Today’s guest post comes from Joanna Samuelson Lidback, a Vermont dairy farmer and a friend of mine from my undergraduate days at Cornell. I invited Joanna to submit a post about the differences in organic and conventional milk from both a farmer’s and a consumer’s perspective. I’m glad that she accepted, because I think her voice is important. Most of us buy milk every week, and yet when was the last time you sat down with a dairy farmer and talked with her in-depth about her farming practices?
Joanna’s story is personal; she’s writing about her family history and her livelihood. I expect that some of you will disagree with her conclusions about the value of organic milk, and that’s OK. I hope her post raises the level of awareness around farming practices in general and stimulates respectful discussion about our buying decisions. And if anyone is interested in submitting a guest post with another view, I always welcome that, as long as it is backed by science and/or personal experience.
Without further ado…
It’s Okay to Buy Plain ‘Ole Milk
By Joanna Samuelson Lidback
I was pretty excited when Alice asked me if I wanted to take a stab at this topic. In an effort for full disclosure up front, my husband and I are dairy farmers and fall into the conventional category, though we don’t use rBST either. We do support all dairy farmers, however, and support offering choices for consumers when it comes to food. I tried to remain as neutral as I could as I wrote this post, which was itself a lesson in humility for me. I have friends who are organic dairy farmers and of course did not want to offend them in my writing. I do have great respect for what they do and the added layers of management to maintain certified organic status. And oh, by the way, I’m not usually as research-oriented as Alice is, but I gave it a shot!
My husband dairy farmer (DF) and I have a 30-cow dairy farm. That means we milk 30 cows. We also raise our own “youngstock” (young animals not yet in the milking herd) plus a few steers; so we have a total of about 65 head of cattle that we care for, both Holsteins and Jerseys at our farm. The Jerseys go back to a 4-H dairy project that I started with my family when I was a kid. They are all registered with names and unique personalities. Some of them have been with me for a long time, with one family going back to the very first calves we owned. The Holsteins are my DF’s and they too have their own personalities but numbers instead of names, as they are not registered. We do have pet names for some of them, though, typically related to appearance or something that happened – like Pip, Slurpy and Whitey. Regardless, they are all now “our” girls.
My guess is that as you approach our place and see our girls grazing our rolling green hills in Northeast Vermont, you would maybe assume we are an organic herd. We are not, and I will get into the why not at the end of this post. Continue reading