January Program

Life of a Dairyman

Just after World War II, there were some 4000 farms producing milk in Connecticut. A little over a dozen years ago there were 300, and today there are fewer than 100 still operating. Rhode Island currently has eight, and the trend is clear. Perhaps quite soon there will be but a handful left, and all of the dairy products we use will come from afar. In this video, Clark Woodmansee explains life on his dairy farm in Preston, giving his audience a glimpse into what it takes to put a gallon of milk on our tables and the type of people still willing to work seven days a week at a job they so love to do. Beyond losing another local food source should these farms vanish altogether, we would also lose another working culture that once helped define New England and its people.

This film was shot over the course of the summer of 2016, expressly for inclusion in the American Folklife division of the Library of Congress. I have always had an interest in the disappearing working cultures in New England, and had previously spent a year documenting the last four dairy farms operating in my home town for a book, Down on the Farm: The Last Dairy Farms of North Stonington. At that point, my process was to use photographs and transcribed interviews to tell their story. Switching over to video, I hoped to capture a more immediate sense of my subjects and the lives they lead. They would now tell their own stories directly to the audience. While we have all driven by the last operating dairy farms in our area, the work they do on a daily basis often remains a mystery, and this film is another attempt to address the many questions we may have. Thank you for watching, and I hope you enjoy this film.

Markham Starr

Link to film: https://vimeo.com/243626047