Dairy Farmer Says Industry Must Change

02/26/10 7:55AM By Mitch Wertlieb
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Visit Hitting Home: The Struggle Continues


VPR Photo/M. Bodette

Vermont lost 52 dairy farms last year. Farmers were struggling with low milk prices long before this economic downturn. But they're also affected by the economy around them.

Dairy farming accounts for $2 billion of the state's economy, and the state estimates there are 1,019 left. Onan Whitcomb owns the North Williston Cattle Company with his brother and son. It's been in the family since 1867, but Whitcomb says we should expect to see fewer farms in the future.

(Whitcomb) "You get better or you  get out. I was quoted once as saying that and it's true. Whether better is just better management, better facilities and getting bigger, but this is an industry where nothing stays the same, like any industry. And I think maybe the public may picture the red barn and 40 cows, and it's a nice picture, but that's what  it is, a picture."

Whitcomb and his crew just finished the morning milk. The farm has two locations, and over 600 animals on 600 acres in Essex and Williston. They call it a medium size farm.

VPR's Mitch Wertlieb at down with Whitcomb at his kitchen table to talk about the industry.

Click listen to hear the interview.

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