Story by Sara Paul
“Whole Milk Contains 3.25% Fat… Milk is a high-quality protein and a nutrient powerhouse… All Milk is Free of Antibiotics.”
These are just a few of the story headlines one can view on the informative website, 97Milk.com. The site is a collaborative effort between dairy farmers in New York and Pennsylvania who are trying to raise awareness about the troubling issues surrounding local dairy farms.
The site includes news articles such as “Why Whole Fat Milk and Yogurt are Healthier Than You Think” and “5 Reasons to Start Eating Full-Fat Dairy, According to Science.” There are also some myth busters and facts about the realities of drinking whole versus low fat milk.
According to 97Milk.com, “Lots of feedback has come in, and it seemed no one knew whole milk was 97% fat free. Some said ‘why are we drinking 2% milk, when whole milk tastes so much better?’”
With advertising costs well into the thousands for even a simple billboard, 97Milk folks chose a cheaper and more practical way to spread their message: a wrapped hay bale.
Long time Warwick dairy farmer Al Buckbee, owner of Bellvale Farms, proudly displays his bale at the intersection of Bellvale Lakes and Kain Roads. Buckbee is deeply concerned about the problems surrounding the dairy farm industry, in particular selling products below the cost of production and also carrying the costs of hauling milk to now far away processing plants.
“A number of dairy farms in Orange County have already gone out of business and most dairy farms are hanging on by their finger nails,” notes Buckbee, adding that there are approximately 30 dairy farms left in Orange County, four of which are actively shipping milk in Warwick.
His wife, Judy, added, “We are losing our farms… we want to have milk that is easy to acquire and we’re not going to have that.”
In their farmhouse kitchen, where one can spot a refrigerator magnet that reads “No Farms. No Food,” the Buckbees explain the way milk production, processing and sales used to work. Milk was sent in milk cans from the farm to a local processing plant on Spring St. in the Village of Warwick.
Gradually, the system changed, local processing plants and even New York City locations closed, and today, milk is picked up every two days and shipped to Albany, NY for processing. As the trailers need to be filled to capacity, local farmers have joined together to combine shipments to mitigate the cost of hauling.
“We are all suffering,” said Buckbee. “Orange County has the open space that people love and that’s certainly true in Warwick. What’s going to happen here with the farms and the open space is really just not clear.”
For more information, visit www.97milk.com. The Buckbee Farm also hosts free informative barn tours and educational talks on dairy farming every Sunday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. from June to October. The 460-acre farm has 150 animals, which includes 65 milk producing cows.