Posted: April 11, 2012
Interesting concept in N.Y. What do you think WDD readers? This editor doesn’t agree with all of their legislative agenda items, but thinks the prison-farm connection could be a positive change.
Organizer Lauren Melodia has created a non-profit called “Milk Not Jails” that aims to pair prison reform and the local food movement into one positive force for rural N.Y. communities.
“I was living in this prison town, and at the same time, the dairy industry was in a lot of turmoil,” Melodia tells The Salt. “We thought this [dairy] might be the perfect ally in trying to build a different economy in upstate New York, and shift some of the economic dependency away from the prison system.”
Two years ago, the state declared a dairy crisis as the costs of producing milk rose. And while half the state’s dairy farms dropped off the map, across the way over the barbed-wire fence, the prison population held strong. (Most of New York’s 55,000 inmates are housed upstate.)
Milk Not Jails is offering farmers another option: Sell their milk directly to buying clubs in New York City. Milk Not Jails plans to recruit ex-cons who can’t get a break to drive approved dairy products down to consumers in New York City.
Building prisons in rural communities was meant to create jobs and boost the local economy. Washington State University sociologist Gregory Hooks says that hasn’t worked out so well — but he’s not sure that Milk Not Jails will that solve that problem. Even so, “I think it helps to get people to think about alternatives,” he said.
Melodia’s team is volunteer-based, and for now, low on capital, but there are small signs of success. In May, they’ll ship Ronnybrook Farm Dairy products like milk, yogurt and butter from Ancramdale, N.Y. to several community supported agriculture pick-up sites in New York City. Those products from small-scale, organic farms will feature the the group’s label — a vanilla ice cream cone, bordered by a suggestion: “Milk, Not Jails.”