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Auctioning off their herd wasn’t easy for any of the Greenbackers, but the one who felt it the most may be Melissa Greenbacker Dziurgot, Joe Greenbacker’s daughter. She’s been managing the farm’s herd for more than 20 years.

Melissa and her husband Matt Dziurgot are actually keeping about 70 cows and calves that they personally own and most of those have already been sent temporarily to other farms. Those dairy operations will keep the milk the Dziurgot’s cows produce in return for caring for the animals.

One cow that isn’t going anywhere is Linguini, Melissa’s favorite, and one of the most famous cows in Connecticut. “We’ve got her in a separate pen in the corner of the barn with a sign that says ‘Not for Sale,’ ” Melissa said.

Melissa Dziurgot said the reality of the sale probably won’t hit her until she walks back into an almost empty and silent barn. “It will be weird, and dead,” she said, wiping away one more tear.

Joe and David Greenbacker say they plan to continue farming at Brookfield, growing some corn for another farmer and keeping a few cows. But their decision to sell most of the herd brings to a conclusion a Connecticut farming tradition that began for their family in 1723.

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“It’s hard, it’s a global business now and that makes it hard,” said Chris Hannan, who runs a 350-acre family farm in Southbury and came to the auction “out of curiosity and respect.” Hannan said there’s an ongoing glut of milk being produced in the U.S. these days, and far less in dairy exports to nations around the world.

Ted Brockett is a former Connecticut dairy farmer who moved his farm operation to upstate New York years ago but traveled to Durham this week for the auction. “I’m just here observing … Seeing one of the last farms in the area to go out,” Brockett said.

“They’re at a great disadvantage down here,” Brockett, 80, said of the Greenbackers and other farmers in this state. He said trucking costs, feed and taxes are all higher for dairy operations in Connecticut.

“It’s pretty sad for these folks,” agreed Steve Ouellette, whose family operates a 2,500-acre dairy farm near Lake Champlain in Vermont. “It’s tough right now.”

Ouellette came to the auction looking for bargains. “Cattle are a lot cheaper down here than where we come from,” he said. “It’s pretty sad for these folks, but good for the guys buying.” Ouellette and his son-in-law bought at least 13 Greenbacker cows Thursday.

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Controversial and memorable

Michele Robecchi

Artists and curators always display a sense of badly concealed pride when one of their exhibitions is chastised as ‘controversial.’ Scandal and public outrage are a dangerous ground to venture into, but they can also represent a risk worth taking. The history of art is laced with examples of visual intuitions and revolutions of macroscopic proportions that were presaged by events that generated short-term indignation. On top of that, transgression and curiosity often go hand in hand, and the consequent advertising is a guarantee of massive media attention and bigger profits. Throw into the mix a historical and institutional venue like the London Royal Academy of Arts and a popular and controversial figure like Charles Saatchi, and you know why Sensation was born under a good sign, provocation-wise.

To briefly recap, Sensation was the brainchild of Saatchi and the Academy secretary of exhibitions Norman Rosenthal. About a decade earlier, Saatchi set his sights on what would become ‘YBA’ (Young British Art), deploying his usual technique of buying the whole stock as soon as it hit the shelves if not before. Genuine enthusiasm? Ruthless speculation? Whatever the motivation — and even discounting the argument around Saatchi’s aggressive marketing approach — the art exhibited in Sensation stood as an exceptional testament to a good eye and intuition. Mat Collishaw, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Chris Ofili, Fiona Rae, Gillian Wearing and Rachel Whiteread were all present with seminal works, somehow certifying the generational turnover that started with Freeze in 1988.

In a way, the unofficial mission of Sensation was to redefine the unexpected success of the exhibition curated by Hirst, replacing artists like Steven Adamson, Dominic Denis or Stephen Park with Mark Wallinger, Jake Dinos Chapman and Marc Quinn. It also gave a second chance to people who got to Freeze relatively unprepared. Angela Bulloch, Mat Collishaw and Gary Hume already gave full proof of their talent, but others like Lucas or Hirst himself had minor pieces. Sensation demonstrated that the new British art was a fact and that, behind the colonels, there was a full army ready to conquer the world.

When Sensation opened the season at the Royal Academy, the reception was wild. It rapidly became the exhibition to see, catching the attention of TV news, newspapers and tabloids, with the latter expressing new levels of alarmist controversy. Many were shocked by the Chapman’s porno-genetic sculptures; others decried the tent in which Tracey Emin had sewn the names of all the people she had slept with. But the theatrical force of these pieces was nothing compared to the rage caused by Marcus Harvey’s Myra (1995). Painted with the aid of a group of children’s fingerprints, the canvas was a portrait of Myra Hindley, the infamous Moors infanticide, one of the darkest episodes in the UK in the ’60s, and still an open wound 30 years later. Winnie Johnson, mother of one of Hindley’s victims, put together a protest group, picketing the Academy’s front door for the whole duration of the show, inviting the public to boycott it. In a rare public outing, Hindley herself expressed her misgivings from prison, asking for the work to be removed. When the organizers refused, protests became even stronger. Some of the Royal Academy’s windows were smashed and two visitors managed to throw eggs at Harvey’s painting, forcing it to undergo a quick restoration. If quarantine was the ultimate goal, such episodes naturally reached the opposite effect, and Sensation closed a few days after Christmas with a record number of 300,000 visitors, much to Rosenthal’s and Saatchi’s satisfaction.

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