This column was submitted to LebTown. Read our submission policy here.
We are your dairy farmers, families just like you facing unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19. Like everyone, Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers have been tested in ways we could not have imagined months ago. We were positioned for a strong year at the start of 2020. But, that drastically changed in March with epic supply-chain disruptions, customer-order cancellations and the closing of our schools, colleges, restaurants, government, businesses, and retail outlets. Yet, we have persevered and continued to care for our animals while every day producing, nutritious milk and delicious dairy necessities that feed and nourish our communities and our families across the commonwealth.
As we celebrate June, National Dairy Month, many of Pennsylvania’s 6,000 dairy farms are looking forward to emerging from this catastrophe stronger and more resilient because that’s what America’s farmers do; we adapt to changes in the marketplace and meet head-on the fury of disasters whether man-made or natural. It is a testament to our farming heritage, our commitment to the future and our pride. While we cannot hold much-loved events like “Farm Show in June” at the State Capitol, we are hosting milk-centered events at food banks, virtual farm tours, pop-up milkshake stands at community gatherings and farmer’s markets.
Our celebration is tempered by the tremendous losses from COVID-19. Yet, despite the horrific human toll and the financial setbacks, Pennsylvania dairy farmers answered the call to help at the peak of the crisis and continue to donate tankers of their milk to food banks and families across the state, thanks to amazing partnerships with businesses, processors, truck drivers, and service organizations. With hunger at an all-time high and people lining up for free gallons of milk, families are extremely grateful for the support from our compassionate farmers who are always there to feed us, regardless of their hardships.
No other beverage packs the nutrient punch of a single glass of whole milk. One 8-ounce serving is loaded with 9 essential nutrients and vitamins, including protein. A glass of whole milk contains three of the four nutrients that the USDA deems under-consumed by most Americans—calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Milk is the perfect beverage to fuel families on the go, is the refuel beverage of champions, and is Pennsylvania’s official beverage. Make no mistake because of product mislabeling: Only real dairy milk offers these advantages. Plus, dairy farming is the largest sector of our state’s number one industry, agriculture, pumping more than $12.6 billion into the state economy annually.
Friends have asked what they can do to help our dairy farmers during this pandemic. Here are five steps each of us can take to keep our PA dairy industry thriving and to give back:
- Buy milk to support healthy families and vibrant communities, preferably by Choosing PA Dairy. Look for the PA Preferred® Logo or Plant Code 42 on the milk container to ensure that it is made in Pennsylvania. Or, stop by your local farm market.
- Incorporate more dairy into your daily diet and enjoy easy-to-make dairy recipes. Add an extra ounce or cup of cheese, yogurt, ice cream or milk perhaps and enjoy the diversity of our unrivaled dairy!
- Donate whatever amount you can to Fill a Glass with Hope® (FAGWH), our charitable fresh milk program, the first statewide effort in the country. To date, in partnership with Feeding Pennsylvania and American Dairy Association North East, FAGWH has provided over 14 million free servings of milk to our neighbors in need. On average, every $1 donated provides eight servings of fresh milk.
- Visit and share our PA Dairymen’s Resources Page that features dairy farm tours, free games, recipes, crafts, STEM experiments, Adopt A Cow, and offers insight into farm life. Share our new public service announcement found on our PA Dairymen’s YouTube.
- Please donate to the Center for Dairy Excellence Foundation to support our future dairy farmers.
We thank everyone who has stood strong with us and commend all essential workers everywhere for helping us through these challenging times. With your support, we are moving forward together, and commit to uphold the proud tradition of dairy farming for many generations to come in Pennsylvania.
Palmyra resident Dave Smith is the executive director of the PA Dairymen’s Association.