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Number of Dairy Farms in Maine Declining
June 30, 2015

In an unpredictable industry, the first step to success is accepting that there is little you can control. Weather, commodity prices, milk markets and prices…much of what dairy farmers deal with is unpredictable and out of their control.

“A year ago, if you had asked 10 farmers how they felt about the milk price you would have gotten ear-to-ear grins from all of them,” dairy farmer Betsy Bullard said.

“Today, if you ask them about the milk price, it might be ear to ear but it might not be a grin.”

Bullard is one of the owners of Brigeen Farms, Inc. in Turner, ME, an 18th century dairy farm not only surviving, but thriving despite the constant change in pricing, and other factors outside their control

Volatility is a dairy farmer’s biggest challenge, Bullard says.

She credits her husband for remaining dedicated to finding ways to plan for the future in any way that they can.

“The technology that we invest in overtime helps us take care of the cows on a daily basis and it really gives us the freedom, from a time standpoint, to look at some of that stuff,” Bullard says.  Just like Brigeen Farms, Maine has a rich history of dairy farming dating back hundreds of years. However, today, more and more dairy farmers have to make a difficult choice.

Stanley Kuvaja is one of the Maine dairy farms that has recently closed its barn doors. The Greenwood, ME dairy farmer recently sold his 58-cow herd this past month, exiting the dairy industry after his family’s 100+ year career.

“It’s never been this quiet,” said Stanley Kuvaja.  “There’s always something going. Tractors, milk tank, vacuum pump fans in the barn. It just seems strange being so quiet. “

The Kuvaja’s say there are many factors that contributed to this decision including health, money and time.

“It’s hard, real hard,” said Stanley Kuvaja.  “That first week when the cows left we got more done in that week than we did the whole month before,” Kuvaja laughed.

In Maine, there are currently 262 dairy farms that are still active producers.

This is the crossroad many of Maine’s dairy farmers are facing today, both Kuvaja and Bullard say, without the help of technology or supplemental produce.

Stanley Kuvaja, a third generation farmer, says his father would have supported his decision if he were alive today.

“He was against any kind of debt,” Kuvaja said. “I’ve done this for 40 years and…that’s it.”

While the number of dairy farms in Maine is on the decline, the number of dairy licenses is on the rise.  Right now, Maine is leading the region in the production of artisan cheese.

Source: WMTW News


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