DUNSTABLE – Running a dairy farm seems like it would require a lot of hands-on work, making sure calves are growing at an acceptable rate and cows are producing enough milk to keep the business rolling.
Charles Tully Jr., the third and current patriarch of Tully Farms Dairy, uses technology to let the animals mostly keep to themselves.
However, this actually helps things in the long run.
“They’re creatures of habit,” Tully said. “They like their routine and not to be pushed around. What we’ve built over the years and the way everything has come together, we try to keep a nice, positive image for Dunstable and for the dairy industry in general.”
That image has taken Tully Farms Dairy a long way in the near-50 years since its inception. So much so that it not only was deemed Massachusetts’ Dairy Farm of the Year but also won the 2019 Green Pasture Award, both honors coming from UMass Amherst’s Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment.
Those honors are given to a dairy farm in each New England state with exceptional amounts of production, crop management, methods of preserving the environment and contributions to the community.
Tully Farms Dairy certainly has those grounds covered, producing about 1,000 gallons of milk per day from its 120 milking cows. Said cows are fed via the farm’s 15,000 bales of hay, 600 tons of grass silage and 3,000 tons of corn the farm annually harvests.
For those looking to sample some of the farms’ product, Tully offers home delivery via refrigerated truck that delivers in Dunstable, Groton, Littleton and Pepperell Pepperell.
“A friend of mine named John Hornstra started buying some of my milk from here and was looking for a place to pick up some extra milk he needed that was quality,” Tully said. “Over the next six months after that, we talked a lot and he has a home-delivery business and a nice store. The following month, we bit the bullet and bought a milk truck to deliver milk.”
There’s also the chance to visit the Tully Farms Dairy Store on Pleasant Street, first opened in 2017 where everything from milk to cheese to turkey pie are for sale. Tully said he got the space after a friend, Wes Goss, allowed him to use the extra store space at the end of his ice cream stand.
“I guess it was my mid-life crisis,” Tully said with a laugh.
Tully also credited Goss for installing the milking equipment on the farm, including its most prominent piece of technology: an automatic calf feeder installed in April 2016.
“We were spending a lot of time feeding calves and taking care of them in a day,” Tully said. “We went and looked at another feeder and saw how good of a job it was doing feeding the calves, so we decided to buy it. I couldn’t believe how much faster the calves grew. They eat more naturally, like if they were nursing off of a cow.”
One doesn’t have to go far to find Tully farmland, as the family business owns about 400 acres of land in Dunstable, Pepperell and Hollis, NH. The family also rents land from the Larter family on Hollis Street and St. Anselm’s College on River Street to harvest corn and hay.
Tully said that the business has been in his life long before he was born, saying the farm was “everything” to his father, Charles W. Tully Sr., and grandfather, George Tully.
“I was born here, grew up here, always out in the barn or in the fields,” Tully said. “The family and farm was everything. When I got out of high school, I started getting shares of the corporation and then probably in 2006 or 2007, I took over the books. My grandmother used to do the bookwork.”
Tully keeps that family feel going today, with all four of his children having had their time working on the farm. His oldest daughter did scheduling for the staff at the store and website management, his second daughter helps with the store on occasion and his oldest son delivers milk house-to-house two days a week. In the meantime, Tully’s youngest son is currently studying dairy science at SUNY Cobleskill.
“They’ve always worked and always knew they had to work,” Tully said. “The girls have always had other jobs and knew where they wanted to school, they were going to chip in and they made it happen.”
Tully said he’d like to think the farm is a central part to Dunstable, recalling a former home delivery customer who told him that he thought 25 percent of the value of his home came from the farms in town and its “rural character.” He called the recent honors “nice” and said his father and grandfather would’ve been proud to see the farm given the accolades.
“For right now, we’re happy with where we are,” Tully said.