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Dairy Good: Rotarians Raise Money to Save Milk From Being Dumped


Published June 24, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.

  • Courtesy Of The Agency Of Agriculture, Food And Markets
  • Ploughgate Creamery butter

When Martin Cohn heard the state was purchasing raw milk from struggling farmers to process into goods for the Vermont Foodbank, he pulled out his proverbial Rolodex to try to help.

Cohn has amassed plenty of contacts in his 15 years as a member of the Brattleboro Rotary Club, including a one-year stint as club president in 2012. The group is one of 100 Rotary clubs in Vermont and is part of Rotary International, a volunteer service organization whose members work together to solve problems in their communities.

Cohn's calls paid off. In just 10 days, Rotary clubs and members from around the state donated more than $10,000 to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Market's milk recovery program. That donation, plus a $60,000 grant from the Vermont Community Foundation, kept 32,000 gallons of milk from going down the drain. The haul will be processed into 48,000 cups of yogurt, 11,500 gallons of 2 percent milk and 440 pounds of butter that will be distributed at the foodbank in Barre.

Holy cow.

"As Rotarians, we are part of the community," Cohn said. "This is just a great example of being able to collaboratively help the public."

The state ag agency started the milk recovery program in May to help farmers who were forced to dump milk when COVID-19 shuttered schools and restaurants. Instead of being wasted, the surplus is being processed by HP Hood in Barre, Green Mountain Creamery in Brattleboro and Ploughgate Creamery in Waitsfield. Dairy giant Cabot Creamery is trucking the goods to the foodbank, where demand has doubled during the pandemic.

Ten Rotary clubs contributed to the effort, including those in Manchester, Wallingford and White River Junction. Many drew on funds earmarked for charitable causes, according to Cohn, who hit up his former club first. "I know where the money's hidden," he said with a laugh.

Carla Lineback, the current president of the Brattleboro Rotary Club, was happy to help.

"I don't like the idea of waste [or] the idea of people going hungry when there's something literally thrown out," she said, adding: "It's something where we could easily make a difference."