A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Dairy Farms
By the time most of us splash some milk into our morning bowl of cereal or cup of coffee, New England and New York's dairy farmers have been up for hours. The days are long, the work is hard, and vacations are almost unheard of, but it all connects the cow to the customer.
Dairy products rank second only to produce among foods that consumers want to buy locally, according to Hannaford research. That fact is well-known to the folks at Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook, Maine, and New England's own HP Hood, two of our local dairy suppliers.
"We care about what we put out there and how we get it there," David Knight, Smiling Hill's president, said between milking sessions on a recent afternoon. A ninth-generation dairy farmer, Knight begins his day at 6:30 a.m. on the family's 500-acre farm. A radio buzzes in the barn as he walks the length of the sawdust-covered aisle, a milking stool strapped to his waist. The farm's 50 Holsteins will be milked twice, producing about 2,500 pounds of milk a day. The milk is filtered and cooled before it's transported down the hill for bottling twice a week. Some bottles are sent to the Knights' adjacent store, run by David's wife, Deb, and the rest is loaded onto refrigerated trucks for delivery to Hannaford dairy cases. Knight's father first asked Hannaford to sell Smiling Hill milk, and now his son delivers their products to about a dozen of our supermarkets. With help from son Dylan, daughter Hillary, brother Warren and several other employees, David Knight's day winds down at about 10:30p.m. "At the end of the day, Smiling Hill is about quality milk and happy cows," he said, as 18-year-old Ida relaxed in her stall with Darrell, a curious bull calf who keeps the old cow's spirits up. "We take good care of them. They become more like pets than at an average, run-of-the-mill farm," Knight said.
Just down the road, a much larger local milk operation is under way at HP Hood's plant in Portland, Maine. Started in 1846 with Harvey Perley Hood's first milk route in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the New England company operates 23 manufacturing plants throughout the United States. At the Portland plant, trucks straight off of regional farms park in a receiving bay, their loads about to undergo a few last steps before final shipment to Hannaford stores. You may not think of test tubes and clipboards when you gulp down a glass of milk, but the folks at Hood are a few steps ahead of you. Quality assurance scientists test samples of every product to check for bacteria, weight and butterfat levels. An average of 55,000 gallons of milk make their way through this process every day. Short of chatting up Bessie herself, Hood and Hannaford professionals are involved in every step along the way. So rest assured that our milk does your body good. Whether it's maintaining our longstanding relationship with Hood or working with generations of the Knight family, we know our suppliers. We bring you the freshest, best-tasting, highestquality foods because we work closely with the people who grow and produce
them. Our stores aren't just in your community, they're part of it.