As a mother of three, and hopefully grandmother to-be in a few short years, I’m continuously thinking about the health of my family. My husband and I have always done everything possible to protect their well-being.
Like many of you, this two-year pandemic has forced changes in our routines. In addition to being a wife and mother, I’m also a dairy farmer. One thing the pandemic hasn’t changed is how we care for our cows, which has continued 24.7, seven days a week.
The latest report from NYS Comptroller DiNapoli found that as of 2019, there were over 33,000 farms – 96 percent family-owned. We’re proud to be part of that 96%.
Although times are more challenging than they’ve been in the past, our family farm’s commitment to providing nutrient-rich milk and other products to communities across NYS has not wavered.
The pandemic has underscored how different dairy farming is than any other industry, how fragile supply chains are, and how important role essential workers are.
In the past, I’ve joined farmers on NYC tours to express our gratitude for consumer support and to share our milk and cheese, while helping educate families on the diversity of dairy products and the health benefits they offer.
These visits are organized by our dairy Coop which help us get our milk, cheese, butter and other products to the Park Slope Food Co-op, Whole Foods, and other markets and food pantries in Brooklyn and across NYC.
My son, his girlfriend and I joined a gratitude tour in 2013. We had such a great experience that I convinced my husband to join with our daughter in 2016. We participated in tours with dozens of other farmers, providing samples of cheese, coupons, and information about dairy directly to families in stores, and in Battery Park and on the High Line. Some farmers also delivered cheese samples to fire stations, police departments, and homeless shelters.
The inflatable cow that joins us on tours is certainly hard to miss, but the most memorable part for us is being able to meet the people that enjoy the results of our life work. It’s rewarding to know the milk that started on our farm in Madison County, NY makes its way to NYC for all to enjoy.
I was taken aback by how welcoming and accommodating our fellow New Yorkers are. These tours offer farmers the chance to visit the Big Apple, in many cases for the first time. And for most New Yorkers, meeting a farmer in the City is something you don’t forget. Some of the people I met even started following our Facebook page to stay in touch and learn more.
Each farmer brought a book with them that included dozens of photos from their farms, showing the cows, the calves, and the beauty and openness of Upstate New York. We experienced the kind of dialogue that I hope continues, because when it comes down to it – we are passionate about our work, and we want people to understand what I means to be a farmer in the 21st century. Questions and dialogue are critical to learning about what we eat.
Whether we’re face-to-face, or 100 miles away, we always encourage questions, because on the farm there is a reason for every decision. We must be deliberate and precise. Margins are extremely tight, weather is unpredictable, and we have to be prepared for and expect the unexpected.
For example, we’ve always known there to be 9 essential nutrients in milk. But now, thanks to the availability of more data, we know there are actually 13. It’s the same milk that we always knew was nutritious and delicious – we just know more about it today. In addition to protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), and cobalamin (B12) – we now know that iodine, potassium, selenium and zinc are also found in milk.
I hope that once we’re on the other side of this pandemic, we’ll be able to travel to NYC again and meet the people who buy our milk for cereal, enjoy a glass with lunch, and would never turn down a slice of NY-style cheese pizza.
If you’re curious about where your milk is from – here’s a tip! There’s a barcode printed on every carton. If the first two numbers are “36” then that means your milk came from cows here in NYS.
Visit www.whereismymilkfrom.com, and seek out farms on social media. Follow us on Facebook, ask questions, and you’ll be surprised by what you learn.
Corinne Banker is a member of the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition – a farmer founded and funded not-for-profit organization that strives to enhance the public’s understanding of and appreciation for animal agriculture and modern farm practices. She and her husband Bill own of Blue Hill Farm in Morrisville, NY.