The Future of Milk

By David Goodman, "The Future of Milk," July/August 2010

As small dairy farms are vanishing, what is happening to our milk?

"Skip the milk produced by the big commercial dairy farms. Better yet, go vegan or vegetarian and support dairy and cattle farmers that switch to growing vegetables and fruit which are more healthy and ecological alternatives. Too much of...

I return to George Woodard’s farm early one morning, just after he has finished milking. I am forced to a halt in front of his house by the magnificent views of the Green Mountains that are visible from his pasture. Is there room in the modern, high-tech, discount-crazed world for a small farmer like him and the product that he lovingly produces?

“I’m not on the top of the list of milk producers. And I say, ‘So what?’ On big farms, where you are doing eight-hour milking shifts and other people are doing the haying and feeding—I wouldn’t wanna do that. It’s agriculture, but it’s not farming. To me, farming is when you get to do everything. You go milk the cows, come in for a break, put the cows out, go put out hay, go fix the fences, come back, have something to eat, come back, have coffee and enjoy the beautiful mountains and scenery. Then you have supper, and go milk the cows at night. Then you come back, you look at the darkness, the lights below and the beauty of the night. That’s farming.

“It’s very satisfying to realize you’ve been doing this for 35 years, you gotta good place here, and you’re making a good product,” Woodard says softly, sweeping his hands slowly from his cow barn to his green pastures, up to the rocky summits.

Woodard disappears for a moment, then returns with a Mason jar of milk, fresh from his morning milking. Sitting on his porch, I drink in all that this farmer has given me, from the creamy elixir to the grand views of the surrounding land.

A good glass of milk, I see from here, is richer than I ever imagined.

Best-selling author David Goodman’s last feature, “Foodtopia” (July/August 2009), covered Hardwick, Vermont’s sustainable food system.

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