All the cows will come home sometime after the first of the year.
But the Grey Barn Farm and Dairy is milking again, albeit with a smaller herd, and raw milk in glass bottles is available for sale again at the farm stand off South Road in Chilmark.
“We’re excited to get going in the rebuilding process and looking forward to making cheese again,” farm owner Eric Glasgow said this week. “We had a customer base and it’s dwindled.”
The farm was forced to shut down its milk and cheesemaking operations following a fire in the creamery over Memorial Day weekend.
The fire was confined to the interior of the creamery, where bottling and cheesemaking were done. The building was ruined, and equipment was a total loss. The cause of the fire was believed to be electrical but is still under investigation.
After the fire, the active milking herd of 20 Dutch Belted Galloway cows were sent off-Island until construction on the creamery could be completed. But nine cows remained on the Island, and after calves arrived about a month ago, raw milk production resumed. Following board of health and state inspections, Grey Barn began selling milk about two weeks ago. The cows will continue to be milked all winter.
The milking room was not damaged in the fire, but the bottle washing station was compromised. The farm instituted a new bottle washing setup in order for milk to be available for customers.
The normally active summer season was an “exercise in waiting,” Mr. Glasgow said.
“For a long time we couldn’t even touch the building until all of the evidence was fully documented,” he said.
A full cleanup of the creamery was underway toward the end of August. Much of the damage was from smoke. “The process of cleaning up was laborious in order to get rid of the soot, smoke, odor and residuals,” he said.
Everything from the cheese vats to the sinks will be replaced, Mr. Glasgow said.
“Effectively we just have a shell,” he said. “Everything that was inside of the walls has to be replaced.”
There were additional impacts on the farm from the fire. Ordinarily Grey Barn feeds whey from the milk to its pigs, so after the milking operation was shut down the farm had to import feed for the pigs.
Mr. Glasgow said he expects the creamery to be fully rebuilt and up and running by February or March. The main herd is bred to calve in April. Cheesemaking will resume once the creamery is operational. The farm made Prufrock cheese last year and is planning additional varieties next year.
On the plus side of the farm ledger, with fewer cows in the field this summer the Glasgows harvested 200 large round hay bales. “Last winter we imported six tractor trailer loads of hay, I’m hoping we won’t have to bring in anything this winter,” he said.
The Grey Barn is one of two certified organic farms on the Vineyard. The Glasgows bought the former Rainbow Farm property in 2009 from David Douglas and have been selling milk, eggs and meat from the stand for the past three years. The 68-acre farm includes several barns, the creamery and milking room and the Glasgow home. Plans are in place for a future retail store.
Mr. Glasgow said he has a contract to purchase an additional 35 acres from Mr. Douglas by the end of the year, property which abuts Grey Barn Farm and includes two barns. That land is not yet certified organic and is undergoing the certification process, expected to be complete in the spring of 2015.
Winter farm stand hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Meat, eggs and raw milk are for sale.