MONTPELIER, Vt (AP) — Vermont is recovering some of the milk that farmers are having to dispose of and donating it to the Vermont Foodbank, with help from a $60,000 grant from the Vermont Community Foundation.
A big chunk of dairy farmers' business has been wiped out as schools, restaurants, institutions and universities closed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Plants set up to make food service products — like large packages of mozzarella cheese — aren’t able to pivot quickly and start churning out gallons of milk. Retail milk sales were up when the virus first hit as consumers bulked up on groceries but have declined since then, officials have said.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture announced Wednesday that the money will be used to buy the milk. Dairy Farmers of America farms will provide the milk to Green Mountain Creamery and HP Hood, which will process it into yogurt and 2% milk.
A total of 42,000 cups of yogurt and over 11,500 gallons of milk will be donated to the Vermont Foodbank, to serve hundreds of food bank clients, the agency said. The milk will be produced weekly for 10 weeks and the yogurt will be made and donated throughout the month of May.
“This collaboration highlights the integral role of Vermont dairy farms in our state’s food system,” Gov. Phil Scott said. “I applaud these groups for supporting our farmers and Vermonters in need, feeding our most vulnerable and not wasting a valuable and healthy agricultural product.”
EARLY SEASON HIKING
The need to get outdoors during the COVID-19 outbreak is getting people onto the state’s hiking trails, but that can present a challenge for the trails.
On Wednesday, Vermont eased more of the restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, allowing more outdoor activities.
Michael Debonis of the Green Mountain Club, which manages many of the state's hiking trails, said that trails have already seen peak summertime usage over the last three weekends, but that is coming before many of the trails are open. Hiking season usually kicks off Memorial Day weekend.
“Trails that are oversaturated from snowmelt and spring rains are vulnerable to damage from soil compaction and erosion with every footstep,” he said in an email. “Soil compaction degrades the quality of the trail by reducing its ability to absorb water, causing increased flooding later and making it harder for vegetation to grow.”
Debonis said they have seen the widening of trails by hikers seeking to avoid wet or muddy areas or trees that have been blown across the trails.
He said they're working to get the trails ready for the traditional opening. More information can be found on the Green Mountain Club's website.
On Thursday, the Vermont Department of Health reported one new death from COVID-19 for a total of 53 deaths, and seven new positive cases of the coronavirus, for a total of 916.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with underlying health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.