Naval Academy to close dairy Aug. 10 after 87 years Milk will be purchased from commercial operation

July 07, 1998|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

Al Gore should be pleased: After 87 years of drinking milk from their personal dairy farm, something the vice president flagged as an example of government waste, midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy will start drinking commercially produced milk next month, academy officials said yesterday.

A cost survey earlier this year found it was cheaper to buy milk commercially, so the 865-acre Gambrills farm will cease using milk from the farm Aug. 10, when the academy will begin buying milk from DairyMaid of Frederick. DairyMaid was awarded a $297,000 annual contract.

The survey found that the academy can buy milk for $2.05 a gallon, compared with the $2.30 a gallon it costs to produce milk on the farm.

With 4,000 midshipmen consuming about 1,100 gallons of milk daily, that means it was costing the academy $100,000 more per year to produce its own milk.

"We looked very hard at our dairy farm, and the economics simply don't support its continued operation," academy superintendent Vice Adm. John R. Ryan said in a statement.

Yesterday's announcement signals one more step toward the demise of a farm created to provide safe milk to midshipmen after a 1911 typhoid outbreak. In 1995, Gore complained to -- among others -- CNN talk show host Larry King, that "90 years later, even though there hasn't been any typhoid from milk in many decades, it's still going on."

But a 1967 law had prevented the Navy from disposing of the farm. That law was overturned in December when Congress gave its permission to cease the milking operations, as long as the land remains in a rural and/or agricultural state.

The academy has decided to sell off the herd of about 140 cows but retain ownership of the land. A decision will be made later this year on its use.

Housing and golf course developers interested in the property have approached the academy, but school officials have said they will likely turn the land into a park or recreation area.

"We will ensure that the land stays open, green and rural in character," Ryan said.

Pub Date: 7/07/98

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