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It is wholesome, nutritious and delicious. But milk doesn’t grow on trees.
It’s not normally free, but it is priceless.
So please don’t think of what you are about to read in terms of a “giveaway.” Think of it as a sharing — of nature’s bounty, of the harvest, of goodwill.
The Lebanon County Farm Bureau, in conjunction with Harrisburg Dairies, will be offering a free milk giveaway — or, sharing — of 1,000 gallons of milk from 3-6 p.m. on Friday, July 24 at Dave’s Country Store, 237 Freeport Road in North Lebanon Township. All the phosphorus, riboflavin and Vitamin B12 that normally comes with milk will be included, also free of charge.
“If you ask anyone, they’ll tell you that milk is the most perfect drink you can have,” said Christine Bashore, a local farmer and a member of the Lebanon County Farm Bureau, who’s heading the promotion of the free milk event. “What naturally comes from milk are calcium, vitamins and nutrients that you can’t get from other sources. It naturally comes from God, and cows.
“Milk is something athletes enjoy after a workout, because it replaces so many nutrients,” continued Bashore. “Milk is important for your children, for your bones, for your development. It’s just natural. Our cows love to be milked. When cows are healthy and taken care of, they will produce.”
This Friday, during those afternoon hours, the Lebanon County Farm Bureau will be giving away gallon containers of two-percent Harrisburg Dairy milk — a lot of which has been produced right here in the county — to anyone who shows up at Dave’s Country Store. The milk will be given on a first-come-first-serve basis, as much as local residents can reasonably use, until all 1,000 gallons are gone.
All interested parties are required to do is drive to Dave’s Country store, line up and the milk will be loaded into the trunks of their vehicles. Lebanon County Dairy princess Paige Peiffer is also expected to be on hand.
Read more: How Dairy Princess Paige Peiffer is advocating for dairy during a very unusual year
“We want to have a truck and trailer there, but it’s not going to be raw milk,” said Bashore. “What the Farm Bureau is doing is purchasing a thousand gallons of two-percent milk. It’s ready for resale, and we’re going to give it away for free. Cars can line up, people can pop their trunks and we’ll ask them, ‘How many gallons can you use?’ We are not limiting the milk. It will be on a first-come-first-serve basis.
“We’re hoping to get rid of all the milk,” Bashore continued. “We think there’s a need for it in our backyard. The nice thing with Dave [Brubaker] is that if we have a pallet of milk left, he has the cooler space to store it. That way, if someone calls and asks if we still have any milk available, Dave can say yes. We think there’s a lot of good outlets to get rid of the milk.”
Bashore said that the nonprofit Lebanon County Farm Bureau, with some funding from the American Dairy Association, purchased the milk that will be distributed. But she declined to disclose how much the milk costs or how much the ADA contributed.
“We’re also going to give out a baggie with information about the Lebanon County Farm Bureau and local farming,” said Bashore, a 31-year-old resident of Jonestown. “It won’t be, ‘Here’s your milk, goodbye.’ It’ll be an opportunity to have our farmers meet people. What I’m really excited about is being able to enjoy Harrisburg Dairies milk. It’s a way for us to move our farmers’ milk. It’s a way to bring their milk back to the community.
“The hope is when people enjoy the milk, they make the connection with the farm bureau,” Bashore added. “I think sometimes we come across as having our own agenda in mind, and that’s not the case. We want the community to see farmers and the farm bureau as a resource, as good guys. Sometimes farmers don’t have the time to go out and advocate. But we need that more than ever.”
Farming is one of Lebanon County’s leading industries, but over the last few years, that industry has been in a state of flux.
In 2018, a number of local dairy farmers had their long-term contracts with milk handlers terminated. Harrisburg Dairies stepped up and offered to buy the unspoken-for milk from nine Lebanon County farms.
Bashore estimated that at least 30 family dairy farms in Lebanon County have their milk shipped to Harrisburg Dairies.
“Two years ago, Harrisburg Dairies came in and picked up nine of our farmers,” said Bashore. “It was huge. This is a great way to thank them. We’re keeping their milk in the community when they helped us.
“Dean Foods, which is also associated with Swiss Premium Dairies, was going bankrupt,” added Bashore. “In that process, a lot of farmers got letters with a termination contract. That’s very difficult. You don’t just dry the cows up. You have to milk them. Out of the families who got letters, nine were picked up by Harrisburg Dairies. It was very much up in the air. It was scary. It’s just been blow after blow for the dairy industry.”
Of course. the current COVID-19 crisis has adversely affected the local dairy industry as well. In addition to helping promote local dairy products, the Lebanon County Farm Bureau is hoping the milk sharing will also aid local residents in need.
Read more: Shifting demand, supply chain issues force dairy farmers to dump fluid milk
“There’s never been a shortage of milk,” said Bashore. “Cows don’t just stop producing. The problem is, when people stopped going to work and kids stopped going to school, there was a surplus of milk. We still have a surplus. Yes, we do have a need for moving the milk. Is that the sole reason for doing it? No. It’s a great way to support the community.
“We’ve seen our checks go down,” continued Bashore. “The dairy industry was in a slump with prices, and then prices were starting to look better. Before COVID-19, we were doing OK, and then the next you know it was like, wow. It made it that people couldn’t pay their mortgages. This pushed them over the edge.”
Depending upon the success of the upcoming event, Bashore said that the Lebanon County Farm Bureau would consider having another milk giveaway in the future. But it must be a win-win situation for everyone involved.
“We’re hoping for 500 families to come out and take two gallons of milk apiece,” said Bashore. “More than that would be a blessing. We want people to know about it. I’m really looking forward to it.
“Absolutely, we’d love to do it again, in a heartbeat,” continued Bashore. “It’s something we’re trying to feel out. When I brought the idea to the Lebanon County Farm Bureau, they asked, ‘Has the novelty [of the crisis] worn off? Will people show up?’ I definitely think there will be a need. I think the community will be receptive to it.”
The price certainly is right.
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