Must Be The Milk supports the long-term viability of New England’s dairy farms using three strategies: educating New Englanders about dairy farming, promoting purchases of milk and other dairy foods and raising funds to support New England’s dairy farming.
The Keep Local Farms Fund is the home of Must Be The Milk’s funding support for New England dairy agriculture. The Keep Local Farms Fund will partner with New England non-profit organizations to support the sustainability of cow dairies.
New England dairy farmers manage nearly one million acres of farmland and rely on the region’s soil, water and energy to care for their herds and produce high quality milk.
U.S. dairy farmers already produce a gallon of milk with 90 percent less land, 65 percent less water, 75 percent less manure and a 63 percent smaller carbon footprint than in the mid-20th century. Dairy farmers welcome additional opportunities to improve the efficiency and sustainability of their production. The Keep Local Farms Fund aims to support New England farmers to utilize progressive agricultural practices and infrastructure to continually reduce environmental impacts and improve production efficiencies—key aspects of the long-term sustainability of individual dairy farms and the New England dairy sector as a whole. The Fund will be used for research, education and implementation of projects and programs related to soil fertility, water use, energy efficiency, on-farm renewable energy production, manure management, composting and other sustainability efforts.
New England’s dairy herd contributes more than $3 billion to the regional economy.
Nearly 100 percent of New England’s dairy farms are family-owned and these family farms are a key link in the crucial community and economic ties that connect businesses across the region and provide employment for New Englanders. Despite rising costs of production and fluctuating milk prices, resilient, committed, entrepreneurial farmers are working hard to ensure the financial viability of their farms and their continued ability to serve their customers and communities. The Keep Local Farms Fund will support dairy farmers to address key economic issues across the farming life cycle—from young farm families to retiring farmers—that increase long-term financial viability of individual farms and stability for the dairy sector overall. Planning and research, education and implementation projects and programs may include those aimed at increasing or improving farmland access, keeping agricultural land in production, farm business planning, succession strategies, diversification into a range of dairy and non-dairy products, new product development, value-added processing and marketing.
As food supply chains have become longer and more complicated, milk remains, for the most part, a truly local food.
Over 99 percent of the milk produced on New England dairy farms is bottled or processed into cheese, butter, ice cream, and yogurt in New England or New York. However, dairy farmers believe that their customers and neighbors could benefit from more education about the realities of dairy farming, the benefits of dairy agriculture and the local origins of the milk and other dairy foods they find in the grocery store. One New England dairy farmer echoed many of his colleagues when he said, “It is important to tell consumers that dairy farms are small businesses and family businesses, that farms provide employment in their communities, and farmers use cutting edge technology to produce a high quality product.” The Keep Local Farms Fund will support projects that engage farmers in efforts to educate their customers and neighbors.