Milk Not Jails is a recently launched marketing and distribution co-operative trying to create a fresh urban-rural relationship with New York's dairy farmers through milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Oh, and did I mention they're advocating for reform of the prison system in New York.
Prison reform through milk?On their website they make their case and connect the dots between prisons and milk. New York is the fourth largest dairy producer in the United States, and dairy milk is the state’s top agricultural product.
New York's prisons are located in the same rural areas as dairy farms, but the majority of the inmates come from urban areas. The economic promises that accompanied prisons when they were pitched to rural communities haven’t materialized. And at the same time dairy farmers have few options outside of selling milk to Dean Foods at the price it dictates.
This is where Milk Not Jails comes in and hopes to create change.
In order to create an economic alternative in rural New York to the prison industry, the Milk Not Jails co-operative is working with small, family-owned dairy farms to sell Milk Not Jails branded dairy products to New York City residents through CSAs, buying clubs, cafes, daycares, and other social services.
Dairy farmers--who have to agree to the Milk Not Jails policy agenda--sell their products at a fair price, reach new customers, and, hopefully, begin to see New York City's minority population not as fodder for the prison industry, but as customers who help sustain their way of life.
Watch the Milk Not Jails Video
Milk Not Jails even employs formerly incarcerated individuals like Tychist Baker (who you meet in the video) to distribute the products in the Milk Not Jails branded trucks. Job training and employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals is really important as they don't have many job prospects coming out of jail.
The group cleverly holds ice cream socials as part of their community outreach to educate youngsters about their vision of moving government funding away from prisons and to agriculture.
If you live in New York City you can support Milk Not Jails through these CSAs and buying clubs, or by asking your independent cafe to carry their line of dairy products.