A bird's eye view of the farm and picture of Carrie Burnett's parents, who ran the farm as a dairy.
ADAMS, Mass. — More than 100 years later, Burnett Farm is still thriving under the same family and the same spirit
Carrie Burnett was surprised when a plaque showed up at her doorstep notifying her that the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation and the Massachusetts Grange have recognized Burnett Farm as a Century Farm.
"I forgot all about it … and then it showed up in the mail," she said.
Burnett said she was contacted by the Massachusetts Farm Bureau last year about the designation and an agent encouraged her to apply for the certification.
She sat down with her mother and started the application process sometime in June. She largely forgot about it until this month when the plaque showed up on her doorstep.
"There is a lot of heritage here on this land, and it is fascinating to sit on the computer and look up the deeds and read about easements," Burnett said.
The farm is one of 132 family farms to be featured in 2020 edition of the Century Farms book.
"There are about 7,200 farms across Massachusetts," said MFBF President Mark Amato in announcing the farm book. "However, less than 2 percent of those farms can be categorized as Century Farms. The farms honored in this book have weathered difficult times and made it through. We want to congratulate them on their accomplishments."
The farm was first owned by Humphrey Anthony Jr., an uncle of Susan B. Anthony, before the Burnetts. He owned the property for a short time, approximately 1898 through 1904. Between 1904 and 1911, the property was managed by George Fassell and Anthony's grandson Edgar Nelson.
Enter Homer and Clifton Burnett, father and son, who originally farmed in Savoy but in 1911 made their way to Adams and purchased 260 acres on East Road on what is now the Adams/North Adams line.
Carrie Burnett said the farm's history is very much available and noted she comes from a family of journalers who recorded the daily tasks on the farm.
"I have my grandmother's journals, my mother's journals, and now I journal, so a lot of it is here," she said. "Sometimes in the morning, I will go through the different journals on the day ... I will see things like when my father was 7 years old what he was doing that day. One day he was looking to go shoot raccoons. There is a lot that has changed with farming and living simply but there is a lot that has stayed the same."
Burnett shared communications between her and the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation agent and noted in 1915 a second floor was built on the original farmhouse, which dates to the late 19th century. In 1932, the dairy barn was built with an attached milk house. It held 60 cows.
Around 1948, the farm purchased its first John Deere tractor marking the change over to mechanical equipment. Douglas Burnett Jr. took over the farm around 1967. He renovated the original farmhouse in 1969 and lived there for 30 years with his wife, Jane, raising his family and farming, reaching peak production of 9,000 pounds of milk per day in 1994.
The Burnetts signed over development rights to the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program in 1986.
Burnett said her father passed in 2013, which began the shift from a dairy farm to other means of sustainability.
"After my father died, we really went through a process. What were we going to do with 100 acres and a farm that no longer has dairy cows?" she said. "We came to the conclusion that it was too big of an endeavor ... so now we take a collaborative approach. We have three different farmers using different aspects of the farm with the main priority being good land stewardship."
This includes Burnett's daughter Megan. Megan is a sixth-generation farmer who runs Full Well Farm, a community supported agriculture farm, on the property.
Other farmers include Atwell Cattle Raising, which raises heifers for local farmers, and Antonelli's Farm, which crops the hay and sells it across the state.
The Burnetts said it has not been easy keeping the farm going for 100 years and generations have had to adapt. The family has sold produce, firewood, Christmas trees, loam, hay, corn and even now are looking for new ways to become more sustainable.
"Businesses come and go, but we are in a really good place where the land is in use as it should be," Carrie Burnett said.
Burnett was very excited to announce that the family has been working with the town of Adams to bring the long-desired Ashuwillticook Rail Trail extension through the farm.
"I think that having the trail come through the farmlands benefits not only the farm but the community as well," she said. "That said, it's difficult to imagine something different when it's been the same for 100 years, however ... in order to be sustainable and maintain the farm and the land for future generations, an out-of-the-box perspective that moves in sync with the times is required."
She said farmers these days have to think outside the box to survive. Back in the days of her father and grandfather, farmers really just had to worry about their daily tasks, she said. Nowadays farming is a business.
"I think my generation was the first to really start bucking the fact that we needed to do something different," she said. "It has not always been easy, but maintaining the land and keeping it in agriculture has always been the priority."
She urged other farms to apply for the certification to safeguard their history that, like Burnett Farm, will be put in a book released by the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation.
Burnett also urged people to continue to support local farms that are struggling now more than ever.
"Farms brings people back to nature and gives people serenity and a place to hike and walk," she said. "A place to buy food locally. I know during the pandemic being able to walk around the farm has helped me."
Burnett, who lives on the farm, said she is happy that Burnett Farm lives on and to be surrounded by her heritage and family that sadly is one less. Burnett's mother died in August after battling cancer a few months before the farm received the designation.
However, she was certain both her mother and father knew and were ecstatic the farm had reached such a milestone.
"Both of my parents are probably smiling down," she said. "It was truly their legacy."