415 Wheeler Road
Interviewed October 16, 1990
Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer.
Mr. Verrill had become the lone dairy farmer in Concord until September 8, 1990 when he auctioned off his herd, ending an agricultural chapter of Concord's history in which Nine Acre Corner played a dominant role.
There have been a number of factors involved in my decision to sell the herd over a considerable period of time. The dairy industry hasn't been especially lucrative in New England for quite a number of years now. We've been holding on to promise of improvement. Every year or two there seems to be some hope and they don't usually materialize. In the meantime we started several other enterprises, pick—your—own vegetables and pick—yourÂ-own strawberries especially. They've taken advantage of the retail demand we're in as the population has grown around us and those seem to be showing more promise than dairy does. On top of that we seem to be having to cope with more and more bureaucratic red tape and things that I lump into my nonproductive aggravation enterprise, things that take a lot of your time and its difficult to see the benefit. It just has turned out that trying to do the dairy and the other enterprises spread me too thin so we can't do anything the way we would like to do it. We're hopeful by closing out the dairy which is the least profitable at the moment we would be able to concentrate on the other enterprises and have better end results.
The herd had varied over the years. When I had started out, we had about 50 milkers and we had worked up to over 150 a few years ago, and we cut back to about 120 recently. That would be milking animals with young stock in addition. At the auction we sold all the milking animals and ended up with about 100 head of young stock that we will be maintaining for breeding mostly. These young stock range up through about 18 months old and they are all Holsteins.
About 30 years ago, I had Guernseys but there was a change in consumer preference. Guernseys produce a higher butterfat content in the milk and that used to be prize product — people liked the cream line that they would get in the old bottles before homogenization, and at the farm you used to receive a premium for the butterfat in the milk and additional premium just because it was called "golden Guernsey", it had a yellow, richer color to it. Then as the cholesterol discussions came into vogue, that demand was eliminated. It meant that a herd of cows we'd spent a number of years improving the breeding and genetic lines in the Guernseys was just eliminated. It had no value or use to anybody any more. That was true throughout Massachusetts and true throughout the country as well. Guernseys and Jerseys used to be prized for their rich milk and now there are still some Jerseys in New England, not as many as there used to be. Of course, another reason they used to have a lot in Vermont because a long distance from market they didn't ship all the skimmed milk, they just shipped the cream either in the form of cream or butter, which was a few pounds of high value product.
I think demand for dairy products has lessened to some extent. It started years ago back in the '40s, World War II, when the daily door—to—door delivery stopped and went to every other day and eventually in the ‘50s, it ended up more people were buying milk in the supermarkets. I think part of it was an inadvertent drop in demand. They just didn't have milk in the refrigerator sometimes because they forgot to pick it up in the store and things like that added up. With the bulk of the population doing less physical exertion than they used to and having a tendency to put on a few extra pounds, they've become more conscious of cutting back. Unfortunately people have a great misconception of the amount of fat that is in milk. That's been one of the biggest drawbacks I think. I asked people coming to the farm over the years, if they make a reference to having to have low fat milk or something, and in response to the question of "How much fat do you believe there is in milk?", many people would say 40%, 30%, 50% when in fact you can't go in a store now and buy milk that has as much as 3 1/2%. They've heard so much about fat in dairy products that they have it blown out of proportion in their minds.
The golden Guernsey milk that was considered very high fat, the best milk you could buy 50 years ago would probably have about 4 1/2% fat as opposed to about 3 1/4% now in most of the milk. Unfortunately, I think most of the good flavor of milk is carried in the fat and as you reduce the content, I think it has a detrimental effect on the flavor so without necessarily being conscious of it, people don't just want a second glass of milk when they might have with a higher butterfat content.
We've sort of been victims of people's eating patterns just changing and also the heart studies and cholesterol reports have had an extremely detrimental effect. The "Framingham Study" so — called - - one you've probably heard a lot about and their early findings had quite a lot of detrimental evidence of cholesterol but as they went into it a little further they negated a lot of that but the information was never distributed through the press as the earlier part had been. Even now we're going on with more research. We're finding that some people have a serious problem with cholesterol but it isn't a high percentage of the people. Most people think they do, and in a lot of instances apparently, if you take in a diet that is low in cholesterol, your body will manufacture an excess amount without you taking it in the diet. The ties between blood cholesterol and dietary cholesterol are a long ways from being finalized as to what the effect is.
