PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today announced that Breene Hollow Farm in West Greenwich has been named Rhode Island's 2018 Outstanding Dairy Farm by the Rhode Island Green Pastures Committee of which DEM is a member.
"Rhode Island has a rich agricultural heritage and it's important to recognize farmers who through business acumen, innovation, and long hard hours are contributing so much to our food supply, the economy, and their families and communities," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo.
"Breene Hollow Farm is one of our state's finest dairy farms and is most deserving of this special recognition," said DEM Chief of Agriculture Ken Ayars. "Rhode Island has become a destination for agriculture and food tourism and food-related business incubation. Dairy farming, however, has experienced a decline in recent years in Rhode Island – as elsewhere nationally. This award program shines an important light on the value of dairy farming to our state. Kudos to Breene Hollow Farm and the Green Pastures Committee for their commitment to the viability of this important local industry."
DEM continues to work across many fronts to strengthen Rhode Island's green economy and to promote local agriculture. The state's green industries account for more than 15,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion to the economy each year. And local agriculture continues to be an area ripe for growth – with the number of farms in Rhode Island on the rise and a growing young farmer network. Breene Hollow Farm, a member of the Agri-Mark Cooperative and Rhody Fresh Milk, was selected for this year's award because of the Breene family's long-term commitment to dairy farming and community ties.
Kevin Breene established Breene Hollow Farm with 20 cows at his parents' home in 1977 upon his graduation from the University of Connecticut. In 1980, he bought 150 acres of land at the farm's present location in West Greenwich, and built a new free-stall barn and milking parlor. Over the years, several abutting properties were purchased, bringing the farm's total acreage to 360 acres. The farm currently milks 50 cows and has 90 head in total consisting of registered Holsteins, Jerseys, and Ayrshires. Crops include 20 acres of corn and 45 acres of hay land and pasture. Corn silage is also purchased from a neighboring farm and the cows are fed a total mixed ration twice a day. The remainder of the farm is managed forestland with continual harvesting of firewood and saw logs. Manure is hauled daily to fields and spread in the spring and fall, and a manure storage facility designed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service is in use.
Breene Hollow Farm is operated by Kevin Breene, who does the crop work and cares for the young-stock; and his daughter, Melissa, and her husband, Matt, who run the milking operation. Melissa attended the University of Connecticut and Matt has a bachelor's degree in forestry from Paul Smith College. Like Melissa, Matt also comes from a farming background and grew up working on his grandfather's dairy farm.
The entire Breene family is actively involved in the community. Kevin has served as West Greenwich Town Administrator for the past 16 years and previously was a RI state senator for 12 years. He also is involved in 4-H, Future Farmers of America (FFA), Exeter Grange, and previously served as state chairman of the USDA's Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service. Melissa is the dairy chair and vice president of the local 4-H Fair and chair of the Young Farmers & Ranchers group for the RI Farm Bureau. She is a former 4-H member, past state vice president of FFA, and past president of Agri-Mark Young Co-operators.
The Outstanding Dairy Farm of the Year award is sponsored by the New England Green Pastures Committee, made up of government and industry members. Membership in the committee is coordinated by the Rhode Island Agricultural Council and the DEM Division of Agriculture. Winning dairy farmers from each New England state will be honored on September 14 at the Big E Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
For information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.