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Trucking Milk From Farm To Plant Is Vital To The Dairy Business. But Vermont Is Short On Drivers

A milk truck looks like a big silver tube on wheels. And on an early winter day, one backed up into the dirt driveway of Gervais Farm in Enosburgh.

The truck’s driver was Ben Kane, who hopped out to be greeted by Tala the farm dog. Kane was there to pick up a load of milk.

The first thing he did was walk into the milk parlor to check the tank.

“Pretty full today,” he said. “I’ll be here for awhile.”

Kane walked out to the back of his truck and opened the doors of the metal tube, aka the trailer. He uncoiled a long blue hose, which he passed through a round hole in the milk parlor wall and hooked up to the milk tank. Then he started pumping the milk into the trailer.

On this particular day, Kane said he would stop by 11 farms total. Once the trailer was full, he’d pass it along to another driver, who’d take it down to a processing plant in Agawam, Mass.

Milk hauler Ben Kane finishes up the process of pumping milk into his truck during a stop at Gervais Farm in Enosburgh earlier this winter.

Milk hauler Ben Kane finishes up the process of pumping milk into his truck during a stop at Gervais Farm in Enosburgh earlier this winter.

Kane says he hauls milk about six days a week. And according to Gervais Farm co-owner Kati Lawyer-Hale, Kane’s role is absolutely vital to the farm’s operations, where they milk about 1,000 cows a day.

“Farming is a business,” Lawyer-Hale said. “We make a product — a product with a very, very short life — we have to trust our drivers to be here. They come here twice a day to pick up our milk. And so when it’s icy roads, it’s Christmas, they're here. They're picking up the milk, and we are trusting them with our livelihood, basically.”

Ben Kane is among the 4,000 or so heavy truck drivers in the state of Vermont. The state doesn’t keep data for how many of those drivers are specifically hauling milk, but according to Vermont’s Labor Department, not only will the industry lose about 60 jobs between 2018 and 2028, but more than 400 positions will also open up each year.

In other words, there will be fewer jobs overall, and a lot of turnover.

Once the cows are milked at Gervais Farm in Enosburgh, their milk is kept in a tank, where it's then picked up by a milk hauler to go to a processing plant.

Once the cows are milked at Gervais Farm in Enosburgh, their milk is kept in a tank, where it's then picked up by a milk hauler to go to a processing plant.

Kane says he hauls milk about six days a week. And according to Gervais Farm co-owner Kati Lawyer-Hale, Kane’s role is absolutely vital to the farm’s operations, where they milk about 1,000 cows a day.

“Farming is a business,” Lawyer-Hale said. “We make a product — a product with a very, very short life — we have to trust our drivers to be here. They come here twice a day to pick up our milk. And so when it’s icy roads, it’s Christmas, they're here. They're picking up the milk, and we are trusting them with our livelihood, basically.”

Ben Kane is among the 4,000 or so heavy truck drivers in the state of Vermont. The state doesn’t keep data for how many of those drivers are specifically hauling milk, but according to Vermont’s Labor Department, not only will the industry lose about 60 jobs between 2018 and 2028, but more than 400 positions will also open up each year.

In other words, there will be fewer jobs overall, and a lot of turnover.

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