Surviving the pandemic: Dairy farmers need restaurants to stay open

Coronavirus

CENTRAL NEW YORK, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Dairy farms were hit when COVID-19 came to Central New York and they’re still muddling through the pandemic.

One of them is the Barbland Dairy and White Eagles Farm. Three families help run the two farms, one in Onondaga County and the other in Madison County. They’re hoping we won’t see another spike because they need restaurants to stay open.

“COVID coming through in the spring, it churned the distribution channels on top of their head,” said Bret Bossard, one of the partners.

Farmers like Bossard are used to adapting to changes in distribution but not like this. “Foodservice takes about 50 percent of dairy products,” he said. When the pandemic closed restaurant doors, that revenue was shut off like a light switch.

“We don’t have the luxury of being able to hold onto product to when the supply and demand are all in balance,” Bossard said. The farm is on the up but they can’t get to where they’d like to be overnight.

“For May and June, our revenue streams were down 25 percent and unfortunately, there’s no way to cut our expenses to match that,” he said. The income from milk sales is still down 25 percent. Bossard believes it will improve throughout the fall, but they need restaurants to stay open.

“A lot of butter, a lot of cheese goes through the foodservice industry so that’s really important for farmers and dairy farmers,” said Bossard.They also rely on co-ops. “Most of the milk from our farm goes to Chobani to be made into yogurt,” said Bossard.

It’s a business most farmers grew up in, so they’re used to keeping up with changes in distribution patterns. They’ll get through like they always do.

“Farmers, we feel that we’re fighting an uphill battle but when you hear your neighbors showing support, it’s gratifying, very gratifying,” said Bossard.

There have been several drive-thrus funded by the Nourish New York Initiative and Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) put on by the American Dairy Association North East. Since May, these farms have distributed more than 164,000 gallons of milk to Central New Yorkers in various drive-thrus.


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