As you may know, dairy is a precarious business. The number of dairies in the country has been trending down for decades. Vermont lost another 19 dairies in January alone. We now have less than 600 commercial dairies in the state. This includes conventional and organic. (Although the VT Agency of Ag proudly touts that we still have the same number of dairy cows! Think about that for a moment....)
Even value-add dairies have taken a serious hit with COVID. There are about 45 cheesemakers in Vermont. This is a hefty number for such a small state, but we’ve recently lost four local cheesemakers (that I know of). The folks at Blythdale Cheese are retiring. Diane and her husband at Landaff Creamery (in NH) have also retired. (Her father, Dr. Erb, was our vet growing up). Janine Putnam and her husband at Thistle Hill Farm in Pomfret, who have been making their famous Tarentaise cheese for many years have ceased production and sold the cows. “We just can't make any money without a solid cheese and organic milk market here in VT,” Janine told me. “Cheese sales have crashed without restaurants and smaller gourmet shops.” She was also shipping excess milk to Horizon, but this national organic processor keeps paying farmers less and less for their milk while now forcing them to pay for trucking. And Spring Brook down in Reading just let go all their cheesemakers. Oy!