Friday, September 23, 2016

Dairy Value Chain - Participants in the System

In order to understand any system, you have to identify who/what is involved, what their needs are, what their motivations are, and what impacts (positive and negative) that they have on the other people/entities in the system. Like an ecosystem, there is a balance that is needed to ensure that all parts function “normally.” In this study, we will divide who/what into Actors and Stakeholders.

A stakeholder is a person/entity that is directly involved in the value-chain. In some cases, these are individual people. In some cases, they are multiple layers of corporations. In some cases, they are groups of people. Stakeholders can also be in multiple places in the value-chain, and their roles/needs shift in each level of this value-chain.
An actor is a person/entity that is not directly in possession of the “produce” in any stage of the value-chain. They offer support to various actors and can influence actors both positively or negatively. They tend to be the group that enables the environment and has the greatest influence on laws, regulations, policies, etc. Just like stakeholders, they can be in multiple places in the value-chain, and their roles/needs shift at each level of the value-chain.
Actors in the Dairy Value-Chain

It is hard to define this as “conventional” or “traditional” or “contemporary,” because those terms have multiple meanings. This is just a general definition of the actors (or people/entities that “posess” milk) at all stages of the dairy value-chain.
Note, I mention that there are individual people and entities. With time, there are fewer individual people and more and more entities that are a part of this process. What does this mean for the Pioneer Valley? How would it compare with, say Madison County New York – where I farmed for 10-years? What are the trends in the northeast in general? Are these shifts seen across the US or in other “dairy” countries?
With consolidation in defferent sectors of food/farming, there are blurrings in lines, but the enterprises and functions are the same, even if ownership is the same. As I stated above, motivations and needs shift as people/enterprises move up or down this value chain. I will outline how some of these are “natural fits” and “not so much” as I progress with this project.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Farmer and the Cheese - Introduction

Once upon a dream my friend Chanda Lindsey said that she had a dream. In this dream she read a book I wrote called The Farmer and the Cheese. She said that in this book the parts that talked about Claire had a smaller font than the rest of the book. I will dedicate this blog and maybe that book to her.


I started graduate school in the Fall of 2014. The plan was to finish a Masters of Regional Planning. To promote the program, Dr. Mark Hamin said that I should use this as a period of reflection. For a while, I did not see that. With this blog, I plan to remedy that and use this blog as both a period of reflection and as a way to satisfy this requirement to do a dairy value chain assessment in the Pioneer Valley. The purpose of the later is to look at activities that are a bottleneck or a benefit to see what can provide an economic advantage to dairy farmers in our region.

A three-legged Milk Stool
When I refer to the three-legged stool, it is to discuss the core-meaning and values of the term "sustainable." Today this is a diluted term, but I will use the three legs or pillars of sustainability (economic development, environmental conservation, and social justice) as I consider all of my posts.

The concept of "sustainable" or "sustainability" comes from the "Brundtland Report" or "Our Common Future." They are one and the same. Published in 1987 by the United Nations Wold Commission on Environment and Development (CWCED). This was the first time that the environment and development were firmly placed together in policy as a single issue. Like the word "Natural" this is a diluted term, but I hope to bring some meaning back to this term.

I encourage meaningful comments and discussion. I will speak from my experience and my research. I admit that I am not always "right" and will discuss controversial topics. Please share wide and let me know what you think!


Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Good Farm Wife

Dairy farm chores still include walking the cow in to milk.
In all things love and war, people say mean things.  The one thing I liked about the attorney I had in my divorce was that he had this saying, "the high road is the difficult road, but the view is better up here..." I liked that and it was an easy mental reference when I wanted to respond to something during a very difficult time.

A friend of mine introduced me to another saying. See, he was at a fair where a friend of my ex-husband's started to talk about our divorce. I was not there, and he stopped the guy from talking and said, "...there is his story, her story, and then the real story... since you only heard one side of the story, you really cannot tell if that is true, so maybe we should not talk about that." I did not talk about negative things publicly and I still think that airing dirty laundry is not the way to go, especially when there are kids involved. It humbled me and reinforced what the attorney said.
Another thing that came out of that conversation was that my ex-husband said "She was a good farm wife, and then one day..." Now, the friend who brought this to my attention also thought they could tease me with this.  I asked what being a "good farm wife" meant. He listed chores that a woman performs on a farm, like chores, cooking, housework, feeding calves, taking care of children, chores, etc.

Doing chores... in this case I just kicked a round bale off the truck.
I do repeat "chores" here, because "chores" were brought up a lot.  I asked why that one, more than any other was brought up.  He said because a farm wife is expected to contribute to chores.  He needs her to help.  Ok. When I flipped the question about what makes a good "farm husband", two themes came up "supporting her" and "making her happy".  Not a task based definition like it was for the woman.  That was oddly universal.  I then pushed and asked why it was defined in two different ways.  I did not get much of an answer.

I then asked other people in rural areas to define what makes a good farm wife. I got more task based descriptors for women. Some of them included things like baking, canning, taking children to activities, going to church, gardening, and more chores. Even if a woman had a more management role, it was often referred to as "chores."

When I asked them more about what makes a good farm husband, I got more global comments again. I found it interesting. I also wondered if this was a rural thing, or if this could also be similar in other professions or in more urban or suburban marriages. What if they were same sex couples?

Anyone have a good idea why a woman's role is task based and a man's is not?