'Tis the season; Local dairies whippin' up eggnog for holidays.


Byline: Bill Fortier

People start stopping by the store at Cooper's Hilltop Dairy Farm in Leicester during the first part of November asking the same question every year.

"People want to know when we're going to start making eggnog," said Norma Rankin, who has worked for about seven years at the store. It is next to the tall silo at the farm on 515 Henshaw St. in Leicester.

"I just say `Hey, Jim, when are we going to start making eggnog?'" Ms. Rankin said last week.

James A. Cooper, 65, a member of the Cooper family, which owns the farm, said he's been making eggnog for about 50 years.

"Some people ask about the eggnog in the summer," Mr. Cooper said. "I said, don't worry, Christmas lasts a long time."

This is prime time for the holiday luxury that Mr. Cooper said has been shipped through the years to places as far away as Honolulu.

"People have come to associate us with the holiday season," he said as he poured just-made eggnog into cups of black coffee for himself and two visitors. "You know, it's kind of like through the woods to grandma's house."

"It's a tradition," said Robert Pearson, 76, of Pearson's Elmhurst Dairy, 342 W. Main St. in Millbury, as he stood inside his small processing facility next to a retail shop where people stop by to pick up eggnog, which he has been making for about as long as Mr. Cooper.

While the state Department of Agricultural Resources doesn't keep statistics on how many dairies in the state make

eggnog, interviews with dairy farmers and a conversation with Commissioner Scott Soares show that Cooper's, Pearson's and Stillman's Dairy, 991 Lancaster Ave., Lunenburg, are the only dairies in Worcester County that still make eggnog.

Mr. Soares said, at last check, there were 21 working dairies in the state, and perhaps about a half-dozen make eggnog. Mr. Soares said the Shaw Dairy Farm in Dracut, where about 20 200-gallon vats of eggnog will be made by the end of the month, is well-known in the Merrimack Valley and Eastern Massachusetts. Shaw Dairy Farm owner Warren L. Shaw estimated between six and eight farms in the state make the product that many associate with Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"Shaw's farm, they're big time," said Mr. Pearson. He said he doesn't make nearly as much eggnog as the Dracut dairy.

As a means of comparison, Mr. Cooper said that as of late last week he had made five 200-gallon vats of eggnog while Mr. Pearson said he had made three. Mr. Cooper, who said sales will pick up dramatically...

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