In recent years, our milk has been sold through a coop. Agrimark was one that I belonged to since it started as an outgrowth of Yankee Milk that I joined about 20 years ago. When Agrimark was formed there was a very complex merger, one of the outcomes of it was to purchase the assets of the Hood Company and as a coop we supplied milk to Hood and that's why my milk went to Charlestown to Hood. There were about 3000 dairy farms throughout New England that were in the coop.
I think there are below 500 dairy farmers left in Massachusetts today. When I started there would have been probably 3000 maybe more.
I graduated from college in 1957 and I took over the farm full time from my father. I had been working all the time that I had for eight or nine years before that so I've been at it for forty some years. I remember milking my first cow when I was about 5 years old. I have always lived here at Nine Acre Corner.
This was an agricultural section of towns both dairy and produce. But I can remember within a mile radius of our house here, I can count 14 farms that used to have one or more cows. Of course a large herd then would be about 30 cows. Things were different because they had to do everything by hand.
It was a way of life for my father. It has to be a way of life pretty much if you're going to do it because it's a seven day thing, long hours. You start at 4 or 4:30 in the morning over the years and usually plan to be through at 6 at night but sometimes it's 1:00 in the morning before you get through.
My father's business was the Concord Dairy with James DeNormandie and later Farnham Smith. By the time I got into the enterprise, the retail portion had been phased out. He started actually delivering back in the early '20s at the site that is now Nashawtuc Country Club. It used to be the Carrigan place. He expanded that eventually to a dairy down in the center of Concord and that phased out in the '50s when I mentioned that more people were getting milk from the supermarkets.
I remember in the early l950s there were 18 companies retailing milk door—to—door in the town of Concord. And now I think Hood still comes once a week to a few people and I think that is the only one.
The state became more intrusive partially through increasing regulations, some of which I think have benefit and some don't. I don't know how much time we want to dwell on this but it takes a lot of my time. One of the newer examples is that we now have to have a license to apply pesticides. Actually I feel that's probably one of the more justifiable requirements, one of the more beneficial ones because there's a very extensive education and examination process you have take to get your license. Then there's the follow up. You have to constantly get educational credits to maintain your license. I use the pesticides for growing crops for the cows as well as vegetables and strawberries.
There are so many things we get involved with to satisfy the state's requirements for permits and licenses and surveys, both state and federal and even local to some extent. One of the more recent things, the state just adopted the DOT ( Department of Transportation) regulations from the federal government which control motor vehicle use. And Massachusetts in its foresight adopted all of the regulations except the part that exempts agriculture from many of them, which means farmers in Massachusetts are more restricted than farmers in most of the rest of the country in this manner. There is still a great deal of confusion about what is involved. It depends if you drive a truck outside the state, you come under one set of regulations, if you drive over 100 or 150 miles from home, it's another set, if the weight is over 18,000 pounds, it's one set, and it just is so involved that there are very few people even in the Registry that fully understand it. This is serious. I've heard it depends whether you have a metal or plastic valve stem cover on your tires and it just goes on and on and on with a lot of things that really don't have merit dealing with farm vehicles the way they are used. It requires a class 2 license to drive most of the trucks now which is just another procedure to go through in hiring temporary help, for the summer especially, that can be problem. It requires a certified physical exam from a physician, and you have to carry a card on your person to show that you physically qualified to drive.
It just goes on with this sort of thing plus the confusion of knowing where we fit into the definition. On the pesticide business there is another regulation that we touched on. I mentioned the licensing, I think is fine. We have to keep detailed records of every time we apply any material to any field which might have some merit but it does make an awful lot of paper work. I expect that it is more important with some materials than it is with all of them but there is no differentiation. The same thing is true now that we have to post fields after you've sprayed. Every so many feet you have to put a sign up along the road that pesticides are in use. This is a broad spectrum of pesticides. I think it's a mistake not to have it only where there would be a hazard to somebody walking on the land after it had been used. It kind of gets like the boy crying wolf. If you see these signs all the time people would take them for granted and on a small percentage of their uses, there is a very serious reason for them being there. I think that should be more limited but it's another project that you have to go through.
