Betting the Farm
Produced and directed by Cecily Pingree and Jason Mann
In 2009, ten dairy farms in Maine were dropped by their milk company, H. P. Hood, because they were too far away. They were unable to find anyone to buy their milk. The dairies were on the way out of business without a company to sell to, but of course, large companies don’t care. So the ten started their own company, called Maine’s Own Organic Milk, or MOO Milk. The plan was for 90 percent of the profits to go to the farmers and they would control the price. As you may know, things don’t always go as planned.
The startup date was delayed six times before MOO Milk launched in 2010. Several problems set them back. It was mostly equipment problems that delayed startup, then leaky cartons forced them to destroy a lot of milk. Sales did not go as well as hoped, and after two years of losses, some of the farmers had to drop out. Finally after more than two years they found an investor with a lot of money who allowed them to expand their market and there is hope that things are going to work out. MOO Milk is available in two hundred stores in New England and new farms are being added.
All of the customers shown on camera seemed to think this milk was the best thing since non-scarring toilet paper. I couldn’t help but notice in close-ups of the cartons that the product is one percent pasteurized milk. Organic and local or not, I can think of some easy options to make it taste even better. That would mainly involve not removing key nutrients that make it healthier as well as better tasting. And I would not give them a thumbs up for what they were eating during their many meetings to discuss how to survive. Those meetings might have gone better if they were feeding their brains and bodies something a little better than Coke and Oreos.
I will give the video a thumbs UP for taking a straight-up, hard, honest look at what it takes to make it in the milk business. Banding together was probably a good idea but even then it was almost impossible for the dairy farmers to make it work. They didn’t wear watches because quitting time was not a set time of day, it was when they got the job done. They probably would have failed without the help of the large investor. This issue is bigger than farms and livelihoods coming and going. In a world descending into the darkness of corporate madness where financial profit is more precious than life itself, the last embers of sanity must find a way to survive. This is one option to keep in mind.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2014