The deeply rooted tree

Growing the Land

Like the deeply rooted tree unleashing new blossoms of spring, Dad loved life. In his later years before the illness, he was an avid runner, taking in everything from 5k’s to marathons—even running 5 miles to work and home each day… He called running his “natural high.”

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When we were growing up, Dad was the worrier, so it was surprising the way he let go of his worry and accepted my work with large animals. First it was the Vet-Science project at my 4-H leader’s farm. Then it was the work caring for camp horses and keeping them fresh with regular riding through the winter. Then it was the day I came home to tell him I took a job feeding and milking cows on a local dairy farm.

Dad didn’t understand these things that interested me, but he trusted me to do them just the same. After all, he had fostered my love for the written word and all those…

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Flying the flag is like renewing a vow… to the next generation

In my travels, I see flags of all sizes and locations in rural towns and farmland. From the tops of silos to the hands of children…
flag19In 1776 a nation of immigrants sought it’s independence with the noblest of words written and deliberated in Philadelphia to be ultimately signed on July 4th. A year later on June 14, the stars and stripes design of our flag was approved by Congress.

But it was our 28th President Woodrow Wilson who reminded Americans at a turbulent time — in some ways like today — why our unity and freedom are so emblemed in Old Glory. flag4

President Wilson’s speech in proclaiming Flag Day on June 14, 1916 holds some words of wisdom for our times nearly one century hence:

My Fellow Countrymen:

Many circumstances have recently conspired to turn our thoughts to a critical examination of the conditions of our national life, of the influences which have seemed to threaten to divide us in interest and sympathy, of forces within and forces without that seemed likely to draw us away from the happy traditions of united purpose and action of which we have been so proud, It has therefore seemed to me fitting that I should call your attention to the approach of the anniversary of the day upon which the flag of the United States was adopted by the Congress as the emblem of the Union, and to suggest to you that it should this year and in the years to come be given special significance as a day of renewal and reminder, a day upon which we should direct our minds with a special desire of renewal to thoughts of the ideals and principles of which we have sought to make our great Government the embodiment.

I therefore suggest and request that throughout the nation and if possible in every community the fourteenth day of June be observed as FLAG DAY …flag12

 Let us on that day rededicate ourselves to the nation, “one and inseparable” from which every thought that is not worthy of our fathers’ first vows in independence, liberty, and right shall be excluded and in which we shall stand with united hearts, for an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away from its ideals, no force divide against itself,–a nation singly distinguished among all the nations of mankind for its clear, individual conception alike of its duties and its privileges, its obligations and its rights.

Yes, it’s near dusk on Flag Day 2015 as I write this, 99 years after President Wilson’s flag20observation and proclamation …. These words to give us pause to reflect and cause to see Old Glory flown high and to remember who we are and what has challenged us in the past that American men and women did sacrifice of themselves to protect that our freedom would endure and shine its light to each new generation.

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June is dairy month… everywhere but New York City

By Sherry Bunting, June 5 Hudson Valley Register-Star

If milk is a never-ending tide, then the folks of New York City are the shore it rarely touches.

Not only has distribution into the city been a long term issue, which has improved, today’s urban consumers simply don’t know what they are missing. The dairy industry has, for too long, assumed people know what is in — and out — of real dairy milk!

Last week, local dairywomen Beth Chittenden and Sandy Ferry took more than a dozen “Dairy Vision” youth to NYC to “focus on food and learn about our consumer,” according to Chittenden. An outgrowth of the local 4-H program, youth do not need to be 4-H members to participate in this stepping-stone to the Junior Dairy Leaders program. They meet once a month to focus on different career paths.KIMG0362

“We are closest to the city and yet the lack of dairy in the stores was totaling amazing to these kids,” Chittenden reports. “No milk was found in most of the bodegas, just a couple containers of yogurt and not much cheese, generally, either. People in the city are not used to having milk, which goes back to the distribution issues that linger yet today.”

It’s not like you can walk into a Stewarts and buy milk, chocolate milk, strawberry milk and shakes or into a Mobil gas station to take home a gallon. NYC is different. The only place gallons can be found are in Whole Foods and a few other grocery stores, but not to the quantity and variety found locally and not at convenient corner shops.

