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 Where We Live obviously isn't the only outlet concerned about the plight of Connecticut's dairy farmers.  Last week, dairy was part of the conversation on The Faith Middleton Show, as she discussed saving family farms.

Then, one day after our program about state efforts to prop up milk prices, The Hartford Courant featured a front-page article by Shawn Beals on the same subject (featuring a great photo gallery by photographer John Woike).

Our callers ranged from free-market skeptics - wondering if government interference isn't the problem with agriculture in the first place - to working farmers, making a case for the dire state of their industry.  Many of the arguments made by our panelists were derived from economic analysis of the issue - placing real dollar values on every aspect of dairy farm preservation.  We talked about "food security" as a case for more locally grown food (only three days supply in all of Rhode Island?) that doesn't have to be shipped here from far and wide.  

Here's a sampling of emails and tweets:

  • Two thoughts on this topic:  I'd LOVE to know how to be sure I'm buying Connecticut milk and a "made in CT logo" should be in the mix for drinking Milk.  We got this link in response from Linda Piotrowicz at the Department of Agriculture.  
  • R.Moore was one of several people who wanted to talk about the controversy surrounding "raw" milk: I want to add my voice in defense and appreciation of CT availability of raw milk.  It is an important quality of life issue,which should be encourages and supported. There is nothing better than uncooked milk for flavor and the nutrition, and digestibility are much improved. I have been a dedicated raw milk buyer/user for over 20 years.
  • Brigitte Ruthman in Sandisfield, Mass: Recenty, there have been legislative discussions about regulations impacting the sale of raw milk. It seems to be a solution for farmers to eliminate the middleman. In the 1990s, Cornwall dairy farmer Debra Tyler defied the odds by meeting strict health codes and selling direct to consumers- who love it.  She can make $7 or $8 a gallon, much more than the $1 Agrimark offers. Still, recently, the state's Dept. of agriculture has threatened to stiffen these rules which would make it more difficult, not less, to sell directly to consumers who crave it. I am defying all good sense by building a small dairy herd just north of Connecticut where Massachusetts laws are more farmer friendly. 
  • More on raw milk from The Courant's Rick Green.
  • A question that went unanswered from Carol Springer: How are lower environmental impact of goat/sheep dairies, increase prefrence for those products, and impact of policy on large #s of people allergic to dairy products?

For those who don't know the work of Michael Pollan (heavily referenced by me during the show), here's his website. Everything he's done for the Times or in his books is required reading to understand these issues.  He's at the forefront of a movement to try and get people to think about where their food is coming from.  This little writing shed (right), is on his property in Northwest Connecticut.   I got to go there and visit with him years ago, when doing production on this piece for the public radio show Living On Earth.  At the time, he was getting ready to move to California to teach, but was also just learning about how to raise chickens on his plot.  Pollan would've been my choice for Agriculture Secretary.  But they didn't ask me, and they usually don't ask journalists to take those sorts of jobs.  Too bad...



Yes! Michael Pollan would

Yes! Michael Pollan would have been a GREAT pick for Ag Sec! Maybe they can still bring him on board in some capacity or another.

I agree with your point about raw milk. It's baffling that the State would try and suppress sales of raw milk while at the same time claiming that dairy is in such a dire predicament. Whether or not they succeed in restricting the sale of raw milk, its popularity will continue to grow. The revolution will not be pasteurized!

More email comments from farmer Brigitte Ruthman

This is a hugely important topic, all of it. While Michael Pollen rivets consumer interest and a grass roots movement is exploding the demand for farm direct products, lawmakers are not listening and state agriculture departments are failing to take steps to help.  I mean by that the state ought to be helping people like Buddy Hurlburt in Cornwall to find a way to transport his milk to Hartford's city streets, a trip he once made in a converted ambulance as a milk truck. When gas prices rose, he couldn't continue.  Where are the advertisements that promote locally grown produce, and/or a list of markets where farmers can sell their products so they can focus on their fields.  I presently have a glut of eggs and no local market, aside from propping a sign at the end of the road.

Although Massachusetts makes it easier to sell raw milk, there is a lack of understanding- which government could help to solve- about what homogenization and pasteurization is, and what the risks are.  The opportunities exist for a profit in the dairy industry- Debra Tyler in Cornwall sells her Jersey milk for $7.50 a gallon direct to buyers. Government should be helping, not getting in the way of others who might follow in her footsteps.  I for one, am trying. I have two milking shorthorns and am awaiting a third - a heifer from Vermont. I am losing money, but have hope for the future.

CT Grown Resources for Producers and Consumers

The CT Department of Agriculture's Marketing Bureau produces a wide variety of consumer brochures listing where CT Grown products can be purchased.  All are available on DoAG's website at  http://www.ct.gov/doag/cwp/view.asp?a=3260&q=400380&doagNav=|

DoAG works with farmers statewide to assist them in finding markets for their products.  A list of farmers' markets in the state can be found at http://www.ct.gov/doag/cwp/view.asp?a=3260&q=398996 and will provide a list of market manager contact info to producers upon request. 

To read about some of the other programs that DoAG's Marketing Bureau offers to help promote CT Grown products and assist producers, please see http://www.ct.gov/doag/cwp/view.asp?Q=432676&A=1401 and http://www.ct.gov/doag/cwp/view.asp?a=1366&q=258948.

DoAG's Marketing Bureau can be reached at 860-713-2503.