If we complied to all regulations now I have to file and have a placard on my pick up truck to haul home some of the soap we use washing the milking machines. You're supposed to have another placard to haul fuel to the fields. They build and build. We're supposed to have data sheets with the hazards of all of the materials we use, everything from the worst pesticides to oil and soap and probably 50 different materials we use in the course of a year. According to local regulations, we are supposed to keep quarterly inventories of all these materials, again it is at least 50 materials. Each different oil is supposed to be kept separately, soaps, sprays, fungicides, herbicides. You're supposed to put the amount you purchase each quarter, how it was used, balance out your inventory, keep track of where your used motor oil was disposed of, it takes somebody almost full time. Over the years farming has been something where you spent most of your time farming and a minimal amount on things that really weren't productive.
The state has come out with a new process the last few years, we have to be permitted to draw water from streams to irrigate. There was a very extensive documentation process to apply for that permit and a substantial fee. You have to keep records of how many gallons you draw from each place each month and each year. I'm not sure whether anybody ever looks at it or whether they ever will but I feel we're compelled to do this or we might lose our right to draw the water which we are dependent on for many of the crops.
There have never been any inspectors that have come to me yet to check on these things. We do have to file and send the reports into them. We have to have a permit to keep cows. That started probably 20 years ago. I have to have a permit to sell milk in Massachusetts which we always had to do and now we have to have one to sell it in Connecticut since some of Hood's milk went to Connecticut from the Charlestown plant.
For a while I sold milk right at the farm here. That was processed at another dairy off the farm and returned here for retail sales. We stopped that in the early '80s when the first fuel crisis came and the price of fuel went up. For most people that stopped here and got their milk, it was a little out of the way and a separate trip from the supermarket grocery shopping. The business hadn't been terribly lucrative, it's a very narrow margin business. If you take a narrow margin and a low volume and that's reduced any as it was when less people came, it made it impractical.
On the local level we have a reduction in taxes possible in real estate taxes for farm land, Chapter 61A. While it is a substantial drop in taxes from what it would be if it were assessed as house lots, we still pay more taxes on the land than most of the other areas of the country for farmland without any special requirements. It is legislated that farmland may be taxed less, but to actually get it to happen, I have to file 17 forms every year, one on each parcel of land that I either own or rent, somein Concord, some in Sudbury, and some in Lincoln. It's just another process that we have to go through and I just take the day sometime and get it done.
The herd was housed solely in Concord but sometimes we pastured some of them in Sudbury for the summer. We have a lot of surveys both from federal and state government which we are required to fill out by law as to the number of cows we have, what the production is, what the mortality is. Then there are questions on each crop we grow on surveys we get from the federal statistical bureau of USDA we have to complete on potatoes, tomatoes, sweet corn, then occasionally we get the agricultural census. Some of these are called a survey, but some of them can go 12 or 15 pages. When you add them all together it takes a great deal of time to fill them out.
On the state level, sales tax has been a problem to us. Under the Massachusetts sales tax initially anything used in food production was exempt. When they get down to some of the definitions, it gets absolutely ridiculous. Our only business here is producing food. Everything we do on the farm is producing food. When the state starts drawing the lines as to the soap we use for washing the cows or washing the milking parlor was tax exempt, but the soap we used for washing the milk tanks was supposed to be taxed because they figured by the time the milk was in the tanks, it was already produced. To fight and fuss with all these things is ridiculous. Farm trucks were exempt from sales tax if they were only used as we do in producing food but a little over a year ago, the Dukakis administration apparently reinterpreted that definition or found another law that they could pit against it and overrule that exemption so they had the Department of Revenue come around to all the farms to collect tax on all trucks, and any old, even a junk truck not running that you had sitting around, they collected tax plus interest in penalties and that is absolutely not right. It wasn't supposed to be taxed at the time and they come around and do that, I think that is terrible. The same with titling. Under the title requirement, you're not required to have a farm truck titled if you're just using it under the farm plate registration on the farms as we do with all of ours. After I settled up with the Department of Revenue and paid them nearly $1000 on the old trucks that we shouldn't have paid, I got a notice from Registry of Motor Vehicles to come in and show cause why my farm plates shouldn't be revoked because they hadn't titled my trucks. So I went to a hearing in Reading and the officer I came before said "Well, I have down here that you have this truck, this truck, and this truck that you haven't titled. What's your explanation of the case?" I said "As far I was aware, you weren't supposed to have to title a farm truck at the time I bought those " He said "That is absolutely right. I don't why they called you in here." But that is a half a day for nothing but hassle and it's gone.
