Daniel Byler started a recent Friday morning by packaging online orders of Camembert, cheddar and other cheeses scheduled for customer pick-up at the local farmers market the following day. But unlike the market’s other vendors, Byler operates his family “micro-dairy” without the internet.
Byler, who is Amish, now also poses a risk to fellow members of his tight-knit Christian community, which is known for eschewing technology and living in separation from mainstream American culture. That’s because he relies on non-Amish customers despite the coronavirus pandemic, including some who recently traveled from New York City to their second homes in Byler’s quiet corner of Central New York.
“I have more contact with outside people day in and day out,” Byler said. “We have actually stopped church services and all social gathering in our community at this point. We are very concerned for what’s happening, but we are also concerned [about] what it’s doing to our traditions.”
Byler is the owner of Mountain View Dairy in Richfield Springs, a village of just over a thousand people. He sells his products—a variety of artisan cheeses, raw milk, beef, pork and eggs—exclusively at a cozy store onsite and the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market.
While also a small town, Cooperstown draws hundreds of thousands of tourists annually as the “home of baseball” and the site of a summer opera festival.
But Byler doesn’t know what this summer will bring.
“We have no idea what our [new] norm is going to be like,” said Byler, who’s struggled over the past several weeks with everything from sourcing milk jugs to getting pigs to slaughter. “So, we’re just guessing at what we’re doing and hoping for the best.”
For now, Byler’s market sales are slightly down but he’s able to fulfill the new system of online orders for immunocompromised and other cautious customers because the manager of the farmer’s market delivers paper print-outs of the orders to his farm.
“I wouldn’t be able to survive if it wasn’t for society, for my customers,” Byler said. “We are affected by outside forces just like everybody else is.”