Hannaford retailer has joined the new Keep Local Farms initiative that was recently formed in New England. The Keep Local Farms program has been developed by a group of concerned local leaders in the Northeast, all of them working for the benefit of local dairy farmers. That group includes the following: Cooperative Development Institute, the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council, New England Dairy Promotion Board and New England Family Dairy Farm Cooperative
The program is a way to help farmers get fair-trade prices for their milk and give consumers a way to support them. Keep Local Farms hopes to close that price gap so dairy farms can be more sustainable. It’s encouraging consumers to buy local dairy products and contribute directly to a fund that’ll be shared with New England farmers.
Inspired by the “Fair Trade” products such as coffee, bananas, and chocolate, the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council, Food and Markets, the New England Dairy Promotion Board, and the New England Family Dairy Farm Cooperative with Cooperative Development Institute, have developed the idea of marketing milk with an icon that indicates the farmer who produced it will be paid a portion of the price for it-a price that helps farmers cover the cost of production. The Keep Local Farms program connects consumers with dairy farmers through education and direct support.
Hannaford, which gets 90 percent of its milk from the Northeast, is the first retailer to back Keep Local Farms. The chain will donate 10 cents for each “Close to Home” reusable bag sold in February. Customers also may donate $2 or $5 at its cash registers.
Lucinda Williams is the 12th generation to work the Luther Belden Farm, and she doesn’t want the property that’s been in her husband’s family since 1661 to follow the 150 New England dairy farms that failed last year. Williams yesterday joined Hannaford Supermarkets and state agriculture officials in an appeal to Bay Staters to support New England dairy farms.
“Farmers are not looking for a handout,” Williams said. “It’s called a business, and we’d actually like to be in business. At a minimum, we’d like to be able to cover our costs.”
Federally set milk prices plunged after the recession took hold. The U.S. lost 3 percent of its export market, leaving a glut of product, said Chris Galen, spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation in Virginia.
“Prices have been strengthening the last four months or so, but it’s going to take us quite a while to dig out of that hole,” he said.