Child Care Businesses Need Help
[Re "Fed Up With Vermont's Child Care Crisis? Here's Something You Can Do to Fix It," March 11, paid post from Let's Grow Kids]: There is an additional issue in the child care crisis that does not appear to be addressed by the pending legislation and no one seems to be talking about a solution to: the lack of availability. I personally know of three home child care centers that have gone out of business in the last few years due to the ever-increasing regulations that are coming down from Montpelier.
My wife and I are lucky to have found spots for our two kids in quality centers, but we pay more for those spots than our mortgage, taxes and homeowners' insurance combined. We have friends who ran centers that were far cheaper, but the state regulated them out of business. I am all for seeing to the safety of my children, but there has to be relief of these regulations to allow small businesses to survive.
Stop accepting paid advertising from the tobacco company American Spirit. Isn't it time now to stop promoting tobacco use? With due respect for your marketing agenda and the choices available to your readers, would you consider cleaning up your act in the 21st century by ceasing to promote tobacco use, now that we are fully aware of the misery it leads to? Seven Days appears to be oriented toward good living and healthy lifestyles. The American Spirit ad just doesn't align well with those values. Let that American Spirit ad go, go, go!
Editor's note: Censoring ad content is a slippery slope, so we don't do it unless the client is promoting hate, violence or an illegal product. Seven Days is a forum for free speech — in our advertisements, letters to the editor, personal ads and beyond — and is a reflection of the diversity of desires and beliefs in our community. The paper targets an 18-plus audience, and the average age of our readers is 35: old enough to make informed decisions about consuming regulated products such as tobacco, beer, wine and spirits.
[Off Message: "Fire Consumes a Tesla Model X on Iced-Over Shelburne Bay," February 28]: If news of the Tesla Model X burning to the floorboards on the ice in Shelburne Bay hasn't gone viral, it should. Beyond reach and fire suppression, suppression of the contributing cause continues. The immolation of this high-end alternative vehicle that lacks a gasoline tank couldn't have been more of a demonstration. Did that whole auto body and interior of composite material disappear in toxic smoke?
It's all about the lithium thionyl chloride battery, aka lithium-ion battery, or LIB for short. Most LIBs are small and out-of-reach in devices but are installed in sets or stacks occupying a large compartment as in a Tesla Model X.
LIBs have lithium doped with a lithium thionyl chloride electrolyte, which becomes unstable at the end of its life cycle, causing the battery to short-circuit or explode if not replaced in advance. If damaged or leaked in the meantime, as happened on Shelburne Bay, the electrolyte becomes an immediate inhalation hazard, is extremely water reactive and generates heat sufficient to ignite a lithium metal fire.
While most are not self-inflicted with the expense and risks of a trendy high-end vehicle, LIBs have almost passed on the household threshold uninvited. Every "smart meter" on every residence and every building with metered electrical service has a small, hard-wired lithium-ion (Tadiran) battery. Maybe putting LIBs in "smart meters" wasn't such a smooth move, either.
How Now, Cow?
Readers had all kinds of opinions about Chelsea Edgar's March 13 cover story "Milking It." One thought she deserved a Pulitzer Prize for her vividly described first-person account of a week working on a Vermont dairy farm. Others, mostly farmers, felt it portrayed the industry in a negative, unfair light.
'It's Just Suffering'
For eight years I worked on several Vermont dairy farms, where I learned to milk cows, drive tractors, bust ass and, most importantly, that I would never be able to afford to have my own dairy farm. But I also had the bourgeois luxuries of a bedroom window, a functional stove and health insurance, so there was that.
A farm will always be a lot of work. But it is not even farming when it is reduced to fecklessly employing undocumented workers to mindlessly milk hundreds or thousands of cows that spend their entire lives inside a barn carpeted with an inch of their own shit while the owners get suicide hotline phone numbers with the milk check. It's just suffering.
As long as the current agricultural race to the bottom, which began after World War II, continues, bigger and bigger farms will go under — until even a 1,300-cow farm will not be able to compete. Younger farmers will find it harder than ever to be able to afford farmland.
Fewer farmers will mean that even more people in America will remain disconnected from and ignorant of the dwindling choices they have as to how their food is produced. And more and more food will be produced in the economically, environmentally and emotionally nauseating style described in the article.
'A Clearer Picture'
Not enough was written about migrant farm labor and why less Americans are willing to do it. It seems that Chelsea Edgar was more focused on the Vorstevelds and their view and practices of dairying. Traveling to various operations — instead of just one — may have given her a clearer picture of dairy farm labor as it exists in our state. I don't think spending a week at one farm helped in the way of balanced research.
Don't get me wrong: I give kudos to the Vorstevelds and any other farmer. Without them, society as we know it would be considerably primitive. We'd be too busy growing all of our own food!
I have been a herdsman, self-employed dairy farmer, hoof trimmer. I've been up to my shoulder in a cow's butt, breeding and pregnancy checking; cleaned retained placentas on hot summer days; butchered cows; euthanized cows and calves; calved cows; and milked, and milked, and milked. I've done this on various sized farms, so I get the gist of most of the details shared.
Yes, farming is about "life and death." However, I think it's a poor way to educate the public when a farmer says, "No offense, but none of you guys knows shit about dairy farming." This is especially true regardless of the herd size, if you have dead calves in plain view of not just a visitor but a member of the press. Going easy on the "shit" and "fuck" stuff might help in that regard, as well.
You would be hard-pressed to find a less representative dairy or more clueless writer than were featured in the "Milking It" article. Although Chelsea Edgar did provide compassionate insight into the plight of migrant farmworkers, her prissy distaste for animal agriculture echoed throughout her piece and overshadowed the crisis facing dairy farms across Vermont. Compounding this clueless reporting was the showboating of the owners, as they baited this inept reporter with profanities and arrogance.
