Over Spilt Milk: The Fight for Fair Price & Fair Profit in Depression Era New York
Date: 15 Jan 2009 | | Views: 3240
NEW YORK - The history of the Consumer-Farmer Milk Cooperative officially started on a damp November Sunday in Foley Square, Manhattan with a Holstein cow, a farmer, and 150 resolute women. It was chilly that day in 1937 – 35 degrees to be exact – and the forecast for freezing rain threatened plans to protest recent milk price increases. The group stood in eyeshot of City Hall, where, had the sun been shining, 4,000 strong would have continued onward to present the petition of the League of Mothers Clubs of the United Neighborhood Houses to New York City’s Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Mr. E. Claude Jones officiated the gathering of shivering, diminished numbers from the back of his truck under a sign that read: “I have signed up with Dairy Farmer’s Union – “Bossy”. I am a union cow, my milk is for babies, not for the milk trust.”
The NY Food Museum’s newest exhibition Over Spilt Milk: The Fight For Fair Price and Fair Profit in Depression-Era New York will open at The City Reliquary Museum and Civic Organization, 370 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, on January 30, 2009. The exhibition tells the story of New York’s Consumer-Farmer Milk Cooperative, a tale of the power of solidarity and consumer activism.
The show will feature documents and artifacts from the 1930s, when immigrant Meyer Parodneck and a handful of anti-poverty activists founded the Consumer-Farmer Milk Cooperative to ensure farmers received a fair price, and consumers paid a fair price, for milk. The Co-op played a pivotal role opening the market controlled by milk distribution giants. With their own processing plants and distribution stations, the Consumer-Farmer Co-op sold milk to consumers at the lowest possible price, and paid farmers the highest possible return, for nearly fifty years.
Overcoming a mountain of obstacles, this organization made a difference to hundreds of struggling farmers and to the children of low-income New Yorkers. The exhibition includes period Co-op newsletters and advertising campaigns, vintage paper milk containers, and cooperative movement propaganda. Pivotal moments in the Co-op’s story are represented in miniature dioramas.
The City Reliquary is a new partner for the NY Food Museum, and Director Nancy Ralph relates “We’re excited to work with the Reliquary, whose work is so innovative and appealing.” Parodneck was himself a far-sighted innovator (a precursor of community supported agriculture and food cooperatives) and inventor (the paper milk carton), as well as a compassionate, open-minded and tireless advocate. The exhibition gives an overview to the national and state-wide economic struggles of tenants and farmers in the 1930s and their efforts to organize and gain control over their lives. Curator Hi’ilei Dye comments, “As contemporary issues concerning affordable food sources becomes increasingly visible, this story provides a compelling model for self-help.”
Hi’ilei Dye, a Master’s Degree candidate at Bard Graduate Center is researching and curating the show under the supervision of NY Food Museum Board Member and Director of the CUNY Gotham Center for New York City History, Suzanne Wasserman. To see all online exhibitions, find out times and dates for the launch party, and for more information, visit www.nyfoodmuseum.org
. Open Hours for The City Reliquary are 12-6pm, Saturday and Sunday. For more information about The City Reliquary, visit http://www.cityreliquary.org