Milk Money: Cash, Cows, and the Death of the American Dairy Farmby Kirk Kardashian
There’s something un-American and illogical about a market system where the price of a product bears no relation to the cost of its inputs. Yet we have lived with such a scheme in the dairy industry for decades: retail milk prices have stayed the same, while milk prices paid to farmers have plummeted. The dairy business is at the heart of the culture and
There’s something un-American and illogical about a market system where the price of a product bears no relation to the cost of its inputs. Yet we have lived with such a scheme in the dairy industry for decades: retail milk prices have stayed the same, while milk prices paid to farmers have plummeted. The dairy business is at the heart of the culture and economy of Vermont, just as it is of many other states. That fact meant little to Kirk Kardashian until he started taking his daughter to daycare at a dairy farm a few miles from his Vermont home—a farm owned by the same family for generations, but whose owners were now struggling to make ends meet. Suddenly, the abstractions of economics and commodities markets were replaced by the flesh and blood of a farm family whom he greeted every day.
In the tradition of Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, Kardashian asks whether it is right that family farmers in America should toil so hard, produce a food so wholesome and so popular, and still lose money. This gripping investigation uncovers the hidden forces behind dairy farm consolidation, and explains why milk—a staple commodity subject to both government oversight and industry collusion—has proven so tricky to stabilize. Meanwhile, every year we continue to lose scores of small dairy farms. With passion, wit, and humor, Milk Money shows where we are now, how we got here, and where we might be going.
"[An] excellent book. . . . Kardashian digs into [his investigation] with real depth and intelligence, and Milk Money represents a significant contribution to the burgeoning field of muckraking forays into the food system." —Orion
“Kardashian’s legal expertise provides the book’s most stunning insights, particularly when he translates for a lay public the impact of governments’ decisions on the dairy industry. In his chapter on dairy workers, for example, he reveals that the North American Free Trade Agreement included provisions forcing Mexico to eliminate its subsidies for small farms (while the U.S.’ were maintained) and put its communal farming land up for private sale.”—Seven Days (Burlington, VT)
“The struggle of dairy farms in New England and nationally is not news to anyone, but Kirk Kardashian’s book successfully digs into the complexities of why and is an eye-opener. . . . Kardashian . . . has a good investigative journalist style with clear explanations to unpack the many issues of the dairy crisis and may be a catalyst for saving smaller farms before they’re all gone. Milk Money is more than timely and worth a read.”—Providence Journal
- University of New Hampshire Press
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Meet the Author
KIRK KARDASHIAN is a senior writer at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. He has written for a variety of publications, including Vermont Life, Bicycling, Mountain Magazine, and Seven Days, the alternative weekly in Burlington, Vermont. This is his first book.
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