These same trucks that we paid the tax on we got a notice from the Department of Revenue a month or two ago that we were supposed to list them all on a form along with all the other farm machinery we have, send it in to them to receive stickers to put on to show that we paid tax on the trucks.
They just recently added a sales tax on electricity and that isn't supposed to apply to us if we have less than five employees, I believe. But in order to get that exemption, we have to write to the state and request a form which in turn we have to fill it out and return to another agency to get the exemption. It just has built up terrifically in the last few years.
Another thing that is in a little different category but over the last four years, I spent a number of days working in opposition to a dam that the state fish and wildlife wants to put in on Pantry Brook just over the line in Sudbury. They want to flood about a hundred acres as a breeding ground for black ducks for hunters. I'm convinced that by doing so it will raise the water table a couple of feet and it's going to have a detrimental effect on some of my farmland. This is very time consuming to just try to protect my agricultural rights from the state.
Labor regulations are constantly getting more complicated. I got a notice in the mail a while ago that some outfit was having a seminar for small business people on labor and if I spent around $500 to go to this seminar for several days one of the things I would be able to take home was a book that explained the labor regulations as they applied to small businesses such as mine. When you have to deal with 1400 pages of explanation of the law, there must be something a little too complicated in it to start
with. I don't have an office staff to turn it over to. My wife and I are the office staff after we finish a day's work on the farm. These things just get too involved.
I get questionnaires from employment security on past employees I have to look up what they earned during a certain period and when they worked. A couple of years ago I thought about hiring some Jamaicans for summer help to work in the pick—your—own business. We have a lot of manual labor and that is a good source of people. By the time I got through with the state and the regulations, I just threw up my hands. They couldn't live in the house that I'm living in. Number one because it is too close to a barn where animals are kept, and I had a couple of cracked panes of glass in the house and that's not permitted. I know we eat off dishes that have a few chips out of them, can't have that. We eat off a wooden table, that's not allowed. And I think my water is too hot, they came in and checked the water temperature as that has to be in a very narrow range. But the thing that I really threw up my hands at, I had gone through the local fire inspector, the local health inspector, the building inspector, we met all those requirements and the state employment security requirements that we couldn't find help locally. All these steps of bureaucracy I had gone through, I got down to the last one which was the state department of health and they had to inspect the premises. I had a request in to them for two or three months to come and check the premises. When they finally came and we went over and went to the door of the house and went in. It was a place I was renting until such time that we needed it, I had an agreement with the people that were there, that as soon as we needed it for Jamaicans they were going to move out. When the inspector came, we opened the door, he said "Is somebody living in the house? I can't inspect a house with somebody living in it, I'll be back when it's empty." And this was the climax of all five months of red tape.
I can't honestly say that all this regulation in itself is the reason for my dispersing the dairy herd. There are a number of other things involved. I feel that the northeast has had an unequitable milk pricing structure compared to the rest of the country. I can't explain it simply, it is extremely complicated. It's done through the federal government and through a series of milk quotas. It all emanates from the price in Wisconsin and Minnesota area and very complicated system of formulas that come out in each of the markets. It boils down that the price is set by the federal government and is based on national supply and demand but that doesn't reflect supply and demand in the northeast.
