On Monday, June 19th, Berkshire Grown hosted a sold-out screening of Forgotten Farms at the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington. A film about dairy farms in the Northeast, Forgotten Farms looks at the current state of dairy farming and at the cultural and class divides that sometimes exist between the traditional farming community and the new “local food” movement, and what it all means for the future of food and agriculture in the region.
Forgotten Farms was produced by Sarah Gardner, Associate Director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Williams College and a member of the Berkshire Grown Board of Directors. Sarah and the film’s director, Dave Simonds, led a discussion with the audience after the screening. Berkshire Grown’s Executive Director Barbara Zheutlin and Sheffield dairy farmer Jim Larkin joined Gardner and Simonds for the discussion, giving the audience the opportunity to ask questions directly of one of our local dairy farmers. Larkin was able to speak about his experiences as a life-long dairy farmer, what he sees as some of the current obstacles and issues with the system, and why his family continues to believe in dairy farming.
One of the important conversations that came out during the panel discussion was an overview of the Dairy Farmer Tax Credit, state legislation that has been critical to helping Massachusetts dairy farmers survive tough economic conditions in recent years, and which is currently up for renewal in the legislature. The price dairy farmers are paid for their milk is set nationally and is based, roughly, upon production costs elsewhere in the country and the fluctuations of global markets. Here in the northeast, production costs are higher than in many regions of the country, which means that there are months, and sometimes years, when northeast dairy farmers earn less for their milk than it cost them to produce it – a losing proposition, no matter your business. The Dairy Farmer Tax Credit Program aims to make up this difference at times when the milk price drops below production costs. This legislation, which has been critical in keeping dairy farms in business in Mass, is currently up for renewal in the state legislature, and farmers and advocates are hoping to increase the pot this year. The Larkin family was pleased that this screening provided an opportunity to get the word out about this important legislation, and that the Berkshire Grown community is becoming more familiar with the region’s dairy farmers.
If you’re interested in reading more about the tax credit and dairy farms in Berkshire County, check out Gardner’s recent article in the Berkshire Eagle.
For more on the film, including upcoming screenings, visit: http://forgottenfarms.org/
Check out the trailer here: