Is milk consumption declining? What’s the reason for local farms going under?

Local News

After multiple insider reports that Meadow Brook dairy plant will close, some workers say they’ve been told that milk processing will stop at the Buffalo Road plant, but that distribution may continue.

One worker tells us that employees could be transferred to another facility.  We’ve reached out to the parent company, Dean Foods, in an attempt to confirm their plans.  Our calls have not been returned.

As more people turn to dairy alternatives, fewer people are drinking milk. Farmers and people in the dairy industry say there are a variety of factors resulting causing small dairy farms to close, but it boils down to not enough sales and not enough money.

For many people, milk is a part of their breakfast, but plenty of others are removing it from their diets and turning to non-dairy alternatives. 

Anthony Honeycutt says, “Calling almond milk or nut milk–it’s not really, you know. Milk comes from a mammal, you know.”

According to the US Department of Agriculture, milk consumption dropped nearly 25 percent between 1996 and 2016, and small farms are hurting. 

17-year-old Josh Schmidt is a senior at Northwestern Senior High School in Albion and a member of the Albion Chapter of the Future Farmers of America.  He saw his family’s Conneautville dairy farm close in 2016 after more than six decades.  “Small farms, less than a hundred, aren’t going to survive a whole lot longer unless they’re able to increase their herd…  The milk prices were so low that we couldn’t afford to pay the bills and afford to farm the land and still provide enough to make a living.”

The chapter’s former president, Julie Edwards, says her family’s dairy farm closed as well.  “Slowly over the years, the same thing that’s happening now happened to them. It was a little bit slower at the time, but they basically couldn’t keep up with the rising prices.”

Northwestern Agriculture Education Teacher Anthony Honeycutt says closures cause a ripple effect throughout the economy.  “Those people aren’t able to buy their fertilizer, their seed, all that kind of stuff. Now, these feed stores are closing…  Honeycutt says, “You need youth that truly understand what’s going on, because the average age of the farmer is rising and that needs to change.”

The students hope the industry can turn around with more people consuming dairy and with their help.

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