The economy of New York State these days is challenging—some might say scarry.  No where is that more apparent then in the dairy industry.

This week I’ve been writing about the problematic milk pricing that controls the dairy industry and the ways in which the fixed prices help and hurt the farmers involved.  Yet today, I’m going to switch gears and talk about the ways that individuals…. that’s right, people like you and me….are actually taking action and helping to make a difference for dairy farmers, without any government involvement or tax funding.

Pie in the sky dream, you say?  Well, let me tell you what’s happening in New England.

Keep Farms Local (KFL)is a not for profit organization in New England that promotes consumers paying a little extra for certain foods and products produced by dairy farmers to ensure that their farmers can earn a fair wage.  It’s part of a program designed to raise funds to support New England dairy farms and drive dairy sales, while educating consumers about the value of local dairy farms.

 According to their website (www.keepfarmslocal.org) KFl is aided in their effort by a number of impressive partners including Harvard, University of Vermont, Boston College, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Stonyfield Yogurt, Cabot Cheese,various New England retailers and the Departments of Agriculture in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut and Vermont, to name a few. 

The result of this program is that Keep Local Farms has raised $220,000 over two years. However, after paying taxes KLF could only provide $100 checks to 1,370 farms — or about 75 percent of the dairies left in New England. As a result, they are rethinking their approach to a more productive grant program for multiple farms, rather than small individual payments.

The real bottom line is that KLF’s purpose is to enhance public understanding about farmers and what they do— because if people don’t understand agriculture as an industry and  the ability to farm in local communities is reduced, it threatens the viability of farms and farmer’s abilities to feed our nation.

Independent people thinking outside the box, partnering the private and public sectors and making a difference.  It’s happening in Vermont.  It can happen here in New York as well.

QUESTION OF THE DAY:  Would you willingly pay an extra nickel for dairy products, as they are doing in New England, to help WNY’s dairy industry or is this just another version of a tax?