It always makes me happy to read about people who find creative ways to address problems.
As a hopelessly devoted turophile, one recent story about a creative solution particularly piqued my interest.
It is sort of an Internet matching service to pair people with cows.
Before assuming there is anything weird or sinister about this concept, allow me to explain.
Dairy farmers in the Italian Alps have long been producing hand-crafted delicious cheeses.
However, due to the small scale of these operations, most are unable to export their products. As a result, according to a recent news story, Alpine cheese makers have been slowly disappearing, and fields that were once home to contented cows are now empty.
Some of the remaining Alpine farmers have begun an operation to preserve their ancient craft through the magic of the Internet.
The program is called Adopt A Cow.
According to the NPR story, the idea of matching cheese lovers with dairy farmers was introduced by Ilaria Sordo, a young woman who wanted to keep the old traditions from dying.
With the support of a local tourism department, the program caught on quickly, growing from a few dozen adoptions to nearly 1,000 last year.
For an adoption fee of 60 euros (about $66), a sponsor receives a selection of cheeses produced from the milk of the cow he has adopted.
There is a small drawback in the fact that the small farmers still can’t afford the export duties, so the patron has to travel to the Italian Alps to get his cheese.
A dairy farmer quoted in the story stated the Adopt A Cow program has been a financial success. Without the program, he would have lost money last year, but participating in the program allowed him to make a profit.
The concept has broader implications, as well.
The Adopt A Cow program brings people into the region for the cheese.
Local wine makers and people who produce cured meats may want to get in on the program.
This could result in an injection of investment into the region, and make it even more attractive for international tourists, as well as Italians, to visit the area.
It may seem like a long way to go to get some cheese, especially for someone who lives in the Midwest, where an abundance of delicious cheese is produced.
On the other hand, traveling to a beautiful part of the world to sample artisan cheese and hand-crafted wines and other local specialties doesn’t sound bad to me.
It might be kind of a kick to travel halfway around the world to enjoy cheese produced from the milk of one’s adopted cow.
There is also something noble about being part of a movement to preserve a way of life.
That isn’t so difficult to understand, when one remembers it wasn’t so long ago that small family-owned dairy farms dotted the region.
Perhaps an Adopt A Cow program would help to preserve small farms here, just as it is doing in the Italian Alps.
Sampling high-quality cheese and wine is a pleasure wherever one finds them, and doing so close to home cuts down on the expense and the travel time.
The Adopt A Cow program may be unconventional, but it seems to me any program that can help support small independent producers (as well as wonderful hand-crafted cheese or wine) is worth considering.