Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The "Simplicity" of Milk

There is nothing better than dunking a cookie in a cold glass of milk. Simple, delicious, reminiscent of after school snacks, and even a little bit naughty if your Mom also told you it was bad manners.

But when you asked Mom "Mommy, where does milk come from?", she probably answered "Price Chopper", if just to shut you up.

I had a chance to meet with Mark Stanton, 5th generation owner of Stanton Farms, in Coeymans Hollow, with his friend and long-time colleague Tom Gallagher, now with the Cornell University Cooperative Extension, and along with his wife Kathy and my good friend Mistress of the Hounds, learned about milk production on the family farm.

Did you know that all of the milk production in NYS is family farms??? I think I'm right on that. Let me know if I'm not.

Anyway, first of all I learned that milk comes from COWS and that cows are big and smelly and inquisitive and that it takes a lot of cows and equipment and feed and workers and hard work and space to make enough milk to earn a living - so much goes into producing what finally leaves the farm. Some of the Stanton success is raising their own grass and alfalfa and corn for feed, with some soybeans and other from suppliers, and they do their own repairs and maintenance at several sites in the area. The feed bunkers are enormous.

Dairy milk is cheap and plentiful in this country, loaded with protein and calcium and potassium and natural sugars. It comes in whole and 1% or 2% and skim, organic, lactose-free, even chocolate. If you go to the farm you can get it raw, although all of the Stanton supplies are now pumped into a truck and delivered to Garelick for processing. Milk and milk products are part of a global market so supply and demand and pricing schemes and structures all come to bear.  Besides liquid milk and cream there's dry milk and powders, cheese and yogurt and butter and ice cream that can be shipped all over the world. The U.S. is the world's largest producer, and NY is the third most productive state with over 625,000 dairy cows. A big driver is our yogurt industry, which is cool.

Cows in NY are mostly Holstein's raised on regulated feed for maximum yield. Because Holsteins produce more milk than other breeds of dairy cow they generally have a higher yield of fat and protein in their milk, and better quality milk fetches better prices. But that means the cows aren't in the fields like beef cattle; here they live in airy, well-managed all season barns. So I don't know if they are happy cows or not, but of the 1600 at Stanton the half that aren't milking you'd think they could be outside, although it seems they don't seem to manage that well on the hillsides out in the open. I'm not criticizing - I'm a city chick so I'll shut up while I'm ahead.  Mom taught me that too.

Thanks and best to the Gallaghers and Mark for the informative tour, and the cookies. All that for a glass of milk. I think I'll appreciate it more from here on in. Much, much more.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

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