What's in your barn? Old dairy barn at Brookside Farm gets (and gives) another life
LANESBOROUGH — The Garritys know about giving something — in this case, a Lanesborough farm and its centuries-old barn — another life.
The late Charles Garrity Sr. bought Brookside Farm in 1936. His grandson, Charles "Butch" Garrity, has since looked into the farm's history at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield.
"Way back in, like, [the] 1800s, it was a boarding house and a farm," said Butch, who is also Lanesborough's deputy fire chief. There used to be 20 boarding rooms attached to the white farmhouse, and teachers from New York City would ride the train to Pittsfield in June and catch a horse and carriage to Brookside Farm, where they would relax and rest up between school terms.
By the time Butch's grandfather bought the farmhouse, the barn and the 118-acre property, all for $5,000, things were in disrepair. But no matter: Brookside Farm got a new life with the Garrity family. They started out with about 30 milking cows, and in 1960, the year after Charles Garrity Sr. died, his son and Butch's father, Charles "Brud" Garrity, built a long, low attachment onto the old barn.
"My father said, 'Well, if I'm going to do this full time, I'm going to need to expand,'" Butch said.
The Garritys doubled their herd size to about 65, and that's the farm Butch worked on for the better part of three decades. Aside from a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy and two years at an agricultural college, he was in that tall red barn each day, milking and otherwise caring for the cows.
"Everyone in the family worked on the farm — that's how it was," Butch said. "I had my whole life designed at 16, and everything was going good."
Then, at 35, he said he starting noticing some things, like how his friends had two days off a week while he hadn't had one off in three years, and that, even with all that hard work, Brookside Farm was spending more than it was making.
"The price of milk was just so low, we were losing money every month," Butch said.
By 1994, they had to stop operations. Shortly after, Butch and his father, Brud, removed the old milking stanchions from the barn and put in 12 box stalls. This transformation made way for the barn's next inhabitants: horses.
On Feb. 24, Butch walked past those stalls to a paddock gate. Several horse noses nudged him in welcome. While horses have lived at Brookside Farm for years, Butch said he and his wife, Anne, took on oversight of them in the past year. They live just down the road at Echo Farm, but Anne has four of her own horses at Brookside. She also cares for the other six horses boarded there.
"It's her life," Butch said of his wife. Anne's enthusiasm for animals, he said, encourages others to keep their horses at the farm, too.
The Garritys have given several rescue horses another chance in their big red barn. Last week, Butch pointed out a chestnut horse in a green blanket named Salvador from the paddock fence. He said when his wife found him, Salvador was emaciated to the extreme.
"Now, he's almost fat," Butch said. Salvador stood next to another horse, a palomino named Phoenix, who was "literally on the trailer to go to the slaughter house" when the Garritys bought her.
In another paddock on the other end of the Brookside Farm barn, a few miniature horses milled around on the muddy ground. Butch said some of them were rescued, too, including one named Dandelion and her mother, Violet.
"My wife goes in themes," Butch said, chuckling. At Echo Farm, he added, "the goats have a 'Hunger Games' theme."
The Garritys have alpacas too. One in particular likes to carry a few pieces of hay around in her mouth all day.
"It's ridiculous," Butch said.
He and his wife added the alpacas to Brookside Farm last year, and eventually, they might want to shear them for wool. For now, though, they're still getting used to running the farm, where they not only care for the animals but also hay the fields. As for the barn, Butch said his family has continued to maintain the beams and the rest of the sturdy structure.
"I think it will stand forever," he said. As for this particular period in the barn's life, Butch said he and his wife are still getting used to it.
"We're kind of in the regrowth phase, if you will," he said. There's regrowth, and there's also something like a return to the rest and relaxation those 19th-century New York City teachers sought in Lanesborough. On a fine summer day when the grass is green and as the sun lowers toward evening, Butch said the horses like to stand up on the ridge.
"You can just sit there and watch," Butch sighed. "It kind of takes your breath away."
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.