Butter and Cheese Factory Map - 1899

Produced by State of New York,  Department of Agriculture

“In the early 1900s, dairy farming looked very different in northern New York and across the country. Small farms were the norm, and because they were limited to what they could do by hand and with minimal equipment, a typical dairy farm might boast between five to twenty head of cattle, and not much more.

Farms produced for their own consumption and to supply their immediate locale, but most milk was transformed quickly into a more stable product like cheese and butter. Farmers or their family members would drop off their milk by wagon (and later by automobile) at a local cheese plant. These milk processing plants were everywhere. “If you take cheesemaking back to the 1900s, there was a cheesemaking plant about every three or four miles down the road, because the farmers didn’t have the cooling ability.”

︎︎︎ North Country Public Radio

Dollar General Map

Altered Butter and Cheese Factory map

With cheese and butter factories gone away, what populates rural areas now? One common sight is Dollar General, a “small-box” corporate giant that sells low-cost food and products without direct ties to local producers and the community. There are 555 (and counting) stores in New York state alone.

“Quietly, Dollar General has become the biggest U.S. retailer by number of outlets, and the company continues to spread like hot gossip across tiny-town America, opening roughly three new stores a day, many of them in places that real estate experts say couldn’t support any other kind of retailer. Its 18,000-plus locations are more than McDonald’s, Starbucks or CVS, putting it within five miles of 75% of the population. This year, it will open another 1,100 stores and plans to nearly double its store count...

...The company has found success in small towns overlooked by most other retailers, a strategy that means it can simultaneously take advantage of dirt-cheap real estate and skirt pesky competition.”

How Dollar General is spreading like hot gossip in tiny towns across America