I’m writing this through tears of anger, frustration, disbelief, and exhaustion. I am so tired of being a farmer. I’m not even talking about the work, which is exhausting enough; I’m talking about everything else. I’m tired of the political regulations that we have no say in being made about our lives. I’m tired of the people (activists and more) commenting on and telling stories about lives they don’t even live. I’m tired of having to choose which bills we pay because processors always make their profit and leave the farmers to make up the difference. I’m tired of being an easy target because we’re too busy working our butts off to see the evil that’s coming.
I opened a letter recently that confused and then enraged me. To make a long story short, Dean Foods wants their money back. Apparently, there’s a law that states they can go back 90 days from the date they claimed bankruptcy and ask for a portion of the money they paid farmers. They would like a check before the end of the year.
I’m going to let that sink in.
We will fight this, because they’re wrong. We sold them a product that they used and sold; it’s the cost of business. But it’s so disheartening because it feels like a dying company is trying to squeeze everything they can out of an already hurting industry.
We’re farmers. We work 100 hours a week to provide nutrition for a world that appreciates us less every day. We miss major life events to treat one sick cow because it can’t treat itself. We spend money we don’t have and hours we’ll never get back making sure your food is cheap and safe. But there’s always a struggle. Some battle to be fought. When is it our turn to stop fighting? When do we get to pick the fight? Because today, I’m feeling pretty feisty.
Take me back to 2014 when the milk check paid the bills and the future felt limitless.
The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.