Friday, December 04, 2015

Saving Family Farms


Some NY dairy farmers got a reprieve  from losing their milk market this week. So many others have gone through that awful wringer in the past few months.

When I read the article  it came as small surprise to find that the National Farmers Organization, or NFO, came through for them.

You see we faced this situation a few years back and it was truly awful.

Cows must be milked, at least twice every day. They must be fed and watered, receive veterinary care. Most have a nutritionist who visits and expects his due. The electric bill for the barns must be payed, and on a dairy it is often a whopper.   I saw bills up to a thousand a month when we had a full barn and a cold year. Tractors need fuel, insurance fees loom large. Taxes must be paid and they are not gentle on land owners.

When you lose your market, the milk goes down the drain, or if you are lucky you can give it away, and the check that offsets these liabilities is gone.

There are very few people who can afford to feed dozens, if not hundreds, of large, hungry animals and provide for all their other needs, as if they were pets. The sale barn and the end of life as you knew it looms large and stops sleep.

When it happened to us because our cooperative quit the company that had a contract with the small trucker who could access our challenging driveway, we spent weeks in a flurry of phone calls to legislators and everyone else we could find to no avail. 

And in fear. We were terrified. Those cows were like family to us, farming was all we knew, and we couldn't see a way out of it.

In the end, John Dabs, who owned the trucking company that picked up our milk, sent Ken Woodruff, who inspected for NY's NFO, to check us out. He looked over our barns, sat at our kitchen table talking and offering confident comfort, and signed us up...we have lost track of Ken, and I am sorry for it. He was good to us.

We stayed with NFO until we sold out. There were times they didn't pay as much as other coops and processors. There were times they charged more for this or that. There were times we got aggravated, as farmers, who are pretty helpless about what they are paid and what they pay out, sometimes do.

However, through it all, three times a month that milk check came and Ken was as reasonable a milk inspector to work with as I have ever met. Some processors, who are less scrupulous, leave farmers dangling for their last check when they sell out. Not NFO...we got every check.

I was and still am grateful to National Farmers for saving our farm ......at least for a while,.....and comforted to see that they are still doing it. It is good that someone still looks out for farmers instead of viewing them as cattle to be milked for all they are worth and then dumped.

Here is our story.....

7 comments:

lisa said...

It is awful and I wonder what people will do if we didn't have our farms and ranches!

Linda Pierson said...

It seems like people think their food comes from a grocery shelf and milk originates in a carton so they can't figure out why ranchers and farmers are always fighting for things. Right now here in Alberta we have a new government that wants to implement all these very stupid rules on how we operate. It's all about control and these "police" they have to hire to enforce it we have to pay for with another tax....and these guys produce no product and no service.....producers of anything from oil to wheat are just having too much stress both financially and mental put on them.

Jan said...

The disconnect between food producers and consumers seems to be growing all the time sadly,

Terry and Linda said...

I just read your wonderful (albeit sad) post. Then I read Lisa, Linda and Jan's comments.

I wish the people, who never put foot on land, could really see what it really takes to get food to the table.

Take our area's sweet corn...it's has some fame to itself, selling all the way to Kentucky and Tennessee in season. The corn sells for three ears for a dollar in Kroger, Safeway and WalMart a good deal. But the farmer makes 1/2 cent per ear! Each stalk has two ears, but only the top ear can go to market...the consumer demands only the very best. Also, there can not be ONE corn worm on One ear...if that happens the whole field is abandoned. Fields as large as 100 acres. Worms are nasty and the consumer can't handle nasty. The seed, the fertilizer and not matter what the CORN WORM SPRAY, all the hand labor, water, taxes, fuel, all costs big dollars. Huge dollars. 1/2 cent per ear is very little money really.

Oh, I'll stop, I know you understand. Big Time.

Linda

threecollie said...

Lisa, I just don't know. It is heart breaking to drive around here and see the vacant land.

Linda, I have been following the situation up there and am going to write about it probably this week. Would you be willing to grant me a personal perspective on it? Thanks

Jan, it gets discouraging after a while.

Linda, holy cow! I had no idea of those numbers! Wow! I may contact you later to use some of this in a column if you don't mind. Thanks

ellie k said...

I love the picture and just want to sit and look at it. Brings back some good memories of our dairy farm in Ohio. My heart aches for all farmers now, the government, peta, taxes and so many other things on there back all the time. My big worry now is this greening for citrus trees, that one hits home for us.

threecollie said...

Ellie, I worry about it too! For your sake, and because I love citrus fruit and hate to see it become difficult and expensive to grow. Best wishes to you