Farmers get cheesy while celebrating dairy excellence

Local

Dairy disaster, no more.

A $24 million farming bill passed in Pennsylvania’s House on Wednesday, funding farmer support and expansion of the industry.

“It’s not where it needs to be, but compared to where we were 2 or 3 years ago, we’re in a good place with a lot of momentum,” said Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding.

The momentum is like the rolling wheel of a tractor, but there is still a lot of land that needed to be plowed creatively.

“It can no longer just be just two percent, white, homogenized milk from someplace in America,” Redding said.

In response, farmers are saying, “cheese.”

“We are experiencing a renaissance of cheese making here in Pennsylvania,” said Sue Miller, a cheese maker at Birchrun Hills Farm.

Miller grew up on a dairy farm.

“During these really low periods in milk prices, we thought, we can’t make it selling our milk in the commodity milk market,” she said.

One day, Miller said she woke up with a cheesy answer.

“It’s a great way to use milk. We have this amazing consumer base in Pennsylvania, and we’re on the corridor of some of the biggest populations in the United States,” she said.

Miller said there are currently 45 licensed cheesemakers in Pennsylvania churning the way for a new path in agriculture. Redding said these kinds of movements are crucial in sustaining Pennsylvania’s top dairy status.

“If they’re getting into it, I strongly advise them to look at what value can they add on the farm, whether it’s cheese, ice cream, yogurt — whatever,” Redding said.

What farmers can add might be complicated, but how you can help is simple.

“Choosing Pennsylvania dairy matters. It matters to the economy. It matters to our food system. It matters to our neighbors,” Redding said.

“You are affecting change in your community, and it’s something you can do, and you’re definitely going to get better food for it,” Miller said.

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