Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 8, 2013

Dairy farmer goes against grain, succeeds

TRAVERSE CITY — Dairy farmer Bob Plummer doesn’t trouble himself with the status of the Farm Bill in Washington these days. He doesn’t have to.

“I withdrew from the system years ago,” Plummer said. “I don’t want anything to do with it.”

Plummer is among several northern Michigan farmers who reject the traditional agricultural system and its world of subsidies, crop insurance and big corporations paying farmers pennies on the dollar for product.

Plummer decided about three years ago to shun it all. Instead, he chose to milk his 22 cows at the farmstead on North Long Lake Road in Grand Traverse County, process and bottle his milk on-site, and sell the milk at local outlets.

“I don’t worry about the Farm Bill because I don’t sell my milk to the big companies,” Plummer said. “It’s a great feeling.”

Others worry about the Farm Bill, or lack thereof. If a new Farm Bill or an extension isn’t passed by January, dairy prices could skyrocket and milk could leap to $8 a gallon. In Benzie County, near Frankfort, farmers Paul and Sharron May agree with Plummer; they sell their goods locally in what Sharron May refers to as the “parallel farming economy.”

The Mays sell lamb, beef, eggs and other fresh products at a single local store.

They also sell directly to customers.

“There are a lot of us in the parallel ag economy who aren’t dependent on the Farm Bill,” Sharron May said. “Everyone that I know who’s farming, using the new ways of farming ... it’s because of the Farm Bill. Because of the system, a parallel economy has had to be created.”

Plummer took complete control of his operation from start to finish. He cut out milk processing corporations by building a processing and bottling facility at the farm. He knew he made the right decision, based on his former processor’s sour reaction.

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