Amherst Magazine

Milking It

[Yogurt] The cow had been on their property less than 24 hours when it happened. “I was out there looking at her, and then I see four little hoofs coming out the back end,” says Paul Lacinski ’89. “I didn’t have any idea what to do.”

It was the fall of 2005, and Paul and his wife, Amy Klippenstein ’89, of Ashfield, Mass., liked yogurt. A lot. The yogurt they were churning up, made with milk from grass-fed cows, was so delicious they could barely satisfy their own demand. “Smooth, creamy, heavy-bodied, with only a mild tartness, and the natural sweetness of the grass-fed milk shining through. I was converted to a yogurt lover,” says Amy. Paul didn’t need converting: “We were having trouble keeping up with the amount of yogurt I was eating.” (“He considers a quart of yogurt a single serving size,” says Amy.) So maybe, they thought, they should sell it.

Despite having no experience in the dairy business, Paul and Amy were game to try. Of course, they were game for a lot of things. Their résumés reveal stints on both coasts, with years in landscaping, architecture and building houses from straw bales before they settled in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, selling greenhouse tomatoes and salad greens at farmers’ markets. When you look closely, you see that their life paths followed their interests—and appetites.

Philosophically and gastronomically in sync, the couple got their three cows in September 2005—the same year the word locavore was coined. “The interest in local foods was really sort of ratcheting up right around the time we began making yogurt,” Paul says. “That was a really lucky thing, because it made people inclined to try it—‘Oh, look, this is from right around here.’” Paul and Amy felt pretty certain that once people tasted their yogurt, they’d like it.

People did try it. And liked it. And kept buying it. Local stores began stocking Sidehill Farm yogurt. A business popped up in Northampton (and later Amherst) selling frozen yogurt made with Sidehill Farm yogurt. “We have 75 stores around Franklin, Hampshire and Berkshire counties selling our yogurt,” marvels Paul. “We’re also shipping to the eastern part of the state now.”

The couple recently moved their operation to a 225-acre dairy farm in nearby Hawley, where they are building a new barn and creamery for 50 cows. Could they have imagined, when the first calf landed, feet first, on the grass in front of Paul’s eyes, that one day they’d be at the helm of this thriving operation?

“We would have fallen over laughing. I still wake up and think, ‘Wow! I had this weird dream that I was a dairy farmer,’” says Amy. “You could knock us over with a blade of grass!” But don’t. Save it for the cows. Then, enjoy.

Shulman has written for Ladies’ Home Journal, The New York Times and other publications.