We recently caught up with Amy at Strafford Creamery to see how they've adjusted over the last few months during COVID:19.
How are you doing considering the current circumstances we find ourselves in?
We are doing pretty well, actually. The creamery is just a four-person crew and while that makes us incredibly vulnerable should Coronavirus sweep through, it also limits our exposures. Our crew has been great about making the commitment to keeping their personal circles tight to protect the farm. It's in everyone's best interest to stay strong and productive and we're doing that. On the farm side, everyone lives here--our family and our two farm employees and we decided early on that the farm would be its own circle. In the creamery, everyone wears masks and keeps distance as much as possible, but it's much harder to do that when you're leaning over an engine or pulling a calf. The good side of that is that we were able to hold the biggest sports event in the state last weekend--the RockBottom Farm 2 v. 2 Tournament, with five teams. Jackson, our 17-year-old son had just won the state D-III basketball title with Thetford Academy and dreamed up the tourney. He built a half-court arena in the hay loft with hay-bale bleachers and an old backboard and rim. It was hilarious and awesome all around. Kim and Harley came back from an early loss to me and Jackson, sweeping the loser's bracket and then toasting us in the final on the strength of Kim's lights-out outside shot and Harley's foot-taller-than-his-mom rebounding.
As far as business goes, sales are up. I don't know if it's because people are worried about the security or fragility of a more regional or national food system or are just wanting to shore up their supply of food close to home, but we went from having a slight surplus of milk before spring calving to having a slight shortage with most of the cows calved in. Ice cream sales are strong as well. We've been eating more ice cream at home, too, and I think it might be because it's hard to be worried when you're eating a bowl of your favorite ice cream. (I am going to get some strawberry right now, to test the theory.)
Vermont has an amazing history of supporting its local communities and farmers, any specific moments that have stood out to you during this time?
We were running tight on our supply of reusable glass bottles before quarantine, and saw our return rate drop off a cliff in the early days and stores struggled to adapt their bottle return protocols to the new normal. I put out a post on our Facebook page, explaining that we would have to dump milk if we didn't have bottles to put it in. Our customers shared that post around over 350 times and within a week, we were back in great shape with bottles. People offered to mail them from Albany, drive around their neighborhoods collecting them, or donate the deposits just to get them back. People were just fantastic about it. Our two closest stores collected over 500 bottles in a week--five times more than normal. I also found a few bottles in my mailbox.