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Small Pleasures: Monument Farms Dairy’s Chocolate Milk Inspires Devotion


Published April 16, 2024 at 2:02 p.m.
Updated April 17, 2024 at 10:17 a.m.

Monument Farms Dairy's chocolate milk - COURTESY OF KEVIN BARRY
  • Courtesy Of Kevin Barry
  • Monument Farms Dairy's chocolate milk

In 2017, the media seized on a data point from a survey suggesting that 7 percent of American adults believed chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

Clickbait aside, the lesson was not actually how far removed people are from the source of their food but the risk of misinterpreting research with little context. Without knowing how the question was posed, we have no idea whether those respondents thought, for example, that dairy cows are simply more likely to be brown, as opposed to the black Angus commonly associated with beef.

But if we lived in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory world in which brown cows produced chocolate milk, 55 of Monument Farms Dairy's 550-head herd would not be black-and-white Holsteins.

About 10 percent of the roughly 151,100 gallons of milk produced monthly on the Weybridge farm becomes chocolate milk, said Monument Farms Dairy co-owner Jon Rooney. Sold in half gallons for $3.49-$3.99 and pints for about $1.49 throughout the Champlain Valley and northwestern Vermont, the cocoa-rich milk boasts a velvety viscosity that has made it an enduring favorite in my home.

As our 26-year-old, Alex, wrote by text, "the famous chocolate milk is not only a must-have for me when I make the trek home to Burlington from NYC but it has become a must-have for many of my friends who come with me."

Alex recalled the wonder of stepping into the Middlebury College cafeteria during a teen soccer camp and spying a Monument Farms chocolate milk dispenser.

"I was geeking," he said. "I still wish I could get one in my kitchen."

His older brother, Nikko, chimed in from Seattle to say the chocolate milk is one of the things he misses most about Vermont. (I'm sure he means after his mother.)

"It's in a class of its own," Nikko, 29, wrote. "The texture defies what I considered possible for chocolate milk."

Rooney, 65, is one of three third-generation owners of the 2,900-acre farm and bottling facility. He said the family has made chocolate milk for as long as he can remember, at least since the early 1960s.

His grandparents, Richard and Marjory James, started the farm with 26 acres in 1930. Their daughter, Millicent, grew up washing milk bottles and worked on the farm until 10 days before she died, at 86, in 2014. Her son and two of his cousins, Peter and Bob James, now run the operation with three members of the fourth generation.

As plant manager, Rooney supervises all processing, including mixing chocolate milk. The secret, he said, is combining the farm's high-quality milk with a meticulously composed flavor blend that includes "really high-grade cocoa powder," two kinds of sugar and artificial vanilla flavor. Carrageenan and cornstarch are key to the milk's smooth texture, Rooney said. They keep the cocoa blended evenly rather than letting it settle on the bottom.

Rooney noted that a few co-ops won't carry Monument Farms' chocolate milk, due to the artificial vanilla. But he doesn't dare mess with the winning formula — which is endorsed by a wide range of people beyond my kids.

My colleague Jordan Barry's husband, Kevin, said Monument Farms won his recent "semi-serious, semi-scientific" taste test because it reminded him most of a classic black and white milkshake made with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.

Right before I grabbed a half gallon from the supermarket cooler recently, Noah Sullivan, a senior at the University of Vermont, grabbed his own. He said he became "very much an appreciator" of Monument Farms chocolate milk soon after arriving at college.

"It's just good," Sullivan said. "It's just right."

Small Pleasures is an occasional column that features delicious and distinctive Vermont-made food or drinks that pack a punch. Send us your favorite little bites or sips with big payoff at [email protected].

The original print version of this article was headlined "How Now, Brown Cow | Monument Farms Dairy's chocolate milk inspires devotion"

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