Theoretically, there is a demand of milk that would support a higher retail price in the northeast than it does in some of the other parts of the country. In reality, the price in Boston in the chain stores is one of the lowest in the country, if not the lowest. The cost of production in the northeast is one of the highest in the country. Some of the feed ingredients have to be transported a greater distance. Labor market is higher that we have to compete in, taxes are higher, you have to have more extensive housing for the animals than much of the country. so that's one of the major reasons that I just don't feel the price is adequate to justify the required investments and costs involved in producing milk here.
The consumers price for milk and what we receive have both gone up to be sure. In terms of real dollars or in terms of the number of minutes somebody works for a quart of milk, I think you'd find that part of it has gone down. I can remember milk selling for 18Â¢ a quart and at that time it was a profitable business. You'd hire labor for a much smaller proportion of that than you would currently. The same for most of the other costs. Of course we have had terrific efficiencies in production over the period since I started farming. When I began farming, we operated with two men essentially, myself and one other full timer. We were taking about 50 cows with a production of about 10,500 pounds of milk per cow per year. At that time we were the highest herd in the county at that level. We increased to 150 cows with about three people full time and production was 15,000 pounds per cow per year, and now 20,000 or 22,000 pounds is considered top production for a herd. This has all come about through changes in breeding, genetics, nutrition and feeding, general management, and veterinary care.
The breeding wouldn't have happened without the computer and artificial insemination. That began in the late '40s and has progressed so that for probably 30 years now we've used all frozen semen and artificial insemination. That might not seem important except what it means is that one bull which is housed in a bull stud in Ithaca, New York can breed many, many thousands of cows over a wide area. The offspring from those cows can be tested and results all go through a computer so that in a matter of a few years, you're able to evaluate the bulls and sort them out and select the best ones for more widespread use. Fifty years ago a bull was dead before we really knew whether he was a good bull or a bad bull. It takes about three years before an offspring starts producing and four years before they finish one lactation. They used to figure they needed about three lactations to make a good evaluation so you're talking six years after conception before you can evaluate that cow. Needless to say if the bull was a year or two old before you started using him, he's going to be getting old and you don't have much chance With the current system they can breed a number of cows over a wide area in a few weeks with frozen semen as soon as it is available from a young sire. Then the tendency is not to use that sire for several years after the initial sampling until a cow with an offspring from this bull has been in production for a matter of a few months. Then by taking 50 offspring that have three or four months production and running it through elaborate computer analysis, they are able to make a preliminary evaluation on these bulls. That's the result of a much more rapid genetic program.
As to an auction, I think the hardest part of it is making the decision whether or not to have it. After that, you have a few auctioneers to select from in the area. I talked to three before I made a choice. You hire an auctioneer who pretty much takes it from there. He'll do the advertising for the auction, make arrangements if the animals are going out of state as some did. You have them all blood tested for tuberculosis, vaccinatedfor shipping, fever and some of the viruses that are apt to be a problem when you move animals around. My animals were all vaccinated for brucelosis. Fifty years ago everybody knew what it was because it was what caused undulant plant fever in people and it's been pretty much eliminated now as a result of vaccination and pasteurization of milk. So it isn't a problem now as long as we keep the prevention fence up and that's what involved there. It's a name for a fever that ended up in serious heart damage. It's a viral disease that is transmitted through unpasteurized milk. If the cow has brucelosis it shows up more in abortions in a different set of symptoms than is true in people, but it is essentially eliminated now. You have to have the right documentation for animals to be shipped interstate.
I went the auction route because it is difficult to find one buyer that has maximum value for all the animals. Some buyers want to buy all first calf heifers, some buyers want to buy cows that are ready to calf in a couple of months and so on. Usually to sell the whole herd is difficult to get a good price. In addition, I did want to sell some of the milking equipment and some of the equipment used just with the cows. If you get people for an auction for both things, you have a better chance of doing that than if you try to sell things one by one.
The prices for the cows ranged from $400 something up to $1700 or $1800, the average being about $950 which was a reasonable average. These are grade animals, we don't have registration papers. In practice they are about the same as a registered because we used all top genetic bulls available for many years so there was a good genetic base to them.
