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Ski areas helping local farms with donations

JAY — What do skiing and dairy farming have in common?
Not much, it might seem, but two New England organizations would beg to differ. On June 5, Ski Vermont presented its first donation of $8,495 to Keep Local Farms, a Massachusetts organization.
“The skiing and farming economies run deep throughout our local communities,” said Ski Vermont president Parker Riehle. “Working together is vital to ensure the future success of these two iconic Vermont industries.”
Starksboro resident Jane Clifford, president of the New England Family Dairy Farms Cooperative, was on hand to accept the donation. In addition to Clifford, the event earlier this month drew Vermont Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Miller, Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding and Tourism and Marketing Commissioner Megan Smith.
Ski Vermont is just one of the organizations that partners with Keep Local Farms to raise education, awareness and support for local dairy farms, according to Diane Bothfeld, Vermont’s deputy secretary of dairy policy. Keep Local Farms was created in 2009 to direct money back to struggling dairy farmers. The organization operates through the collaboration of state agriculture agencies throughout New England as well as the New England Family Dairy Farms Cooperative and the New England Dairy Promotion Board.
Money donated to Keep Local Farms goes back to the farmers that are members of the New England Family Dairy Farms Cooperative, which Bothfeld said the St. Albans Cooperative, Agri-Mark, Dairy Farmers of America, Dairylea and the Central Vermont Producers Association have all joined on behalf of their dairy farmers. Bothfeld said that as of last July, 84 percent of Vermont dairy farms — 861 farms out of 1,016 — were affiliated with Keep Local Farms.
Among other regional partners, Keep Local Farms has agreements with colleges and universities around the region in which each donates 10 cents to the organization for each single-serve carton milk sold. Those institutions are Boston Medical and Harvard University in Massachusetts; Bates and Bowdoin colleges in Maine; and the University of Vermont and Saint Michael’s and Champlain colleges in Vermont. Bothfeld said that since 2009 UVM has donated $8,000 to the organization.
Keep Local Farms plans to release its first payout to farmers in September, and Bothfeld said the check to each of the approximately 1,700 farms participating will likely be between $100 and $150. In the future, she said, the organization hopes to increase partnerships and increase payouts to dairy farmers, though that may take some time.
“The hills are a little steep,” she said.
But she added that recent collaborations between Hannaford grocery stores and the Hanover Food Cooperative in New Hampshire have raised five-figure amounts, and that Keep Local Farms is growing.
Dairy farmers interested in participating in Keep Local Farms should contact Diane Bothfeld at the Vermont Agency for Agriculture, Farm and Markets.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at andreas@addisonindependent.com.

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