To Save Their Livelihoods, Many Dairy Farms Have Started Breweries

New York Times writer Joshua M. Bernstein reported this week that, “Every day since 1938, farmhands at the 1,000-acre Carter & Stevens Farm, in central Massachusetts, have milked cows in the morning and afternoon. The same family has overseen operations for five generations. A sixth seemed uncertain.

“‘We’re at a historic low nationwide in terms of farmers getting money for their milk,’ said Sean DuBois, who works in the family business. (His wife, Molly Stevens, is the daughter of the third-generation patriarch, Phil Stevens.)

Prices have cratered, driven by high supply and falling demand. For Carter & Stevens, staying solvent required creative thinking. ‘To succeed today as a dairy farm, you need to diversify,’ Mr. DuBois said. ‘We found our passion for craft beer.'”

Mr. Bernstein noted that, “The farm opened Stone Cow Brewery in 2016, making beers like the Roll in the Hay I.P.A., which sells for $7 a pint at its taproom. That makes the beverage much more profitable than the dairy’s raw milk, which currently sells wholesale for about 16 cents per pint, even though it costs more to produce.”

The Times article stated that, “America’s dairies have been gut-punched by declining milk prices — some dropping about 40 percent in recent years — and demand, as consumers embrace soy, nut and other milks, and the Greek yogurt craze cools. In some places, despair has set in: Three members of the Agri-Mark Dairy cooperative, which represents about 1,000 dairy farmers in the Northeast, have killed themselves in recent years, the latest in January.

To save their livelihoods, many dairy farms have started breweries, bolstering bottom lines with a different kind of liquid capital.

It’s another chapter in the dairy and brewing industries’ interlinked history. Brewers often supply farmers with spent grains for feed, and many American craft breweries have started by using secondhand dairy infrastructure.”

This week’s article added that, “Fonta Flora Brewery in Morganton, N.C., is currently turning part of the Whippoorwill Dairy Farm, which dates to the early 20th century, into a brewery. The buildings, constructed with irregularly shaped river stones, look ‘more like a monastery in Belgium than anything you’d associate with a farm in the South,’ said Todd Boera, the head of brewing operations.

“One structure is devoted to creating spontaneously fermented beer — made with wild yeast that has never been cultivated — while the milking parlor will be filled with large oak vessels to age beer.”

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