It wasn't as large a crowd as I hoped for but there seemed to be enough. There might have been 30 bidders at the start of the sale and by the time it got down to the last of the cows, there were only half or dozen or so, which is enough. Again most of them have to come quite a few miles because we're not in a farm area now where people can just come down the street,
The buyers were about half and half from Massachusetts and from out of state. Quite a few of the animals went to Connecticut. Connecticut has more rigid standards than some of the other states, they are the same as Massachusetts so it was a source of animals for the people of Connecticut that can't buy from some of the states because the animals aren't vaccinated. There was a range of how many cows a single buyer bought. Some people bought one. I don't think anybody bought more than 20 or 25.
That day brought a big change. It had been in my mind as a possibility for the last five or six years. It's interesting when it first occurred as a possibility. Up until five or six years ago, it was never one of the options I considered in thinking of how I might make changes. It's a change of a way of life and I think in a sense it's going to seem like a retirement, not having something that involves 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Sadness was minimal because I had been run into the ground the last few years, and it was a relief note eve it. We still have animals around. Everybody thinks maybe I should have felt more sadness than I felt. To me the last five years the dairy business was like treading water and seeing how long you are capable of treading water. If you follow that to the ultimate, there is only one way to find out how long you're capable of treading water and that is to do it until you drown, and I decided not to do that.
A lot of people coming to the pick—your—own garden stop and stretch, look at the countryside, take a breath of country air and say how nice it is to be out here where it's all peaceful and no problems. Meanwhile I've been working half a day before they woke up and trying to find parts for a broken machine, constant challenges and problems all day, that isn't part of the feeling that they observe.
When we started farming in 1957, we were handling the milk in the forty quart milk jugs that you see on people's lawns with flowers in them now. We used to fill those in the barn behind the cows as we milked each cow with a machine that we took around from cow to cow. We put them in a tank of ice water to cool the milk. If we were lucky it probably got down to 50Â° in a while and maybe
45 overnight. We used to haul this milk to the dairy, which for us was down in the center of Concord, every day. The milk was processed seven days a week in the early days and finally the dairy came down to five days a week as labor practices change, and it was harder to get people to work 7 days a week. as we still do. The milk was processed and at that time, it was delivered on an every other day basis. Years ago when it was delivered daily, one of the reasons for that was 24 hours was about as long as milk would keep after it was in your house. With a little stricter quality control and tome better machinery and pasteurization, every other day was sufficient,
More recently we use a bulk tank which is refrigerated. The milk is pumped directly from the milking machines in the milking parlor through a pipeline, through a heat exchange as it cools the milk down to about 50Â° before it goes into the milk tank. Tanks maintain a temperature of 34Â° which is much colder than your home refrigerator. We have a heat salvager which is an energy transfer system to make the compressors work more efficiently and preheat the hot water we use in the milking parlor, part of our energy conservation. But all in all, the milk is cooled to 34Â° probably within 2 minutes from when it comes out of the cow with a 101 1/2Â° which is a cow's body temperature. This along with sanitation standards, the utters and teats of cows are washed before milking. After washing they are predipped with an antiseptic before the milking machine goes on. After they are milked they are dipped again with another antiseptic so that when they go back in the barn where the oriface on the end of the teat hasn't restricted, bacteria won't get in and cause an infection in the cow. We check each cow's milk in each quarter before we put the machine on to make sure it's completely normal. Every month as part of production testing coop we belong toxin addition to all the production information and fat and protein content of the milk, we get a somatic cell count of the milk in each cow which is a reflection of the white cells in the milk. The cell count would indicate an infection developing that can't be detected any other way. All in all through this process, it has improved the quality of the milk so that when Hood puts out a quart of milk from their plant in Charlestown, they expect to get nearly a three week shelf life out of the milk and that's top quality. So it has come a long way, and a lot of that has resulted in increased investment on our part, I feel that the consumer has been the recipient of the benefit rather than the farmer.
