The Benson Farm has established a legacy – one of top quality Holsteins, a professional operation and a commitment to stewardship. And as the farm is handed from one generation to the next, that legacy has not only been continued but built upon. For that reason and many more, the Gorham dairy farm was selected as this year’s New England Green Pastures Award.
The award is given every year to an outstanding dairy farm for each of the New England states. This coveted award is presented annually at the Eastern States Exposition (Big E) in September to an exemplary, economically sound, and efficiently managed dairy operation, representative of the best farms in New England. Nominees are evaluated on a number of criteria including their production records; herd, pasture, and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying. This is the second time the Benson Farm has received the award, having also been honored in 1967.
The Benson Farm is a third generation dairy operation owned by Katherine Y. Benson and her son and daughter-in-law Edward and Rebekah. Edward Young started the farm in 1918 and began to acquire one of Maine’s early herds of purebred registered Holsteins. His daughter, Katherine Young, and her husband, Alton, later took over the farm with a commitment to purebred Holsteins and land conservation. Eddie and Becki are the current operators of the farm and continue in the innovative spirit of their predecessors. One of the farm favorites, Kay-Ben Goldwyn Dolly, was the 2012 winner of the Supreme Champion award at the Fryeburg Fair, and overall, the farm boasts 74 registered Holsteins with 25 Excellent cows.
Registered dairy cows are classified with scores ranging from 1-100. A score of 90 or better classifies a cow as “Excellent”. Cows are scored based on the following criteria: front end and capacity, dairy strength, rump, feet and legs and udder. Udder is obviously the most important in a dairy cow, and therefore is worth 40 points.
Also among the Benson Farm’s accomplishments are structural and business improvements to the operation. In the early 1990’s, Eddie began making compost to diversify the business and offset the cost of small-scale dairy farming. The facility was approved by DEP to accept seafood waste from Maine’s working waterfronts. The compost was also certified by MOFGA for use on organic crops. A 2010 tornado demolished the farm’s iconic barn, a structure from the early 1900s, which housed calves, dry cows and most of the hay supply. The catastrophe led the family to build three new barns: a 60×100’ dry cow and bred heifer facility, a calf nursery, and an indoor compost bagging facility.
The farm is a member of the Cumberland Country Farm Bureau, the New England Holstein Association and is a supporter of the Cumberland County All-Star Dairy, Stroudwater Christian Church and Young Life.
The Green Pastures program is sponsored by the New England Green Pastures Committee and Cooperative Extension at each of the New England Land Grant Universities.