This is a short story I wrote a few years ago that ties in with yesterday’s post on Rise of the Robot Farmer. One spot in retrospect is a little over the top, but I thought it was a good enough read to share again.
Jane walked down the stairs dressed and ready for breakfast. Her husband George sat at the kitchen table with his coffee, toast, and a tablet in his hand reading the paper. He wore his blue suit, but he had yet to put on his coat and tie. The morning news anchors’ voices babbled on from the flat screen television on the wall.
Jane slid her hand across his shoulders as she passed. “Morning, dear.”
“Good morning,” he told her absently without looking up from his tablet.
Jane removed bowls and cups from the smooth white cabinets and placed them on the counter. Meanwhile a commercial came on the TV. A happy little girl and her mother were shopping at the grocery store. “Can I get the milk, mom?” the little girl asked.
“Of course,” her mother replied. “Make sure you get one with a HH on it.”
The girl smiled brightly back to her. “Yes, Mommy. I don’t want the other kind.”
The girl placed a container of milk in the shopping cart as the camera zoomed on a closeup of the red and black HH that was prominently placed on the label. The mom’s voice said, “Real mom’s choose milk from cows milked with human hands.”
Jane opened the refrigerator door and stared inside. She frowned slightly and scrunched her eyes. “I thought you picked up some milk yesterday.”
George sat his coffee cup down and replied, “They didn’t have any with HH logo on it at the store so I didn’t get any.”
“What?” she asked while now leaning down slightly and moving things around in the frig.
He sighed. “You, know. Like on the commercial. HH. Human hands milk. I didn’t want to support the mega farms that use robots to milk their cows.” George looked up from his tablet. “I want our family to drink milk that came from cows that were milked by human hands.” He swiped the tablet screen with his finger. “This is different than the maid. This is food. It’s different.”
Jane rolled her eyes and let out her own sigh as she closed the refrigerator door. “I thought you were going to stop at the electronic filling station when you charged your car and get some milk. Don’t they have the organic milk there that you like?”
“They do, but it isn’t local milk anymore,” he explained.
Jane leaned back on the synthetic plastic counter and stared at him. “How can it not be local anymore? The farm that they get their milk from comes from less than twenty miles away.”
George shook his head slightly. “It is local like that,” he said while putting his fingers up and made quotations marks in the air when he said local. “They’re just not certified local.”
“Certified local?” She was doing her best not to get upset, but her patience was waning.
He nodded gently. “Certified local prevents other farmers from infringing on the local movement. To be certified you have to be a sixth generation farmer on the same land and be of East European or Native American blood. Of course there are some exemptions. The farm you were talking about, well, the current farmer’s father married a girl from the west coast and so unfortunately….” His voice trailed off and he shook his shoulders as if that’s the way it was.
Jane put away the bowls, cups, and cereal she had gotten out and closed the cabinet doors a little harder than necessary. She sat down at the table opposite George. He looked away from the talking heads on the TV and back to her. “I only want the kids to have what’s good for them. I worry,” he said earnestly.
“Well, I worry, too,” she retorted. “I worry they won’t get the milk they need. I worry about getting osteoporosis like my grandmother. I worry you don’t eat healthy enough, either.” She let that set with him a moment like waiting for a pot of soup to boil. She leaned forward on the table and said, “About two years ago I took the kids to that local dairy farm so they could see a real farm with real animals. That west coast woman you referred to started doing farm tours for the community.”
George took off his glasses and rubbed the lens on a napkin. “I remember that. Judy came back and thought about going to vet school for a while.”
“Right. I talked to that woman and she told me lots about milk. She told me how milk is probably the most regulated food product on the market. She said their milk was tested for antibiotics at the farm before it was picked up and then again at the processing plant before it was unloaded from the milk trucks. I asked her if she thought any milk was better than another.”
He finished rubbing his glasses and slid them back on his face. “And?”
“She said milk is milk. She said buy what makes you happy and enjoy it. Milk is safe.”
George was about to reply when their teenage daughter and young son walked in the kitchen. The girl yawned and the boy rubbed his eyes and asked, “What’s for breakfast, Mom?”
Jane smiled broadly. “Daddy’s taking us out to eat for breakfast! He forgot the milk.”
Remember milk is milk. That’s the takeaway message. Large farm, small farm, conventional, and organic all take pride in caring for their animals.