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Nadworny: Cows Per Capita

10/12/10 7:55AM By Rich Nadworny
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(HOST)  Commentator Rich Nadworny has been thinking about the apparently fading glory of Vermont's dairy industry.  

(NADWORNY) Recently a number of reports have come out ranking Vermont nationally in various categories. According to one study, Vermont has fallen behind Idaho in the number of dairy cows per capita. That's right, we're number 2, and I'm crushed by this news. It's one thing that there are more people than cows here now. But it's another to be lapped by Idaho!

Even though I grew up as a "city" kid in Vermont, coming from Burlington and all, I always loved cows. Maybe that was because when I was little, in the 60's, the UVM dairy farm was right at the top of the hill, smack in the middle of the campus. With the wind blowing the right way, all of Church Street smelled of cows.

Since my dad worked at the university, I went to the UVM nursery school, which was right next to the farm. It seemed like we went over to that barn all the time, especially when the cows were calving.

I grew up loving the smell of cows and dairy barns. And it didn't hurt that the UVM dairy Bar was next door. Our teachers would take us over to watch them turn the milk into cheese or butter. And that ice cream! My mouth still waters at the thought of it. It was probably the richest, sweetest ice cream I've ever eaten.

When we'd drive to New York City to see my grandparents, we'd drive down route seven. It seemed like we drove by one dairy farm after another. Every time I'd see a herd of them, I'd jump up in the back seat and yell "COWS!" like I had just seen Halley's comet or something. After about   hour of jumping and screaming cows, my brothers and sister got tired of it and made me stop. But I thought it was great, seeing all those beautiful black and white animals.

Today, when I'm driving through the Vermont countryside with my kids, and we come upon a dairy farm, I'll roll down the windows, take a deep breath, and tell my kids "That's what Vermont really smells like. Or at least, used to smell like."

Then my kids will gasp, cough and yell at me to roll up the windows again! I guess that what happens when you're number 2!

I know there are a lot of serious issues facing Vermont these days, and that maybe regaining our spot as Top Cow isn't the most pressing issue. But with more and more dairy farms closing each year, unable to withstand the competition and corporate welfare of industrial dairy farming, it sure would be nice to hear a little bit more of how to keep cows an integral part of the Vermont experience.

I'd love to see us get back to number One. Even if Vermont doesn't smell like a dairy farm any more.

(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Rich Nadworny at VPR-dot-net.
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