The shelf space there is four feet by three feet and that’s it, Chittenden explains. Each kind of milk gets one space. The rest is all almond, silk and soy, and the huge word in the city is “organic.”

“A whole market is being missed here by not getting milk into the city. That is 55 percent of our state’s population,” Chittenden observes. The milk from her family’s Dutch Hollow Farm goes to make Cabot cheese as well as to New York City’s famous Beecher’s Handmade cheese on Broadway. It also goes to Hudson Valley Fresh, which delivers fresh milk to many of the city’s coffee houses.

Chittenden makes regular trips to NYC to talk with vendors and consumers. “We need to change the attitudes in NYC because people don’t know the nine essential nutrients real dairy milk contains. They don’t know that all dairy milk is higher in protein than the competing ‘non-milks.’ So Hudson Valley Fresh has started labeling the grams of protein on the front of the bottles and is using the 9-essential-nutrients post card in the stores,” she explains.Ray Shenk 7.14.06

The Dairy Vision students were also surprised to learn that consumers believe conventional dairy milk to be “full of chemicals.” As we kick off June Dairy Month, one of the biggest messages Chittenden and others carry forward is how all dairy milk — organic and conventional — is tested at the farm, on the truck, at the plant, in the bottle to be free of antibiotics or any other chemicals for that matter.

She notes that many consumers believe almond milk to be a healthier choice, but don’t realize dairy milk has more protein, more nutrients, less fat and no added sugar. And, it supports jobs and economic development right here in New York State. Not so with almond and other non-dairy juices referred to as ‘milk.’

“We told the kids ‘this is your future, and it is one that we need to change,’” said Chittenden. “We can’t assume consumers know. The whole concept of milk is different in NYC than it is in the rest of NYS.”

Another aspect of milk’s future is to find a pathway to the poor. While agriculture trade groups have worked to get fruits and vegetables in the Food Banks, dairy milk is the most requested product that is not available at Food Banks. The Great American Milk Drive is an effort to change that, but more needs to be done to get the world’s most healthful and nutrient-packed beverage into the hands of families who depend on Food Banks.

Chittenden says the Dutch Hollow Day at the Dairy on August 1 will feature a Great American Milk Drive display with opportunities to help.

Juxtaposed with the lack of milk availability in the city is the current flood of milk in New York State. Some of the state’s dairy farms have been asked by their handlers to randomly dump milk over the past year due to an excess supply made worse by distribution issues in getting it to populations like NYC. Farms have been cut off with no market in Central New York as well as to the south in Pennsylvania. In some cases, dairy farming on land stewarded by families for generations is in jeopardy. Some have sold their cows, others take it day-to-day wondering if they will have a market for the milk.

Dairies are not widget factories. Cows are like family. They must be fed and cared for whether their milk has a home or not. They can’t be turned off and on like a spigot.

Included in the Dairy Vision students’ NYC trip was a visit to Beechers Handmade cheese, where they observed cheesemaking behind the glass. This has been a great story of connection between the Hudson Valley and NYC. Milk comes in daily by the tanker load right to 28th and Broadway.KIMG0359 KIMG0360

If Beechers can do it, why can’t it be done elsewhere in the city? Why is milk not in the stores? Changing this dynamic begins with telling real dairy milk’s story every place possible. Not only does the health and nutrition of future generations of consumers benefit, but the generations of future farmers and the New York State economy depend on this as well.

New York State is the third largest state for milk production in the country. This June Dairy Month, take time to learn and tell the story of milk. You would be surprised how many people have forgotten that the ThinkDrink-MilkAlternative (1)simplest, least fooled-around-with beverage on the planet also delivers nutrition and flavor that can’t be beat and is an integral ingredient in many of the foods, jobs, and economics that sustain us here.

A former newspaper editor, Sherry Bunting has been writing about dairy, livestock and crop production for over 30 years. Before that, she milked cows. She can be reached at agrite@ptd.net.

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PHOTO CAPTION: June is Dairy Month and local dairywoman Beth Chittenden led a Dairy Vision students’ trip to New York City last week, where students learned how half of the state’s population has a different concept and availability of real dairy milk compared with the other half in New York State where jobs, farms, rural economies and land sustainability rely on dairy. Sherry Bunting photo.