The Strength of our Food Supply Hasn’t Changed

Mark Duffy, Massachusetts Dairy Farmer| View Author Bio

Times of crises push us to build our resilience and reflect on our society. As I look at our farm operation, this crisis demonstrates why we are part of the local food supply, and how important it is to make sure our food system is strong now and in the future.

I’ve been asked a lot recently, how have things changed at Great Brook Farm because of the COVID-19 outbreak? For me, it helps to focus on what has stayed the same during this time of constant change and unknown.

Our dairy farm is located within Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle. We are one of many local dairy farms that continues to operate around the clock to make milk for the dairy products across our region, and that has not changed. We continue to provide milk for our Cabot Creamery Cooperative to be made into cheese, butter, and other dairy products.

Dairy shortages and safety

You might wonder why there are milk and dairy product shortages at some stores. Our grocery stores and distributors are under an extreme amount of pressure to get products on the shelves due to more people buying in bulk. The fact of the matter is, we have plenty of food in the U.S. and that has not changed. Our food system is catching up to the increased demand. Our Cabot production facilities are working 7 days a week.

The safety of milk and dairy products has not changed. Pasteurized dairy foods are safe to eat, as the pasteurization process gets rid of any harmful bacteria. In addition, pasteurization does not significantly change the nutritional value of milk. Milk, cheese, and butter can even be frozen to keep them fresher longer.

What has changed?

We are bracing ourselves for the price we are paid for our milk to drop significantly this year. Farmers have lost the ability to sell many of our products to restaurants, universities, and other foodservice locations, as well as overseas. This comes at a time when dairy farmers were expecting prices to improve this year after five years of difficult times.

Our biggest concern is for the health of others: the people who work for us and support our farm and agriculture in our country, our veterinarians, milk truck drivers, and those who operate processing plants where milk goes to be pasteurized and made into dairy products. Many farmers are older and at higher risk. We need to take care of ourselves and each other.

Agriculture is essential and needs your support

Even with these concerns and unknowns, our farm is proud to do our part to support our country by making nutritious food. In a recent federal mandate, food and agriculture were identified as critical and essential infrastructure to help see our country through this trying time. While we work hard day in and day out, we are not on the front lines of this crisis, like our medical and emergency teams, and we are extremely appreciative of their service to our country.

Times of crises push us to build our resilience and reflect on our society. As I look at our farm operation, this crisis demonstrates why we are part of the local food supply, and how important it is to make sure our food system is strong now and in the future.

Mark Duffy operates Great Brook Farm in Carlisle, Massachusetts. Alongside his family, he milks 120 cows using a robotic-milking system. Milk from the farm is made into cheese and other dairy products by farmer-owned Cabot Creamery Cooperative/Agri-Mark. Duffy is a director on the board of Agri-Mark. The dairy cooperative annually markets more than 300 million gallons of milk for more than 850 dairy-farm families in New England and New York.

Springtime at Great Brook Farm in Carlisle, MA.

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