Dairy farms are dotted across the New England landscape. But with recent trends of low milk prices, over-supply, increased costs of doing business, consolidation of agricultural conglomerates, and the power and wealth in ag going to only a few: those dairies are being shuttered.
Dairy farmers, especially small family farms in New England, are in crisis.
Here are 6 reasons why YOU should care about New England dairies:
1. Dairy farms provide local food.
And while the small New England dairy farm can’t feed everyone in the world, a healthy network of local farms can feed everyone in New England. Massachusetts dairy farms produce 23% of the milk consumed in MA. And of course, keeping food local reduces transportation costs and emissions. 1.
2. Dairy farms are environmentally conscious.
Because the land is our livelihood, and because better crops yield better milk, dairy farmers practice sustainable farming tactics to preserve the quality of soil, reduce erosion, mitigate runoff, sequester carbon, and protect the greater ecosystem where we raise our herd and grow our crops. 65% of Massachusetts dairy farmers (like the Barstow’s!) produce renewable energy on their farm.
3. Dairy farms steward our landscape.
The average Massachusetts dairy farm has 114 cows and 343 acres of land. MA dairy farmers collectively keep 50,367 acres of land farmed, open, and green which is excellent for wildlife, ground water protection, property values, and community well-being. In the Pioneer Valley alone, dairy farms steward 18% of agricultural land despite the fact they make up less than 2% of the farm businesses.
4. Massachusetts dairy farms have been in the same family on average for three generations and some over 13 generations!
Dairy farming is a way of life closely connected with the land and our heritage. Preservation of dairy farms sustains the history and landscape of New England agriculture. Nearly all dairy farmers are enrolled in programs to keep their farm land in agriculture (like the APR program), apply practices to maintain rural farming heritage, and apply practices to promote good relationships with their neighbors. The Boston Globe reported earlier this year that New England has lost more than 10,000 dairy farms in the last 50 years, and that two-thirds of Massachusetts dairy farms have been shuttered since 1997. Today, August 1, 2018, there are 134 dairy farms left in the state.
5. Dairy farms contribute to the economy.
In 2012, Massachusetts dairy farms generated $44.3 million in sales and the MA dairy processing industry creates an estimated $500 million in sales using milk from this state alone. Massachusetts dairy farms add $150 million into the state’s economy by buying their supplies locally. Each cow in the Commonwealth generates an estimated $26,600 in economic activity! A great reason to keep the dairy economy MOOving!
6. Massachusetts dairy farmers are rooted in their communities and have been for generations.
Many farmers are involved in local politics, churches, in their public schools, are on their volunteer fire departments, and honor the stories and traditions of their hometowns. With many more people being transplanted in the world, it is nice to have some long-time locals contributing to the New England culture we cherish.