2020 is bringing some exciting new changes to our Caring Dairy program! We care about our ice cream from cow to cone, and that’s why we’re always looking for ways to improve our Caring Dairy program, advancing practices that ensure that our home state of Vermont can be home to well-cared-for cows on sustainable family farms.
Through our Caring Dairy program, we partner with farmers to make sure that they’re producing dairy in the best way possible. And in exchange for meeting our Caring Dairy standards, participating farmers receive additional money from us. Together, we’re working to provide thriving livelihoods for farmers and farm workers, ensure the highest standard of cow care, and implement regenerative practices that benefit the environment.
The program has evolved over the years, and this year it’s seeing some big changes. Here’s what’s new for our farmers in Vermont:
Global Animal Partnership
One of the key elements of the Caring Dairy program is ensuring that cows are well cared for. After all, there’s no dairy without our hardworking bovine friends. This year, we’re piloting a new dairy animal welfare standard, launched by the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), an independent organization that assesses every participating farm to make sure they meet their certification requirements. An independent auditing company will audit farms to the GAP standard every 15 months, evaluating how the cows are being cared for during different seasonal conditions.
Prove It Projects
We're excited to partner with local dairy experts and our Farmer Innovators — farmers who meet the most advanced set of Caring Dairy standards — to test new approaches to farming practices that promote regenerative agriculture. In order to maintain their Farmer Innovator status, farmers must participate in two Prove It projects per year. They might test, for example, a new approach to getting cover crops growing earlier in the summer pre-harvest months. As they learn about more effective and efficient practices, we'll evaluate applying their learnings to the whole Caring Dairy program in the coming years.
Milk With Dignity
In 2017 we became the first dairy buyer to adopt Milk with Dignity, a pioneering farmworker-led human rights standard for working conditions on dairy farms. Justice and equity have always been central to our mission, so we are proud to be working with the folks at the Milk with Dignity Standards Council to ensure that farmworkers are fairly compensated for their labor and work in healthy conditions. The Milk With Dignity Code of Conduct ensures that farmworkers have adequate breaks and time off, paid sick days, safe working conditions, fair housing, a wage increase supported by dairy premiums, ability to safely report complaints if needed, and more.
While our Flavor Gurus work hard to push the boundaries of ice cream euphoria, Caring Dairy continues to work with our partner farms to push the boundaries of dairy sustainability. We're excited about the program’s growth and this year's innovative approach, and will continue to work to move the dairy industry forward in the years to come.