Consider the contributions of Chester County's 280 dairy farms
06/06/2013 03:12PM, Published by ACL, Categories: Opinion
Letter to the Editor:
There is certainly no better time to enjoy a few scoops of ice cream or a refreshing glass of milk than in June during National Dairy Month. While celebrating National Dairy Month can be delicious and fun, it is also an opportunity to take time to reflect on the farms in Chester County and what impact dairy farms have on our lives.
The 280 dairy farms and 18,900 cows produce enough milk for our 500,000 county residents and an additional 140,000 people in surrounding counties and states. The milk produced here is truly a local food. In Pennsylvania, a cow produces an average of 21,201 pounds of milk a year or 57.8 pounds or 6.7 gallons per day.
Milk, particularly low fat milk, is healthy and an excellent source of protein, calcium and several vitamins.
Milk is also cheap. At $4 per gallon, a cup of milk costs 25 cents, so it is cheaper than a can of soda.
Total dairy farm revenue in the county is $77.8 million with an estimated economic impact on Chester County from dairy farming of $258 million. Dairy operations generate more than $6 billion for the Pennsylvania economy.
Dairy farmers generate jobs, in fact one job for every nine cows. Therefore the dairies in Chester County provide 2,100 employment opportunities. Additionally studies show that the average dairy farmer spends around 85 percent of his or her income locally, strengthening their communities and surrounding areas.
Several years ago, dairy farmers struggled through one of the worst periods of low milk prices ever. Milk prices in 2009 and early 2010 were terribly low, well below the cost of production, and the entire industry’s future was threatened throughout the state and nation. Some farmers who were facing debts before the economic downturn were forced out of business. But with hard work and determination, many farms survived and are continuing to produce a safe and healthy product for all of us to enjoy.
Keep in mind that many farmers who survived that downturn are still facing large debts. Even though milk prices have rebounded, they are still quite volatile and far beyond the control of the individual farmer. What’s more, input costs are rising, putting an even greater squeeze on the already thin margins of dairy farm families.
Chester County residents can visit several dairies offering milk and ice cream such as Kolb’s Farm Store in Spring City, Milky Way Farm in Chester Springs and Baily’s Dairy in Pocopson and many local artisan cheese makers such as Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester Springs, Conebella Farm in Elverson and September Farm in Honey Brook. We encourage you and readers to visit these and other local farms and enjoy their dairy products.
So as we celebrate National Dairy Month, please take time to reflect on the hard work of dairy farmers and the supporting businesses that helped get that glass of milk from the farm to your table.
President Chester Delaware County Farm Bureau