BURLINGTON, Vt. — UVM students contributed $5,219.30 to Vermont and New England dairy farmers at a ceremony Oct. 2.
The University of Vermont‘s student-led Keep Local Farms program, a new initiative that enables consumers to contribute money directly to dairy farmers to help them receive a sustainable price for their milk, netted more than $4,700 in its first year.
Coupled with an additional fundraising effort, UVM students raised more than $5,200 in total for the program. In the ceremony on the UVM campus, Kofi Mensah, president of UVM’s Student Government Association, and Melissa Zelazny, general manager of Sodexo, UVM’s food service provider, presented a check to Jane Clifford, a Vermont dairy farmer and president of the New England Family Dairy Farm Cooperative, one of Keep Local Farms’ sponsors, and Diane Bothfeld, deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.
UVM launched its Keep Local Farms initiative in November of 2009, one of the first colleges to participate in the program. To raise the money, students agreed to forgo a price reduction on retail milk sold by Sodexo at the university that they would have received because of falling milk prices.
The money was raised via the sale of more than 47,000 14-ounce containers of milk, each of which would have sold for 10 cents less without the student agreement.
SGA entered into the Keep Local Farms after surveying 300 students, the majority of whom were willing to pass on the 10-cent price break. The student senate passed a bill authorizing the program in October 2009.
Sodexo was instrumental in the development of UVM’s program, working with students on the logistics of milk pricing and promoting Keep Local Farms through posters, point-of-purchase brochures and meetings held with students throughout the year.
The company is exploring creating similar programs at other New England schools with whom it has food service contracts. Also on hand for the check presentation were Daniel Mark Fogel, University of Vermont president; Richard Riani, district manager for Sodexo; and a number of dairy farmers and former and current UVM agriculture students in the Cooperative for Real Education in Agriculture Management (CREAM) program. Students also brought a calf from the CREAM teaching herd to the ceremony.
The Keep Local Farms program was developed to help address a challenging business environment for dairy farmers in New England. Despite spending about $1.80 to produce a gallon of milk, farmers are receiving only $1.47 in return.
The program goals are to increase sales and consumption of dairy products, provide information on the role of dairy farmers as stewards of the land and to build a fund to return money directly to dairy farmers.
Keep Local Farms is a partnership between the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council, the New England Family Dairy Farm Cooperative with the Cooperative Development Institute and the New England Dairy Promotion Board. A total of eight colleges and universities in New England are participating in the Keep Local Farms initiative.