As increasing costs and more regulations threaten dairy farms, Americans stand to lose.
This post was inspired by my trip to a dairy farm with American Dairy Association North East. This messaging has not been sponsored in any way and all opinions are solely mine.
No matter where you live, your life is impacted by a dairy farm.
Most Americans simply see the farm in their grocery store – milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, salad dressing, hot chocolate mix, and far more processed products rely on dairy than one would even think of. Meanwhile, a small percentage of the population see the farm in their grocery store and from their front door or on their daily commute (and smell the farm just about as often).
Now envision your grocery store and take out every single product that has dairy in it. On a smaller scale, I dare you to step into your kitchen and read a couple labels. Envision your life without products that have ingredients such as whey. What would your meal plan look like without a dairy farm?
Americans stand to lose.
As time goes by the amount of dairy farms are dwindling – from children growing up and moving to different industries to the sheer expense of running a dairy farm – the quantity of dairy farms has gone down while Americans’ consumption has risen. Here are some easy-to-read statistics from 2013 but you can also do your own search and find even more in-depth information across the internet.
Those of us who are history buffs know the story of American dairy farms. We know how the Depression and droughts wiped many farmers out. It only takes one bad year if a dairy farm doesn’t have a backup plan. With less dairy farms it’s even more crucial that this era of dairy farmer be innovative and forward thinking.
Today’s dairy farmers innovate and diversify.
With statistics like the above, the pressure is on dairy farmers to run as an industry. They need to be in the business of making their farm a well-run business. This means many farmers are no longer “simply farmers” because they grew up that way. Sure, many farmers DID grow up as farmers but today even more is on the line with USDA requirements, increased demand, growing concern with protecting the environment, rising costs, expensive equipment, and the need for a savvy business plan. If that list isn’t overwhelming already, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Today’s young farmers often go to college to learn more about what makes a successful dairy farm. Some of the fields they focus on are husbandry, agricultural economics, agriculture, agricultural management, dairy science, conservation of natural resources, farm science, and horticulture.
As I said above, today’s dairy farmer constantly needs to be innovating for success. We not only visited Noblehurst Dairy Farm while we were on the NY Dairy Tour with American Dairy Association North East but also rode along with a dairy farmer and got a firsthand glimpse at some of the ways they are innovating.
From Fitbit type products that track cows’ movements and comfort and food digesters that recycle millions of pounds of waste and turn it into energy to on-property creameries, today’s farmer is thinking outside the box to improve animal wellness and environmental impact and create new streams of revenue that will support the farm for years to come.
Where I stand on today’s dairy farms.
I know the dairy farm of today can be controversial to many people. We have idyllic visions of small country farms that support their local population and that’s all good and fine, but the hard truth is that we don’t live in yesteryear. The truth is that it’s easy for us to want one thing yet not be an integral part of making it happen.
We have opinions on everything from GMOs to grass fed, from free ranging to barn living, and that’s okay. It’s good to be educated and know what you stand for, whether it is for or against. My stance on this page is that I’m simply not going to tell you the right or wrong way to think. My responsibility is to educate you on the way things are grown or run and allow you to make that choice for yourself.
No matter where you stand, make sure you thank a farmer for the hard work they do every day, then grab this Chocolate Orange Hot Cocoa recipe. It’s a real crowd-pleaser.