At some point on a daily basis everybody in Central New York has an encounter with a dairy farmer. The best contact would be consuming one of their products. If you somehow miss tasting milk or cheese for a day, you are still surrounded by the dairy presence.
Your brief encounter might be a wait on the road while a bulk tanker backs into a farmyard, possibly a friend or family member works at Chobani or somewhere in the dairy industry, or maybe you happen to pass by Evans Creamery on a daily commute.
The economic reach of a dairy farm is far and wide, particularly in Chenango and adjoining counties. Each step of the journey from cow to consumer employs scores of people.
In addition to the farmer, a dairy operation requires other industries all along the chain; veterinarians, feed mills and stores, equipment supply and repair, banking, trucking, insurance, fuel and retail outlets to name a few.
Right now things are pretty tough for dairy farmers. The regulated price of milk is the lowest since 2014, while the costs associated with producing that milk have only increased in the same time period. There’s complex reasons why the price is low, too complex to explain in this column.
Since all of us live in a rural county, suffice to say, when dairy farmers do well, we all do well. Here’s how non-farmers can help our dairy producing neighbors, and all farmers in our region, while at the same time increasing our own quality of life.
First off, you should buy local when you have a choice. Read the label on your cheese and dairy products for names you know and the name of towns nearby. Here’s a tip - go to the webpage whereismymilkfrom.com and enter the code from your milk jug to see how far your milk travels to get to your table.
If you have a favorite diner or restaurant, order milk with your meal, and ask for a large glass. If you happen to own a diner or restaurant, offer free refills of milk just as you do for coffee and soda. While there, make sure to use the butter and have some ice cream for desert. Surprisingly, pizzerias account for the biggest portion of the cheese market in the US. So you can help out by ordering your pizza with extra-cheese.
Because American kids are pudgy and don’t get out and play enough, the government only allows low-fat or skim milk served in our schools. A recent federal bill, H.R. 5640 known as the Whole Milk Act, would permit whole milk in school cafeterias. We should contact our Upstate representatives and tell them to support our dairy farmers by passing this bill into law. We should also get our kids away from computer screens and TVs and send them out to play.
Dairy farmers are even being preyed upon by other farmers. In California, the number one dairy producing state, there is a war ongoing between the dairy industry and the almond growers. Lately it has come into vogue to grind up the seeds of the almond tree, mix it with water and sell it with a ‘milk’ label. Milk doesn’t come from trees and nuts, folks. It comes from mammals, with mammary glands.
Some say they are lactose intolerant and use the trendy almond juice as a substitute for milk. Those people with sensitive tummies should try some A2 milk which dairy farmers are producing just for people with digestive turmoil.
Dairy farmers don’t take holidays because cows don’t take holidays. Those cows keep producing milk seven days a week and that milk enters a volatile market. Unfortunately dairy farmers get used to up and down markets, but the current lengthy trend needs to reverse before we lose locally owned dairy farms to the ages. June is Dairy Month, and hardworking dairy farm families deserve a big ‘thank you’ and tip of the hat for providing us with one of life’s staples.
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