No domesticated animal can provide us with more sustainable, wholesome nutrition than a milk cow, while preserving Vermont's rural landscape. Many Vermont dairies continue to provide humane and ethical husbandry to their herds and land, while having to compete with the factory farm greed showcased in this article. Perhaps Seven Days can find an informed and insightful reporter to showcase this more common, if less sensational, approach to milk production.
'Edgar Deserves a Pulitzer'
Chelsea Edgar deserves a Pulitzer Prize, and the farmworkers deserve better working conditions. Both feed us with their best.
'So Far From the Truth'
I read "Milking It" by reporter Chelsea Edgar with frustration, anger and sadness that she didn't do her homework better and visit a Vermont farm that cares about its animals and employees and treats both with more respect than the Vorstevelds. Their language is appalling, to say the least, and you allowed it to be printed.
I know that many large Vermont farms have migrant workers, but the headline "Why doesn't farm labor appeal to U.S. workers?" is not truthful.
There are many smaller Vermont farmers with employees who are not migrants. North Williston Cattle Co. is one of them. My husband has worked there for 21 years since we retired from farming. It is a family farm, and they have employees who will work, because they love the work they do.
Edgar's article leaves the reader with the impression that all Vermont farms have migrant workers working illegally and that all farms are filthy — so far from the truth.
If she had researched her subject better, she would have found farms that treat their employees and animals with respect — and furnish housing with heat.
Edgar should now do a follow-up article with another farm or two, so your readers would know that Vermont farmers do not farm this way. Farmers normally take great pride in the milk they produce and the quality of their animals and buildings. I know we did.
'Groundbreaking and Honest'
Chelsea Edgar's "Milking It" was a groundbreaking and honest portrayal of life for immigrant workers on Vermont's dairy farms. Both Edgar and Seven Days should be commended for presenting this realistic picture of how milk on most of the state's 750 dairy farms is produced.
We have a strong and vibrant volunteer group here in Addison County that has been involved for the last two years in providing English classes, transportation to doctor's appointments and supermarkets, and basic needs such as beds, couches and stoves for workers, who for the most part live an isolated existence and work, as the article so eloquently stated, 14 or more hours a day, with no benefits and little time off. We understand that the dairy industry is under great economic pressure, but that does not excuse the miserable working conditions that those who produce the milk must endure.
We hope that the article will help to raise awareness among our legislators, state and federal, and other elected and appointed officials and motivate them to work with dairy farmers to improve this lamentable situation.
'It's a Shit Job'
Why doesn't dairy farm labor appeal to Vermont workers in a state with a 2.5 percent unemployment rate? If anyone actually had contemplated this question, Chelsea Edgar's excellent article "Milking It" provided the answer in no uncertain terms: It's a shit job.
Thanks for exposing "progressive, green" Vermont as a state of hypocrisy which tolerates/supports not only the exploitation of illegal immigrants who risk their lives to come here but also the CO2-emitting, lake-polluting livestock, both of whom are housed in factory-like conditions. All of this for a dying industry that is creating an oversupplied product demanded by fewer and fewer consumers. Brave little state? I think not.
'Unsparing, Empathetic and Thorough'
Nowhere have I read a better article on farming. Perhaps it's the best piece Seven Days has ever printed — funny, informative, unsparing, empathetic and thorough. Plus, the writer clearly subscribes to the George Plimpton school of participatory journalism, which lends the story cred. Chelsea, hang up on the New Yorker when it calls; stick around here a while longer.
'A View of the Hamster Wheel'
Thank you for reporting on the dairy industry and the situation for workers in depth. Recognizing the report was based on experience from one dairy, it is important for the public to get a view of the hamster wheel on which all involved on a dairy farm must run to survive, from the cows to the workers, managers and owners. Consumers do not have to pay for what quality food truly costs, and the farmer and staff seem to always be the ones who lose.
Large-scale production of a commodity product has been a trend in agriculture — not just in dairy — but seems to be killing agriculture at the same time. Maybe the innovation needs to focus on creation of demand versus product, so that agricultural workers at all levels on the farm can have a sustainable lifestyle.
'Why Is Rural America in Trouble?'
Readers interested in Seven Days' exposé "Milking It," concerning Vermont's dairy plantations and why no one wants to milk the cows, need to ask presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders whether as president he would uphold the law, 7 USC 602, that instituted parity prices for agriculture, or whether he and all others will be like Calvin Coolidge and let the rigged commodities markets further destroy the economy that literally feeds us.
Parity means that a dollar for agriculture should be the same dollar that manufacturing and service sectors of the economy earn. For January 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recorded dairy as getting a 31-cent dollar. This is the problem, morally and economically. At the height of the Great Depression, agriculture was getting a 52-cent dollar, a low that reemerged in the mid-1980s. How many small farms have gone belly-up since the 1980s? What happened to milk delivery and glass bottles? Why is rural America in trouble?
Just because we have milk surpluses now does not guarantee that we might not go starving in this nation soon. Wealth is prior to money and, if you disagree, try not eating. The issue is that economic health requires that the producers of wealth be paid first, adequately, to provide earned income to flow through the rest of the economy. Due to World War II, full parity was enacted, and from 1942 to 1952 we had a record of success that was the basis for the arsenal of democracy and postwar boom.
Bernie needs a way to pay for his proposals. Start by reviving parity and by paying those who keep us alive their fair due.
Marshall is a member of the National Organization for Raw Materials.