the economics of a dairy farm. Selling raw milk is not very lucrative, especially when you are only milking 40 or so head. But a milk based product like yogurt, ice cream or cheese can be. I decided to learn how to make cheese! As luck would have it, we have the Queen of Cheese—Ricki Carroll—living and teaching right here in Massachusetts. Her company New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has been serving customers since 1978. How fortunate for me! I immediately signed up to take the Cheesemaking 101 workshop in the fall of 2004. It was awesome and we learned so much in just one day: Cheddar, Queso Blanco, Mascarpone, Whole Milk and Whey Ricotta and 30 Minute Mozzarella. Plus, we learned to make Fromage Blanc, Creme Fraiche, and Mascarpone. It was so much fun and rewarding to know that it was so easy it was to make ones own cheese!

So, since the spring of 2005 I have been teaching 30 Minute Mozzarella classes through the Duxbury Before & After Dark program. I’ve also donate my services to a few of my favorite local non profits for a private cheesemaking class for fundraising purposes. It’s been a ton of fun.  I’ve met the most amazing people and they have been inspired to make cheese. One woman actually started the Goatscaping Company where she has a heard of milking goats for landscaping herding as well as cheese.


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