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Recently I was enjoying a delightful lunch at Oriole 9 in Woodstock, showing the most recent Roll magazine to some friends. (Yes, I will do that from time to time.) Both friends at the table confessed that when it came to magazines—including Roll—they liked to start at the end and work their way backwards, like reading a Japanese manga book. They weren’t the first to confess this sort of behavior.

Though we certainly never designed the magazine to be read thusly, I’m glad they’re getting a satisfying read out of Roll either way. But I think what this also illustrates is the coolness of print, how tactile and responsive to a reader’s instincts a simple magazine can be. And though I’m curious about iPad and Kindle technology, the analog quality of print will maintain its allure…even, to be honest, for no better reason than its ability to be easily crammed into a backpack, tossed into the back of a car, or (it’s OK, I’ve done this myself) used as an emergency umbrella.

But, the moment did give me pause to consider the notion of starting at or near the end of something, and working one’s way to the beginning. And in doing so, making some sort of progress.

For instance, clearly we have to have progress “toward to the beginning” on the subject of New York dairy farming. A report recently released from Sen. Charles Schumer’s office found that the price paid for milk to New York dairy farmers fell by a whopping 50% in the last year, while the retail price of milk fell only 15%. “It just doesn’t add up,” Schumer said at a recent forum in western New York. Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney—the nation’s top federal antitrust investigator—has been keeping her eye on the dairy situation, having already filed an anti trust suit against Dallas-based Dean Foods Co., which has been steadily buying up smaller dairies since 1996.

Consumers may get dairy at lower prices in the short term from conglomerates, but thanks to the ability a super-large company has to set artificially low prices, smaller (less funded) competitors get forced out, quality loses out to the bottom line once competition is gone, and the monopoly uses its burgeoning economic power to steamroll legislation to further solidify their power, getting tax breaks, subsidies, and earmarks from well-placed donations and lobbyists.

Well, color me crazy, but I’d like the state of New York to have a thriving system of small dairy farmers who get a decent price for their (un-freaking-believably) hard work. And I think the cows should get a break too. Large-scale corporate dairy farms are pretty horrifying in their industrialization of a process that depends on the animal to produce something with their bodies repeatedly, preferably without harming them.

This wasn’t always a problem: for years, New York milk and dairies were plentiful, prices were reasonable, and the farmers could actually make a decent living at it. But—as with many modern industries, especially food—with the mandate to produce more, faster, cheaper, the dairy industry has thus favored the large corporate factory farming model, and, as a result, New York dairy farmers are caught in a trick bag that can hopefully be alleviated by fair price regulation and more rigorous anti-trust law enforcement. More consumer awareness and farmer appreciation wouldn’t hurt either.

We’ve been thinking a lot about food and farming over here at Roll lately—we do get hungry sometimes—and this month we spoke to some of the good folks who help get the good stuff to your dining room table. And each of these players has a role in getting New York dairy products, meat, and produce, mostly from smaller locally owned farms (many organic), to New Yorkers. And this won’t be the last time we touch on this subject. Count on it.

So, we wish you a beautiful April, as Spring lights up the Valley. And to those of you reading his part of the magazine last, I hope you enjoyed it!

Cheers, Ross Rice
Editor, Roll Magazine

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