Bar-Way Farm in Deerfield donates milk to feed families in need

The Recorder, May 12, 2020, By ANITA FRITZ, Staff Writer

DEERFIELD — A local dairy farmer did his “small part” last week to help those during the COVID-19 pandemic by donating milk that went to families in need.

Peter Melnik, co-owner of Bar-Way Farm in Deerfield, said he did it as part of the “Farmers Feeding Families” event in Boston. He was not able to travel to Boston because of work on the farm, but another dairy farmer friend went and told him it was a nice event.

During the event, Dairy Farmers of America, a national cooperative owned by dairy farm families across the nation and its Massachusetts farm families, donated 8,600 gallons of milk to 4,000 families in need. Bar-Way is one of the members.

“The milk cooperative came to us and asked if we’d be willing to donate milk,” Melnik said. “We thought it was a great idea.”

The event was also co-sponsored by Vanguard Renewables, a company that develops food and dairy waste-to-energy projects like the methane digester at Bar-Way, in cooperation with H.P. Hood.

Melnik said his family farm wanted to give the milk to Hood to process, instead of dumping the extra they’ve been making into the digester, which produces electricity.

“It just made a lot of sense,” he said. “It was such a community effort. It spread a lot of goodwill.”

Melnik said farmers sent their milk to Hood, which blended, processed and sent the milk on to be distributed at the Farmers Feeding Families event.

“I’m glad we were part of this,” he said.

Vanguard Renewables spokesperson Kelley Devaney said the pandemic brought challenges to dairy farmers because many supply restaurants and schools, and thus have had a surplus of milk. Some farmers have resorted to dumping the excess milk.

Vanguard Renewables and Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) wanted to make good use of that milk.

“DFA farm members in Massachusetts wanted to get surplus milk from the collapse of the commercial-scale milk market out to people in need, and reached out for our help to make this happen,” Vanguard Renewables CEO John Hanselman said.

He said there are plans to hold similar events in other cities across the state, including in Western Massachusetts. In fact, Melnik said he will attend one in Springfield on Friday.

“People are really struggling right now, and everyone should be helping everyone,” Melnik said.

The state’s National Guard, Emergency Management Agency, some farmers and their families, and volunteers distributed the milk.

“As a dairy cooperative owned by family farmers (like Melnik) across the country, we are dedicated to helping provide nutritious food for family tables,” Dairy Farmers of America’s Senior Director of Marketing, Council Affairs and Industry Relations Jennifer Huson said. “Knowing that millions of Americans are struggling right now to make ends meet, and with food banks being a critical local resource to help feed these families, we knew that we had to help figure out a solution.”

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