Connecticut lost 10 percent of its dairy farms in 2006. Working Lands
Alliance, a coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting
Connecticutís farmland, estimates that state dairy farms manage (own and
lease) up to 100,000 acres of working farmland in the state, of a total
360,000 acres of farmland. Shelton farmer Terry Jones got to thinking
about this while tending to his strawberry field during a frosty spring
|Terry Jones and
son Jamie in a Christmas tree field, part of their Shelton farm.
It is 3:00 a.m. and I
am in my strawberry field preparing to start frost protection by
sprinkling water on the blossoms. The
thermometer reads 30 degrees Fahrenheit. For the last 40 spring seasons
- longer than any other living Connecticut farmer - I've followed this
Tonight is unique with a faint curtain of the
Northern Lights streaming down from the polar sky as a crescent moon
slides above the eastern horizon. But the joy of the natural beauty is
somewhat diminished by a combination of sleep deprivation and concern
for the strawberry crop that is my livelihood.
And I find myself wondering; will there be
Connecticut cream to complement our local strawberries? My mind is very
much on our state's dairy families and pending legislation to help their
Why CT Dairies Are in Crisis
farmers get only about $1.28 out of the nearly $4.00
you pay for a gallon of their milk.
Click here to find out why.
Our dairy farmers are struggling to do the
seeming impossible - stay in business while having to sell their fresh
milk at a regulated price, often lower than the cost of production here
in New England.
Connecticut should care. Nutrition, health, and
environmental quality are front burner issues here. CT-Grown fresh milk
and other farm products help our citizens have access to wholesome,
nutritious food. And keeping the 100,000 acres cropped by our state's
dairy farmers green and growing is good environmental policy.
Meanwhile arcane regulations, a handful of
economically and politically powerful processors, and a production trend
that concentrates cows into mega-herds of up to 10,000 animals each out
in the western states determine federal milk pricing.
I will share with you some telling images from a
day I spent recently on a dairy farm in the region. The 200 cows in
'residence' produce fresh milk for over a thousand families to enjoy.
The cows graze on grass and eat corn silage grown on several hundred
acres that helps keep the hometown green and not completely overrun by
sprawling residential development.
The owners are a family with four generations
living together on the land in a cluster of historic homes near the
dairy barn. Farming was never easy, but today their economic struggle
is poignant. Family income from the dairy is below poverty level.
Their two young children now qualify for reduced price school lunches.
Yet the family is an exemplary steward of their
land and keeper of their cows. I observed the animals were both
comfortable and friendly. The baby calves were healthy. One mother cow
was being nurtured in a separate stall after a setback while giving
birth to her first calf. She would live because the farm family cares
about keeping their herd healthy.
In the same way, the State of Connecticut also
needs to keep our dairy families healthy. We need to nurture them back
to economic health, and restore financial stability to their
In Connecticut we should care. Our beautiful
farmland, peaceful cows, dedicated farm families, and the nutritious
food they collectively produce are worth it!
Terry Jones is Chairman of Working Lands Alliance, a statewide coalition
committed to increasing farmland preservation.