On June 10, Giant Food Stores had a kickoff event, unveiling the PA Preferred logo on their store-brand milk, proudly proclaiming it was produced and processed in Pennsylvania. In follow-up questions after the event, I discovered the milk was processed at Lehigh Valley Farms, the main processor where we send the milk from our farm.
I admit hearing that Giant Food Store’s store-labeled milk came from the processor where we ship our milk was the equivalent to a really awesome Christmas gift. Why? I got to hear a food retailer brag about the farmers who producer their milk. And it’s my family and cows they are talking about.
After posting the discovery to Facebook, the responses started flooding in, more than 60 of them. Some shared their excitement because it was the milk they purchased for their family. Those who don’t live near a Giant, said if there were a store in the neighborhood, they would definitely buy it.
In the middle of all of the congratulations and excitement came a post from a high school classmate. She grew up not far from my parents' dairy farm. Today, she lives with her family in Florida. Her comments focused on her appreciation for my dad. She thanked him for allowing her and other kids from the nearby development to use the farm pond for ice skating. Plus, she and the others enjoyed walking or driving by our farm, looking at the cows in the pastures. Now living far from dairy country, she said how much she missed seeing a real dairy cow.
There has been a lot of debate over the “right” way for dairy farmers to get their message out to the consuming public. And quite honestly, I don’t think it’s going to be a fancy Madison Avenue-style of advertising campaign that’s going to capture people’s attention or hearts. It’s going to be finding a real dairy farmer, the face behind the milk.
Why does it matter? It’s more than just the milk. It’s the memories, the connections to a local farm family. It’s knowing where the milk starts out and a desire to support that farm.
One friend, who lives in New York State, purchases Wegman’s store-brand milk faithfully because New York farmers through the local dairy cooperative process the milk.
I am looking forward to seeing how this new venture pans out with the PA Preferred label on Giant Food’s milk. I am hopeful it’s a huge success. While it might be their label – it’s my family’s milk.
-- Charlene Shupp Espenshade, special sections editor