Hi, my name is Elise Pennington representing the Warwick Valley FFA and I’m here
to talk to you about curdled milk.
Most of us in this room are from rural areas and we have become used to seeing corn swaying in
the wind, and cows grazing in the fields. But, have you ever been driving in the car past the same field with a “city-kid”?
They want to take pictures of that barn and run through that field. And of course, they have to roll down their window and
“MOOOO” at the cow.
It’s almost like they want to feel some kind of connection to the land. And small dairy farmers are the people who
can give it to them. But every day in America more of those small dairy farms go out of business and unless they do something
different, large factory farms will be all that is left. Are we really ready to let rural life become a thing of the past?
Since World War II many changes have occurred in the dairy industry. Farmers were able to substitute machinery and equipment
for manual labor and move from grass-fed cows to confinement feeding systems. Incredible bio-tech advances in the past twenty
years have also changed the methods of food production. But all these new methods require farmers to invest a lot of money
and that leads them to specialize in one area of food production.
Large farms that can distribute their products very fast have become common and because they ship so much, they can sell
it at pretty low price. Other benefits are their consistency and reliability.
The question is: at what cost?
We can’t just ignore the many benefits of a small dairy farm. Small dairy farms create products that have a variety
of tastes. There is much less standardization and small owners have the ability to experiment. This is how we discover different
practices and different flavors.
Having locally produced food also makes us aware of where our food comes from. We know the farmer who is responsible for
providing food that is safe and fresh. We see him every day and can appreciate the work that goes into the food that is on
If a small farm gets put out of business, and a large farm takes its place, the whole feel of the community is changed
drastically. And when the character of the community is changed this much, it not only affects the food source, and the economy
but, more importantly, it affects the balance of urban communities versus rural communities that we have in the United States.
Are we ready to let that local farm be turned into a parking lot? Are we ready to hand control of our whole agricultural system
to a few large agribusinesses?
By reducing the number of small farms in America, we are taking away the very heart of what makes America what it is. As
Jonathan White of Bobolink Dairy and Bakeyard has said, “People came and still come to America from all over the world
so they can own land and farm that land.” As big farms increase in size, it reduces the amount of land available for
small farming dreams.
So what is the direction we want our nation to go towards? It is not as simple as choosing small farms over big. It never
is. But what is the solution? I say --…Curdle That Milk!
For the past 10 years, the price a farmer receives for a gallon of milk has been about $1.50. But, if that farmer takes
that gallon of milk and turns it into a pound of cheese, he can get $15-$20 for that cheese. Another farmer could take his
gallon of milk and turn it into a gallon of yogurt. I just paid $4.25 for a yogurt parfait at a farm-stand in
upstate New York. And everybody here knows what Ben and Jerry have done with their milk. One pint of Ben and Jerry’s
ice cream sells for about $6.00. Homemade ice cream goes for a lot more than that though!
Over the past fifty years, milk consumption has gone down from 36 gallons per person to 26 gallons per person. But, cheese
went up from 8 pounds per person to 30 pounds per person, yogurt consumption quadrupled, and frozen dairy products went up
In many towns across New York State farmers gather together on weekends to sell their products. But the farmers aren’t
there to sell milk. They are selling things that we can’t pick up at Shoprite -- unique cheeses, distinctive yogurts,
and very interesting flavors of ice cream. In order to sell their products many small farmers have seen the potential and
have created original products that are unique to their farm.
And speaking of potential, now we have the Internet. Using the internet, people can visit your farm whenever they want.
Customers can order products online, sign up for workshops, even go on a virtual farm tour! Farmers can e-mail everyone on
their customer list a digital photo of their newest calf and send notices when their cheese is perfectly aged. Unlimited cyber
space allows for newsletters, recipe boxes and even links to other farms. If a small farm has a website, they can give the
whole world a window into their life and bring some of that old world tradition into our new world. And hopefully make a good
living at the same time!
So, let’s forget the whole small farm or large farm debate. America needs both! And the best way to make sure that
small farms stay alive is by curdling that milk!
Decourley, Rebecca. Small Farm Today. Small Farm Today Magazine. 14 Feb. 2006 http://www.smallfarmtoday.com.
Fox, Louis, and Jonah Sachs. "What You Need To Know About Factory Farms." The
Meatrix. 10 Jan. 2006 http://www.meatrix.com/information
Najarian, Noah. "Garden Mosaics." Dept. of Natural Resources, Cornell University. 20
Souza, Margo. Moo Milk. 13 Feb. 2006 http://www.moomilk.com.
United States Department of Agriculture. “Profiling Food Consumption in America”
Agriculture Fact Book 2001-2002 http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf
Valles, Colleen. “Small Organic Farms Fight To Stay In Business.” The Salt Lake Tribune 27 Feb.
2003. 17 Feb. 2006 http://www.ofrf.org/press/Press%20Clippings/SaltLakeTribune.022703.Valles.pdf