I went up the road this afternoon to the farmer's house. It's looking pretty shabby up there. It's not really a place I go to hear good news. Unfortunately, this farm is probably the rule rather than the exception in these parts. Two years ago, his wife left him and so too, it appears, any motivation to keep up appearances. The window in the gable end has been broken for three years, now, and the "Dairy of Distinction" sign now twirls in hopeless circles from the lone chain that still holds it.
The days are getting longer, he says, as we squish our way, he, Marcus and I, across the muddy drive. That was it for the good news.
We rent our land to this guy. He farms it just as his father did and he gets paid less for a 100 pounds of milk than his father got in 1976. Guess what he gets. Guess. Go on...
Nope, it's less than that.
It's NINE dollars for a hundred pounds of milk. His father got ten for the same milk from the same kind of cows thirty years ago. And the cost of farming hasn't done anything but climb steadily in that time.
He's losing money, fast. After he paid his mortgage, he said, he had a hundred dollars left over and a $2500 utility bill for the month.
I guess the utilities will have to wait, he said matter-of-factly.
Most of us, I know, don't buy milk by the pound so I will try and put his situation in perspective.
You buy milk by the gallon so he's getting nine bucks for about twelve gallons of milk. Each gallon gets him about 75 cents.
What did you pay for your last gallon of milk? My bet is that it is somewhere between $2.50 and $4.
So where does all that money go?
I only know where it doesn't go.