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Local Food: 62 Years of Chocolate Milk

By Sam Simas

The first time I visited Middlebury, my host walked me into Proctor and quickly disappeared, returning a minute or two later with a glass full of a cold, brown liquid.

“It’s chocolate milk. It’s amazing. You have to try it!”

Standing in the middle of Proctor, gulping down that thick, creamy milk, I was in awe. It was amazing. I wanted to know where it came from and why it was so delicious.

The short story is that my glass of milk, like every other glass of milk that has been consumed at Middlebury for the past 62 years, came directly from Monument Farms Dairy in Weybridge, a third-generation operation that, according to owner Jon Rooney, began operation in 1930 under his grandparents and has been producing milk for Vermonters ever since. Part of the Vermont community that receives the milk is the College, where milk is consistently delivered five days a week. The relationship between the College and Monument Farms Dairy is a chunk of the community-centered operation run by Rooney and his cousins, Bob and Pete Jones.

According to the department of environmental science, Monument Farms  is the largest landowner in Weybridge, with 450 acres of their land under conservation. The employ 34-36 locals year-round for all aspects of processing, packaging and distributing of the milk.  Monument Farms currently sells skim, 2 percent and chocolate milk all over Vermont. Rooney says that they used to bottle a coffee milk called “java-nip” milk, but production of that flavor was stopped many years ago. It would probably be very popular at the College today were it still in production.

Rooney wrote in an email that the dairy “milks 450-500 cows, putting us comfortably in the medium-sized farm category.” According to his calculations, Monument Farms produces, on average, 1.4 million gallons or 12.1 million pounds of milk annually. Despite being the largest producer/handler in Vermont and possibly New England the farm takes pride in maintaining small-scale style production.

“We’re obviously unique in that we are producer-handlers, processing our own milk and selling it,” said one of the current owners of the farm, Jon Rooney, in an interview for the department of environmental science. “That’s getting much more unique at our scale and I think people are more aware of that uniqueness now than in the past … they’re glad to be able to buy a locally produced product from people they know.”

Monument Dairy Farms is a proud participant in the local food community.

“We view ourselves as a perfect (not that we’re perfect!) example of what is now called the “local food” movement, except that we’ve been preaching the need to buy local for as long as we’ve been in business. Everything we do revolves around community and everything we do is done with an eye to our impact on our community,” wrote Rooney.

Something that differentiates Monument Farms from its competitors is their dedication and interest in the community of which it is a part, as opposed to focusing on profit margins.

“We take [our] approach not from a marketing point of view, rather, from a belief that everything a business does has an impact on those around it,” Rooney said of the business, a common mantra throughout the local food movement. Monument Farms, however, has been following this credo since it first opened.

The Rooney and James families at Monument Farms Dairy might be some of the original locavores.

 

 

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