Kitchen Table Talks: Dairy Farmers Squeezed to Utter Extremes | Civil Eats

Kitchen Table Talks: Dairy Farmers Squeezed to Utter Extremes

Perhaps no one represented the American work ethic more than the dairy farmer. Early morning hours and hard physical labor, often conducted in solitude while ankle deep in muck. Families working together to get the job done. They have long proudly supplied a demand for their community, and like most farmers, are clearly not in it for the money.

Today however, the American dairy farmer also represents the frustration and economic hardship evident across our nation. Increasing volatility in the price of milk paid to farmers, higher feed costs, corporate consolidation in the supply chain, organic milk farms scaling up, and questionable government policies all have farmers shedding a few tears. The life is so unappealing that the number of American families remaining in milk farming has plummeted from roughly 165,000 20 years ago, to less than 50,000 today.

Behind the innocent glass of milk lies an intriguing story that’s not so black and white: Many farmers are losing money, organic milk is in short supply,  anti-trust lawsuits have been filed, and legislative reform is on the agenda. Farmers, processors, distributors, and retailers are engaged in conversations like never before. And cows. Don’t forget about the cows.

Please join us for the next Kitchen Table Talks in San Francisco on Tuesday, February 21 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at 18 Reasons, as we discuss the current state of the organic dairy industry.

When: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Time: Food and drink at 6:30. Discussion from 7 – 8:30 pm
Where: 18 Reasons (3674 18th St., San Francisco, 94110)
Tickets: $10 Brown Paper Tickets. NOTE: A limited number of sliding scale tickets will be available on a first come, first serve basis at 7 pm on the night of the event.

Joining us in conversation will be:

Leslie Butler, Department of Agricultural Economics at U.C. Davis. Leslie holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Michigan State University. He regularly testifies at state and national hearings regarding dairy policy, and has published numerous articles on dairy production and economics marketing and policy.

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Mike Griffin, West Region Pool Manager, Organic Valley. Mike was born and raised in Petaluma, CA. After his first year of college, he began his journey into farming, and never looked back. His vast  experience over 30 years at Clover Stornetta as a truck driver, distribution foreman, plant manager and in public relations, ultimately led him to Organic Valley in 2011, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers.

Richard Hughes, owner Westfield Jersey’s in Bodega, CA. Richard was a self-proclaimed “city boy,” until he turned 15 and a 4-H project began his life long journey and commitment to dairy farming.  In 1976, Richard and his wife purchased a 182-acre ranch just outside of Bodega. They currently have around 100 Jersey cows, have completed the transition to organic farming, and provide milk to Straus Family Creamery.

Bob McGee, CFO/COO Straus Family Creamery, Marshall, CA.

Kitchen Table Talks is a joint venture of Civil Eats and 18 Reasons, a non-profit that promotes conversation between its San Francisco Mission neighborhood and the people who feed them. Space is limited, so please RSVP. Seasonal snacks and refreshments generously provided by Bi-Rite Market and Shoe Shine Wine.

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Eric Cohen is the owner/winemaker for Justice Grace Vineyards, maker of Shoe Shine Wine®. The winery is as dedicated to social justice issues, in particular a Living Wage, as it is making world class wine from the Petite Sirah grape. He is also one of the founding organizers of San Francisco's Kitchen Table Talks. Read more >

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