For many generations, farming has provided not only a way of life, but a way to make a living for people in Eastern Ohio. The family farm is part of the fabric that makes up the state's economy, and in Ohio, agriculture remains the no. 1 industry.
Those in the area who work in other professions likely drive by a family farm or two on a regular basis, if not every day. Most of us probably don't realize all the hard work that goes into operating a family farm or the level of impact these operations have on the local economy.
The Times Leader's three-part series on milk concluded this weekend with a look into diary farming and the local industry. The Lifestyles series gave readers a glimpse into the process that brings America's most popular grocery list item from the cow to the table.
It's good to know that the milk you purchase at the local grocery store probably came from an Ohio farm.
While Ohio doesn't have the massive dairy industry operations that we may see in other states, the Buckeye State's dairy farms don't have the kind of facilities that keep thousands of dairy cows in inhumane conditions for the sake of bringing milk to the masses.
Ohio does very well, however, generating 605 million gallons of milk annually and employing more than 14,000 people in a $4.2 billion industry.
Local farmers and businesses like United Dairy tap into this market and provide milk and other products for customers near and far.
What's concerning is the unleveled playing field for family dairy farmers, stemming from the fact that the price of milk is set by the government, not the farmers. While everyone else has a surcharge or fuel charge to cover delivery and transportation costs related to the business, local dairy farmers have to pay fuel costs for the milk companies, for veterinarians, for feed and for other transportation-related expenses out-of-pocket. Those costs cannot be included in the price of milk, and therefore cannot be directly recovered.
While it can be a tough industry for a family farmer, it's a respectable profession that builds character and a strong work ethic from childhood on - and as long as 99 percent of American households purchase milk, there will always be a healthy market for it.