Years ago, after I’d first written Shenandoah Watercolors, my nonfiction book about the joys and trials of life on our small dairy farm in the Shenandoah Valley, Mom showed the manuscript to a local historian. He said I’d beautifully captured a vanishing way of life and that this book must be published. His insistence, coupled with the term ‘vanishing way of life’, gained my attention. I knew it was hard for small farmers to hold on with mounting pressure from the broader dairy industry, unregulated imports, and the growth of mega farms, but I didn’t realize we faced extinction.
Irregardless of our fate, the consumer will always have dairy products, but are they of the quality you desire?
Have you heard of Milk Protein Concentrates, also called MPC’s? There’s scary stuff sneaking into food, we need to become aware of and speak out against.
(Cows in our meadow by daughter Elise Trissel)
From Food and Water Watch:
“Unregulated imports of cheap milk protein concentrates are driving down the price of domestically produced milk and putting American dairy farmers out of business. And fewer American dairy farmers mean fewer choices for consumers, who are seeing increasing amounts of MPCs’ new, unregulated protein source‚ in their food supply.
MPCs’ are created by putting milk through an ultra-filtration process that removes all of the liquid and all of smaller molecules including the minerals that the dairy industry touts as being essential for good nutrition.
What is left following the filtration is a dry substance that is very high in protein and used as an additive in products like processed cheese, frozen dairy desserts, crackers and energy bars. Because MPCs’ are generally produced as a dry powder, exporters can ship the product long-distances very cheaply, and almost all of the dry MPCs’ used in America are imported.”
Visit the above link for more on MPC’s, not inspected or subject to the quality standards demanded of American dairy farmers. Check your labels carefully.
(Harvesting rye in the valley by my mother, Pat Chuchman)
My question is, do you care where your milk and other food comes from? Are you concerned about the quality of what you’re feeding yourselves and your families? If so, then support your local farmers. We’re a dying breed.
Back to our farm which has been in the family for five generations. To try to preserve our way of life, we banded together with 20 other farmers in 2013 to form Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative. Our goal: to purchase our own creamery and sell local natural milk and other dairy products from our farms to appreciative consumers. Nothing tastes as good, or is as good for you, as milk fresh from happy cows grazing in grassy meadows. We’re as picturesque and idyllic as the hobbits in the Shire. But a growing shadow hangs over us.
(Our farm garden by daughter Elise Trissel)
Marketing our own dairy line was a great concept, and our products were very well received by the public. The work farm families poured into this venture is beyond description, No one could have tried harder to succeed than this group, but the creamery was too costly to run on our own. We failed to gain vital investors and co-packers. In mid-January 2015, after less than one year of actual production, Shenandoah Family Farms was forced to close. Our products are no longer offered. Instead of better helping our farm(s) to survive, we have further endangered ourselves. Our story is woeful, indeed. Barring a tidal wave of support, we’re not going to recover.
(Our farmer son and grandbabies by daughter Elise)
If you want to help the Trissel farm family and learn more of our lives, buy my book, Shenandoah Watercolors, available in kindle and print with lovely pictures taken by my talented family. There’s also much in here of interest to gardeners, to anyone who loves the country and a more natural life style.
Our beautiful valley. For now. Some things are worth fighting for, some things worth saving. If this isn’t, I don’t know what is.
Image of the Shenandoah Valley in early spring by my mom.
***Disclaimer: I am speaking as an individual farm owner and NOT as the official spokesperson for Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative. .I am entitled to a voice. This is my post and mine alone.