I mentioned plants went from seven day a week production in the bottling plants to five days a week. Earlier they used to hold the milk over but now a plant like Hood plans to get most of the milk in during the five days that they are processing. A lot of the milk produced over the weekend would go to other uses such as cheese and powder, and that has a detrimental effect on our milk price under the federal milk pricing system. Our price is reduced because a higher amount of the milk in the northeast is going into "nonfluid uses"so—called. In other words, milk that you don't drink out of a glass. A lot of that weekend milk goes to other uses so to make it more convenient for the plant and the plant staff in the long run, it has caused us to have a lower percentage of class 1 utilization and a lower milk price to the farm.
The milking pricing has been a disaster. The last couple of years the state held some hearings to try to do something to improve it. It was within the power of the state to do it and I felt they were giving lip service to the farmers more than anything else. it might not be popular with the consumer to increase the milk price in the state that would allow a dairy industry to continue in the state. Across the state dairy farms still maintain a very high percentage of the open space,especially through the Berkshires. The countryside that is valuable to tourism as well as local residents driving by on their way to and from their office jobs
In the earlier years with machine there would be a farmer who wanted to use what was left in my baler and it was economical for me to trade every few years. Now as the farms have gone out I have to go about 80 miles to get to a machinery dealer and there aren't the farms that are looking for the equipment that I might have traded in so we were forced economically to use the equipment as long as there was any use left in it, and that means more repairs as we get to the later years in it and more expense.
We lost the services of a technician who handled artificial insemination from a coop because you couldn't find enough farms within the distance that a technician could travel in a day and still bring in revenue to support the person. So that meant we had to train one of our own employees to do the breeding. We had to buy a liquid nitrogen jug to store the frozen semen on the farm. It's just another service that we had to provide for ourselves as we do most of the repair service.
Years ago we bought our milking machines from Earl Parks who lived on Bedford Street in Concord. Now we buy some parts from Agway in Concord, NH and some from Tarryk Brothers in Connecticut. That's where your milking machine service is. If you ever break down with some of the equipment at 4:00 in the morning, there's nobody going to be there to fix it. Just this Labor Day, we had a motor burn out on one of the vacuum pumps, which is bound to happen periodically. I ended up staying up until 1:00 in the morning changing the motor so that we would be ready to milk at 4:30. That's when it kind of ran through my mind that I had made the right decision to have the auction.
But it's the same with all the services. Everything we need whether its fertilizer, seed, grain, it all comes from further and further away and is more expensive to get it and more difficult. We have to carry more of our own inventory because when you get to the dealer, he doesn't stOsck inventory like he used to. They can punch in a computer that says yes we have one of those in Atlanta, GA and we'll ship it right out to you but that doesn't help you if you have to milk this morning.
In round figures, on the price of a quart of milk, the farmer has always gotten about 50% of the price. Recently I think there has been a little change because the price of milk did go up last winter at the end of 1989. Milk is priced at the farm per 100 pounds of milk. Last December the price at the farm was about $17 per 100 pounds. Since that time I know the price has dropped
substantially at the farm and I don't think it's dropped much retail, and that tends to be the way. When there's an increase, the consumer gets it right away, but when it drops, the farmer gets it right away and the consumer doesn't get it. Eventually with fewer farmers the price to the consumer will go up, but it won't until there are substantially less farms to produce it and more transportation involved. I think if there had been a mechanism so that consumers could pay a little more now and it went directly to the farmer, you would end up saving paying a lot more later and it would rejuvenate the farms. Once a farm has gone out of production, it's very difficult to get a herd back again, getting the land, buying all the equipment.
When I went out of business selling the cows, about 40% of what I took in on the herd will be gone to pay federal and state taxes on the sale of the cows, so in fact if I wanted to take that money I got from selling the cows and buy cows again next year, I wouldn't have the money there to do it.
The land I have here on Nine Acre Corner is under an the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Act. We did that about 7 years ago. Most of the land that we own and farm is under permanent restriction and we plan to keep it in agriculture. We just have to find some enterprises that are more profitable than dairying. Also we'll concentrate on fewer enterprises. I feel this is where"nonproductive aggravation enterprise" of the bureaucratic business ends. It is just like we're running a puppet show with the dairy and the stawberries and the vegetables and the flowers, but then as you start having other things that you are compelled to do, it just spreads you too thin to do as many productive enterprises along with the others. So we, re just going to narrow it down and try to concentrate on less.