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Which Will You Choose? Mega Farms vs. Small Direct-to-Consumer Farms

A co-op is a huge corporation that buys milk from farms and sells it by truckload to processing plants. Most dairy farmers sell to a co-op.

People want cheap food. There is a reason that corporations try to keep prices down. However, when it comes to food, you truly get what you pay for. The consequences of cutting costs to make food as cheap as possible affect not only you as the consumer, but also the farmers that sell to co-ops.

Co-ops do not pay farmers what it costs to produce milk and earn a living, if the farmer is a small family farm like the ones that used to dot the Vermont country side. A farm has to be enormous to trim costs enough to make ends meet. Factory size.

In a factory farm (a Confined Animal Feeding Operation), cows never get to graze in a meadow. They live in confinement. They are not cared for by a family, but by minimum wage, 9 to 5 workers who are not invested in those animals. It's fully industrial.

Every year, more family farms bite the dust because they can't make a living selling to co-ops. In 2012, Vermont had 973 dairy farms. In 2017, that had dropped to 796. As of 2022, there were only 564 left. The farms that are holding on are mostly BIG farms that have 1,000 cows or more.

In a conversation with a family farmer, I asked if she feels like there is any future for family farms like hers, or if they will all go under. She said:

 "I 100% [think that all family farms are going to shut down. The co-ops] are making more restrictions that we don't have a way to follow. Chances are in 5 years, give or take, that will shut us down."

It will not be long till all of the milk on store shelves was produced at CAFOs that number their cows in the thousands.

You have a choice!

You do not have to buy your food from corporations that treat cows and milk, or any other food, like commodities. (At least for foods that grow in New England.)

You can choose to buy directly from small local farms.

I do not know how to save family farms that sell to co-ops, because co-ops have clearly demonstrated that their bottom line is more important than their farmers.

But there are farms that sell local, and we can do a lot to support them.

How do you know if dairy, or any other food, was produced by national level corporations or by small farmers? It's as simple as reading the label.

First, does the label have an individual farm name, or does it have a brand name that you could just as easily find in another state? Some food corporations try to sound farm-to-table by putting "farms" in their name. If the food was produced at a higher level than a single farm, to the point of being a group of farms, chances are it's a corporation. (There are probably exceptions to this. Be an informed consumer and read between the lines.)

I know of one company that has "Green Mountain" in the name, but it is produced out of state. So don't necessarily go by name alone.

A clue that food was produced at a small, local farm is that it was packaged or bottled on the farm. For instance, you might go to a health food store and see milk that was bottled in Charlotte, Vermont. Even though that farm is selling to a store, it's still local and they are able to sell their product for what it costs them to pay the bills. That's good.

Obviously, if you buy at the farm itself, you know that it is local and the farmer is getting what they need to pay the bills.

Farmers who sell directly to consumers, or to local health food stores, work hard to grow superior products. We look at what it costs to raise food the way that is healthiest for the animal, the planet, and the consumer, and charge the prices necessary to support that.

Does It Matter?

I know from my own experience that eating healthy, unprocessed food is the difference between my body falling apart, or my health being vibrant.

Fresh local food fosters good health and family farms.

The food sold as cheap as possible by big corporations supports industrialized farms and convenience foods that cause the diseases that are so prevalent in our society.

Take charge of your health.

Keep your money local.

Be mindful of the way your food was produced.

Buying raw milk is a little choice that makes a big difference!

Hilary and Melrose, the newest addition to our milking herd of endangered Lynch Linebacks.

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