March 17, 2013

Letters to the editor: Dairy farmers face thankless task

I am in tears over the front page of March 10 ("Maine's dairy farms in twilight").

click image to enlarge

Fifth-generation dairy farmer Libby Bleakney runs Highland Farms in Cornish with her family.

2013 File Photo/Gabe Souza

As a boarding school student at Northfield Mount Hermon in Massachusetts in the 1970s, I chose to do my work-study off campus at a local dairy farm, when other students chose to be candy stripers at the local hospital or work at a law firm.

Every morning, I rode my three-speed bike in the dark to my "job," to be greeted by a hot mug of coffee and homemade toast at my station in the milking parlor after herding the first group of cows in.

I chose to explore the local farm after studying about my school's agricultural heritage and learning that once upon a time there was a dairy operation on campus, which had eventually been phased out.

I loved the life so much that I enrolled in the agriculture technology program at the University of Maine upon returning to my home state. After graduating from the university, I went to work at a large dairy farm operated by a veterinarian just over the border in North Conway, N.H.

I have followed the demise of the dairy industry in Maine, and the lack of support for family farms is devastating. It is a rigorously scheduled life. The lack of return on time invested alone makes it the most thankless job, never mind the rising costs of feed and fuel.

I now operate a small farm stay bed-and-breakfast with eight pet-quality alpacas, and I am all too aware of the continuous rise of costs just to feed my tiny herd.

Whenever someone reaches conveniently into the supermarket cooler and complains about the price of dairy, I cringe. If only the source of that milk could receive the lion's share of that cost. Bless the farmers who persist because it's all they know.

Lisa DeAngelis Lane

Waldoboro

As LePage seeks re-election, school views merit attention

While many of us may be amused as well as occasionally embarrassed at the antics of our governor in his sparring with some of our national and state political leaders as well as the press (particularly with one of this paper's columnists), I believe Maine people ought to seriously question at least one of his issues.

At this point, it seems fairly clear that one of the goals of Gov. LePage is to functionally destroy the Maine public schools during his tenure in office. His ardor in this quest ought to raise serious questions as to his fitness to continue to serve as our governor following next year's election.

Even though there may be serious issues needing to be addressed in our public schools, I believe a strong public school system (through higher education) deserves the support of all Maine's people. Indeed, the future prosperity of our state seems dependent upon the healthy viability of our public schools.

The governor seems to regularly bad-mouth our public schools and their teachers, as well as denying them resources at every opportunity.

Maine historically has had very strong parochial and secular private schools, which deserve our respect and support within the constraints of our Constitution.

The careful and judicious establishment of charter schools certainly may strengthen the educational opportunities for our children. However, the best possible public schools must remain the rock-solid foundation of our state's educational system.

(Continued on page 2)

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