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December 10, 2013

Area dairy producers meet, discuss strategy

Most people in New York City have no idea that there are dairy farms in upstate New York, much less struggling ones, a speaker said Monday at a meeting of dairy farmers at the Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship in Oneonta.

Lauren Melodia is founder of Milk Not Jails, a nonprofit organization that seeks to connect upstate dairy farmers looking to sell their milk for higher prices with restaurants, cafes, or institutions like schools in New York City. In short, she said, dairy farmers have a commodity that they need a higher price for, and New Yorkers have a demand for milk. Melodia led Monday’s discussion with an in-depth look at her research and findings.

“People want locally produced food and cannot find it in New York City,” Melodia said. “We have a finger on the pulse of a lot of buyers down there, so we figured let’s really sell New York in New York City.”

According to CADE’s website, its mission is “to increase the number and diversity of successful farm enterprises and related businesses in New York.” CADE Director Rebecca Morgan said the goal is to increase the economic viability of the producer, in this case, dairy farmers.

In a recent survey by CADE, 96 percent of local farmers were unhappy with the price they received per hundredweight of milk. Morgan said this statistic isn’t surprising. According to the 100-plus dairy farmers who were interviewed at fairs and Farm Bureau meetings since July, the major frustrations in making ends meet are the costs of feed, fuel and transportation, and Chobani’s Class II prices.

Despite these frustrations, Morgan said the national trend is on the farmer’s side. With increasing interest in regional food production and shopping locally, many people are interested in the Catskill region’s products, and particularly its milk.

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