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Remsen dairy farmers start bottling, selling milk to keep farm afloat

Many dairy farms are not going to survive the economic impact the coronavirus is creating, but one local farmer has come up with a way to keep his farm going.

Posted: Apr 29, 2020 5:55 PM
Updated: Apr 29, 2020 6:50 PM

REMSEN, N.Y. -- Leon Atwell and his wife Angela own the Grassy Cow Dairy Farm in Remsen. They, like many small dairy farmers are struggling to survive. The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a halt in bulk milk productions, and Leon Atwell explains why the smaller dairy farmers are taking a hit.

"Dairy farms don’t have a huge profit margin to begin with, so anything you take away is very detrimental to us," he said.

So the Atwell’s came up with an 'utterly' brilliant idea. Angela Atwell talked about how they're selling their milk by retail.

"We just started the bottling of the milk. We’re using less than 5% of our milk to bottle," she said.

Grassy Cow produces a number of cheeses in their own facility, and although they’re only using 5% of their milk to bottle, Leon says it still beats dumping it in the fields.

"We’re not set up to do a larger volume at this time. Every week I’m making little changes that are improving our efficiency so we can do more and more, but it’s never going to take the place of the milk that we put on the truck and sold through our cooperative," he said.

The Atwell’s started setting up equipment for their creamery process seven years ago, so Angela explained why bottling milk isn’t a solution for any dairy farmer.

"It takes a long time. It’s not like you can just say ok this terrible scenario has just happened, and we’d like to start bottling milk. You really have to have had some kind of a basis to start with," she said.

Milk production factories have been forced to shut down much of their operations due to the lack in demand, but farmers don’t have that option. Leon Atwell says, "They’re in as bad a shape as us other than they can shut their plant down and they don’t have to keep milking the cows and feeding them every day."

Farmers will continue to lose money until production returns to normal, and it also costs them money to continue to keep the farm in operation, so support your local farmers whenever you can. The Atwell's started bottling production only three weeks ago, so Grassy Cow milk has not yet hit the shelves in local stores. The best place to find it is on Prospect Road in Remsen, just up the street from the firehouse.

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