#4: An Effort in Mapping My Thoughts

Featured image: Tobias Akerboom (Flickr)
Aidan Lodge

5 Responses to “#4: An Effort in Mapping My Thoughts

  • Good map and good framing questions. A couple of thoughts: If you look at the statistics in dairy, VT has had a sharp drop in farms — yet milk production has remained about the same. Why? Breeding, efficiency, grains. Yet dairy is still a marginal business in many ways. Organic, small raw-milk sellers, butter, cheese products have fostered another data trend in VT: there are a lot more farms now than 10 years ago. They just aren’t “big” dairy operations and by big, I mean VT big which is small everywhere else, except for a few arms down in Addison County.

    When you look at your map, where do you see the stories?

    Let me know if I can help.

    • I’m really thinking that the stories are in the small farms, as that is where the human touch. And where I am starting to see more of a story is the ways in which we can help small farms become more environmentally sustainable.

  • I’m posting this on behalf of Shel Sax:

    Hi Aidan,
    I very much like your mind map. As Geoff notes, you’ve
    framed your questions well and hopefully, in a way that assists you in thinking about these issues. You might want to investigate the data to see how the trends in dairy farming in VT have changed. There are fewer farms, as Geoff points out, and more small
    farms. I interpret this to mean that there must have been some consolidation of small farms into larger enterprises, if production has remained relatively constant. Understanding these data will help you figure out for whom and how the benefits of agricultural
    policy are distributed, and the costs. Often, increased regulatory costs impact the small farming enterprise much more adversely than big ones.

    I’d suggest checking out a book that was written in the
    1970’s by E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful,
    which critiques and makes recommendations on some of the issues you’re pondering. Definitely relevant for Vermont. You can read about it and get an overview here:

    Cheers, Shel

    • To speak to smaller farms becoming a part of larger companies, I think this can be the case in a competitive dairy market. A good example of this can be seen with the Rooney Farm. They are a small farm family farm that has been passed down from generation to generation. Sort of your quintessential Vermont Dairy Farm. Yet, they sell their milk to Horizon Organics, who then distributes their milk across the country. So then how can you directly support the Rooney Farm? If buy a carton of Horizon milk, but maybe one sip of that entire carton comes from the Rooneys, maybe none of it does. Then are you really supporting Vermont dairy or just a larger corporation? Just something I have been thinking about.

  • A few random thoughts in reply. Sorry for not getting a reply in sooner. A couple of additional thoughts… there are more small farms — but fewer dairy farms. There are a lot more farms that are niche farms — cheese, butter, orchards, etc.

    I think economically, one can’t overestimate the impact of dairy farms on giving Vermont open space and preventing development — and a great deal of this open land has been conserved, in part to save the farms.

    I think the secret to keeping lots of small farms going is to have strong local markets (demand) for their product which, often, is more expensive (economies of scale). So how do those who are economically challenged take part? How can the farmers get adequate capital to invest, reduce costs, increase efficiencies, improve product?


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