Last week we received an email from one of our partner families asking us to help them understand “why is the price of local, organic milk so high?”
At Farmers To You we provide your comments and questions directly to the farmers and producers, so we reached out to Larson Farm and Creamery for more information and we would like to share this exchange with you.
Rich’s reply is based on his own family’s years of dairy farm experience. From 1976-1993, the Larson family ran a 150 cow conventional dairy operation that received regular milk production and quality awards. Rich and Cynthia Larson were named Outstanding Young Dairy Farmers in 1985. But declining prices in an unsustainable industry forced the family to sell their herd in 1993. In 2007, Larson Creamery began selling “raw” unpasteurized milk to friends and neighbors who appreciated the flavor and nutrition of truly fresh milk. As demand increased, the Larson Creamery became a USDA-certified Organic Dairy with 100% grass-fed herd.
Rich Larson gave five reasons in an email to us and the customer why their milk is more expensive than some others:
- We are a small farm lacking the huge efficiencies of scale. We focus on soil and animal health, and fair wages to our employees. Our cows have names instead of just a number. Our labor costs per gallon of milk are much higher than conventional store milk.
- We are certified organic and must purchase only organic hay. Organic hay is almost twice as expensive as conventional.
- We are certified 100% grass-fed. Our cows eat only grass/clover hay. No grain. This means more nutritional value and flavor, but our cows produce only 3 gallons/cow/day. Grain-fed cows produce 8 to 10 gallons/day. We have the same amount of work but much less milk to sell at a higher cost per gallon.
- We learned 14 years ago about the health benefits of A2A2 milk and worked for 11 years to develop this unique milk. Our cows are all DNA-tested to have only the A2-beta casein. This adds expense but we are the only commercial creamery in New England offering organic, grass-fed, A2A2 milk.
- The dairy industry is in crisis. The price paid by the big dairy companies to farmers for milk is about the same price paid in 1970! While the current cost to produce milk on a typical commercial dairy farm is $19/cwt. Due to oversupply of milk by large dairy farms, the price paid to farmers has dropped to $14/cwt, well below the cost of production. The organic dairy farmers are not faring much better. Many dairy farms are filing for bankruptcy.
Rich ended his note with the following, “as a business person, I have to charge Farmers to You what it costs to produce Larson Farm and Creamery products or I, too, will be out of business. Like you, my family, employees and I are grateful for the vision and people at Farmers to You for developing a marketing and distribution system that provides families with high quality food at fair prices. Thank you for appreciating the fruit of our labors.”
The family who wrote to us then took the time to understand Rich’s perspective and became “even more determined to keep buying whatever I need and can buy as well as advertising your service and especially this milk as much as possible.”
They went on to convey their “sincere gratitude to Rich, his family and team for all their hard work and efforts in keeping ethical, organic farming practices alive in spite of the odds, enabling people like me and my family to be able to happily consume the delicious milk that comes from their happy cows. The quality, texture and taste of the milk (not to mention the short expiration date indicating it’s realness) is undoubtedly miles ahead of the white tasteless liquid found in stores!”
We enjoyed being a part of this exchange between the Larsons and one of our partner families. Something that we were reminded of (again!) is that buying milk from family farmers like the Larsons means you are buying so much more than just the milk you drink each week. You are supporting being able to buy that milk in the future and the work farmers are doing to pay their workers fairly and care for the environment and animals.
In appreciation of our relationships with families and farmers built on trust,