The Mach Family Farm in Pawlet suffered a serious fire last May. Fast action by the farmers saved nearly the entire herd of dairy cows, and Pawlet’s volunteer firefighters put in a tremendous turn of work alongside firefighters from six surrounding communities. The fire was stopped before it took the entire barn, but the milking parlor was destroyed, and without a milking parlor, a dairy farm is out of business. The night of the fire, farmers from up and down the valley descended on the Mach Farm, and by dawn, all the cows that needed milking were distributed to neighboring farms.
Seven months after the fire, a new milking parlor was ready to go to work, and the cows could come home.
Phil Mach and his daughter Julie in the new milking parlor.
The oldest barn at the Mach farm dates back three generations.
The youngest resident of the barn was born yesterday. These heifers belong to other local farmers, and were swapped to the barns at the Mach farm to make room for Phil’s cows that need to be milked.
This interior partition used to be the front of the newest barn at the farm. The new milking parlor occupies what was empty space between this barn and the the barn that partially burned. When the fire occurred, we put our first engine about at the spot this photo was taken from to defend the new barn from the flames.
The first step in getting the cows home is to send the heifers back to their homes.
Will, who works a dairy operation a few miles down the valley, heads towards the Mach farm on Rt. 30 with cows in tow.
The newest members of the farm’s workforce are robots. This one moves feed around for the cows. A warning placard advises humans to watch out for the robots.
Putting the finishing touches on the new milking parlor. The system is robotic, allowing the cows to essentially milk themselves by walking into the red machines, where they get a treat of grain to eat while a robot uses a laser map of their udders to precisely place the suction cups. The cows wear collars to identify themselves to the robots. These are the first robotic milking machines in the valley.
David, who farms down the valley, opens the doors on the cow trailer…
…and the first of the cows comes home.
The cows return a half dozen at a time.
Julie Mach watches as the herd returns to her family’s farm. Julie grew up on the farm and now raises her children in the farmhouse, which was her grandmothers.
Phil Mach keeps tabs on his herd. He has not milked at his own farm in seven months, and now faces the daunting task of getting the herd accustomed to the new machines. This is expected to take about three days.
Thanks to Julie and Phil for having me down to shoot these images, and congratulations to the whole Mach Farm crew on turning this new page in their farm’s history.