Wright's Dairy Farm in North Smithfield, RI
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North Smithfield, RI
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North Smithfield, RI - Wright’s Dairy Farm is truly a family affair. While talking with office manager Elizabeth Dulude, I found out that she belongs to the fourth generation of Wrights to run the farm that her great-grandfather, George Wright, founded at the end of the nineteenth century.
While the ownership has stayed consistent over the years, the world of dairy farming has changed in
many ways since the days when George Wright delivered fresh raw milk to his neighbors. Not long
after his son, Ernest Wright, took over the business in the 1930’s, pasteurization became mandatory.
Determined to keep selling directly to consumers, the Wrights decided to invest in the equipment
necessary to pasteurize milk right on the farm. As a result, the farm was able to remain profitable when
many other similarly small-scale dairies struggled.
Elizabeth’s parents, Edward and Claire Wright, inherited a healthy business when they bought the
farm in the 1970’s, but even more changes were ahead for the dairy industry. The rise of convenience
stores—pioneered by another northern Rhode Island dairy farm, Cumberland Farms—meant that fewer
customers required home delivery. The Wrights discontinued their delivery route and opened a small
store at the farm, selling Claire’s homemade cakes and cookies along with their fresh milk.
Today, Wright’s Dairy Farm is just as famous for its bakery, which has become a true local favorite and
won multiple “Best of Rhode Island” awards, as it is for its milk. Elizabeth and ten other family members
run the farm, bakery, and store. They’re busy year-round with a mixture of regulars who come in for
their milk each week, and occasional customers from around the state who make the trip to get cakes
and pastries for a special occasion.
A bakery and a dairy farm go hand-in-hand, Elizabeth explains. The bakery depends on fresh milk for
frosting cakes and filling pastries—that’s what makes them so famously good. At the same time, the
bakery helps keep the dairy business alive. Few shoppers make a special stop just for milk, but most
customers will pick up a quart while they’re in the store getting cookies, bread, or pies.
Wright’s Dairy Farm is also a popular destination for families with children, who take trips to the farm
to enjoy their homemade ice cream and see the cows. And these are some of the happiest cows you’ll
ever see. The farm is immaculately clean, with state-of-the-art milking and freestall barns. Cows lie
on comfortable sand, and are cooled by fans on hot days. No hormones are ever used, and all milk is
antibiotic-free. “We don’t have much turnover,” Elizabeth says, explaining that good health and good
nutrition produce the best supply of milk.
And having a good milk supply is critical, because Wright’s Dairy remains an active working farm,
with 125 milking cows currently making up the herd. Their milk is sold at Stamp Farm in Johnston and
Jaswell’s Farm in Smithfield as well as at the farm store, and any extra is purchased by wholesale buyers.
Elizabeth and her siblings are always looking for ways to improve and build the business, and hope to
sell their milk at more farm stands around the state while also starting a mail-order business for their
baked goods. (Their best-selling hermits can be ordered online, bur for anything else, you’ll have to drive
to North Smithfield.)
Ultimately, the goal is to keep the farm in good shape for the next generation. Elizabeth credits her
parents with making it easy for her and her siblings to take over the operation of the farm: “They
built a healthy business, and we just had to pick up the baton.” And while there’s no pressure for the
grandchildren to take up farming, she’s optimistic that at least one of them will be inspired to keep the
family tradition alive.