Danone Decision Spells Trouble For Vermont Dairies
Dear Farmers To You Families,
Bad things happen when large industrial food companies mix up marketing with mission in an attempt to attract more conscious consumers like you. A mission guides a company through thick and thin, good times and bad. It requires a company to do the right thing, even when it is not in its best short-term financial interest.
One year ago Danone—the huge multinational dairy and food conglomerate—published their mission statement and bragged about their B Corp status. Danone touted that it was good for communities they served (that includes farmers), the environment, and their shareholders.
Recently, I was deeply saddened to read this article in our local Vermont paper, as well as this biting commentary from the amazing folks at The Real Organic Project:
“Danone, a multinational food company and the owner of Horizon Organic, announced it will terminate contracts next year with all of its organic dairy farmers in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and parts of New York. They are replacing these farms with huge Western CAFOs capable of producing milk more cheaply. This will leave the New England farmers without buyers for their milk. And without hope.”
I am not being dramatic when I tell you that this will destroy the lives of the 90 families who will be forced out of farming and dairying in New England and New York.
Horizon / Danone is taking the easy route of consolidating buying organic milk from very large CAFOs (Confined Animal Farming Operations) in the West and South based completely on the cost of milk production, and clearly not on quality (as you can read in the Real Organic post).
A typical smaller New England farm keeps each of its dairy cows productive and tended-to for up to 30 years. At most industrial CAFOs, a cow’s productive life is typically 3 years, at which point they are rendered into low grade hamburger. In addition, as we discussed in last month’s blog post, when cows (dairy or meat) are not out on pasture their climate impact shifts from positive to gravely negative, as does their health and quality of life.
Being a good dairy farmer is much more than a business choice. It is a calling and a life choice. The long, endless hours of work can only be understood when you see their dedication and love for their animals, land and community. To witness this first hand, please watch our wonderful interview with Amy and Earl of Strafford Organic Dairy.
At this point I am not sure there is a short-term solution to this betrayal. But I want to be clear that what we are losing is the wisdom and culture of small to mid-scale agriculture that produces the healthiest food for our families and for the planet. That is the true tragedy.
I am so heartened, in contrast, by the caring support our families show weekly for our farmers, and for your respect and appreciation for the craft of producing healthy and healing food. Your consistency of orders, willingness to pay the true price for products, and continued support of this model makes our farmers and producers stronger and better so that we as eaters can reap the real benefits.
This is precisely why we started Farmers To You and have worked so tirelessly and collaboratively to build something new and so much better.
Thank you! Thank you for your support of our farmers. Farmers To You lives and breathes our mission every day. We are all about building a lasting and vibrant partnership of families and farmers who feed and support each other.
Our work has just begun as this tragic story informs us.
This week I implore you to look through our farmer’s products and stories. Find a farmer and their products you have not yet tried. Order them, taste them, and make them part of your weekly food choices. In that way you will be supporting their wisdom and work to heal you and the planet. As a farmer, I thank you. That is all we ask—acknowledgement that our work matters and makes a difference.