There used to be 160 dairies in Hawaii. Only two remain, and one plans to close, meaning Hawaii could end up importing all of its milk.
Monique van der Stroom takes her cow Pickles out to graze on her Waianae farm that produces butter and cheese sold to Whole Foods Market and local restaurants.
The grass is dry, and van der Stroom has been praying for rain for weeks to irrigate her field so that the rest of her cows can graze. Morning showers on this particular Saturday are not enough to grow grass.
Pickles no longer produces milk; she’s van der Stroom’s pet. But the milk cows at the Naked Cow Dairy are also in a dry spell.
They’re on a sort of maternity leave — a period that starts in a cow’s third trimester when milking stops. During these dry periods, van der Stroom typically buys milk from Big Island Dairy.
But with the planned closure of that dairy, van der Stroom is uncertain how much longer her farm can sustain itself.
“It might put me out of business,” she said. “If they close down, I’m out on the verge.”
The entire industry is on the verge in Hawaii, where there used to be 160 dairies that supplied almost all the milk sold in the islands.
Today, Big Island Dairy is one of the last two commercial dairy farms in Hawaii. The other one, Cloverleaf, in Hawi on the Big Island, is trying to finalize a tenuous sales agreement with mainland investors and a local manager eager to revitalize the industry.
On Kauai, meanwhile, plans for Hawaii Dairy Farm, which would use a pasture-based model for its cows, are on hold in the face of community opposition and lawsuits.