By Anthony Raduazo
Everett “Gus” Martin, at age 76, is not new to agriculture. When asked when he had first started farming, Gus looks bewildered. It’s as if someone had asked him when he had taken his first breath. “Well, I grew up on this farm,” he says, “My family has always farmed.” The statement was not meant to be hyperbolic. The Martins have been farming in Cheshire, Massachusetts ever since Edward Martin first moved to the town in 1790. Gus, the current owner and operator of Elmartin Farm, is of the seventh generation of Martin farmers in Cheshire.
At one point, the farm was one of eighteen dairies in Cheshire, Massachusetts with its own retail milk route. “We used to milk eighty cows,” says Gus. In the 1980’s, the price of milk plummeted with the emergence of national dairy producers such as Garelick and Cumberland Farms. With falling dairy prices came a parallel decline in the livelihoods of New England dairy farmers. The “overbearing workload” required to make ends meet under such economic conditions forced the Martins to reconsider the direction of the farm. Now, only one farm continues to produce dairy in Cheshire. Elmartin is one of many New England farms that have been forced to give up the trade.
The transition to other areas of agriculture has not been easy. “The farm has just slid along for twenty-something years,” says Gus. During that time, Elmartin primarily produced hay. With 418 acres of workable land, Elmartin farm certainly has the acreage to turn out a lot of hay. Gus and his two sons, Kim and Everett, however, want to work with livestock again.
Elmartin farm is already producing a small quantity of beef and pork that is sold wholesale or directly from their barn. With the installation of a new industrial washer and freezer though, the Martins are hoping to greatly expand their meat production. “We already have two or three real good markets lined up with the beef,” says Gus. Ultimately, the Martins are hoping to be in a position where they are able to supply 100 lbs. of beef per week to local restaurants. Such an increase in production will require additional labor at the farm. “I want my sons to work the farm full-time with a little extra help,” says Gus.
With new investments being made in machinery and labor, the Martins are hoping to restore Elmartin Farm to the condition that it once was. “We’re really at a hobby stage right now,” says Steph, Gus’s daughter-in-law. Outside, behind the farmhouse, Steph’s children run around an old swing set. The two children are members of the ninth generation of Martins reared in Cheshire. Gus hopes that they will continue the farming tradition on Elmartin Farm after he dies. “I don’t know how to put it in to words,” Gus says of what it means to him that the farm remains in the family. He looks upon his grandchildren who prance around the yard before running off into the old dairy barn to visit the pigs, “I’m just thankful to be able to keep it going.”