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Monday, February 15, 2010

Raw Milk: The Good

The following is part 2 of Dale’s series - Raw Milk: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I drive down a long lane and over a creek to Peace Hollow Farm, an organic grazing dairy farm run by Myron and Janet Martin in the hills of Western Maryland. Beside me in the passenger seat sits 4 glass gallon jugs. I walk into the milk room next to the dairy parlor. The gleaming white painted walls and floor are spotless. But my attention is immediately drawn to the shiny stainless steel 2,000 gallon milk tank. I put my hand on it and it is cold – 34 degrees F. I can hear an agitator slowly stir the milk within. I walk over to the sink and retrieve a spigot. I lean down and remove the plug at the bottom of the milk tank. I attach the spigot and turn the tank valve on to fill my jugs with the precious white liquid. I turn the valve off, replace the spigot with the plug and rinse out the spigot in the sink for the next user. I tuck $12 in a jar labeled “Donations”. I return to my car with my treasure. On my drive out of the farmyard I see Myron in the distance and wave. My spirits are lifted by his smile and my heart is lightened by the thoughts of him and his good wife Janet raising their natural and adopted children along with foster children in need of a home. Lucky is the foster child who makes it into this home for Myron and Janet are Christians, as good a people as Heavenly Father has placed on this earth.
But Myron and I have just broken the law, even if I went home and fed the milk to my cats. It doesn’t matter that Myron let me take the milk for free and I just happened to leave a donation. Even if Myron sold me a share in the cows, he could not give me “my milk” from “my cows”. And this is all evident as the Health department put an end to it in December. They threatened to revoke Myron’s milk license and fine him if he continued this activity. So now my family is back to Grade A, pasteurized, homogenized, vitamin A&D fortified, “BST free” milk. Ugh!
Why do I want raw milk? Raw milk is to a milk connoisseur what a fine wine is to a wine connoisseur. The taste and texture can be savored. Each week can bring a subtle change in the flavor depending on if the cows graze a pasture of lush grass or if they are fed sweet fermented corn silage and alfalfa hay. Raw milk hasn’t been mixed with the milk of a hundred other farmers and pasteurized & homogenized into a boringly uniform product. Some people claim health benefits from enzymes and other components unadulterated by the heating process. Some claim that the larger unhomogenized fat globules are more likely to pass through the human digestive tract without being absorbed by the body, thus making raw milk less fattening. Some lactose intolerant people claim they can drink raw milk. There are many other claims, some reasonable, some wild. I don’t make these arguments. I just like the taste. I like skimming the cream off the top to make ice cream on a hot summer’s evening or to put on my Scottish oatmeal on a cold winter morning, or to churn it into butter for my baked potato or to whip it up to top my pumpkin pie. I also like getting the milk from Peace Hollow Farm and donating to their good work.
Do Myron and Janet benefit from selling raw milk? Not really because the $3/gallon underpriced donation is about the same as the price they receive from the milk they sell to the Organic Valley milk cooperative. But Peace Hollow customers also buy vegetables from the Peace Hollow children or eggs and meat from Myron’s sister. And Myron and Janet just want to make people happy. Other non-organic farmers who sell raw milk do get a higher price than they would from the milk cooperative.
In the eyes of many, raw milk is - well - just plain GOOD!
Next in this series – I will discuss the “Bad” of raw milk, that is, what can possibly go wrong from indulging in it.

Myron and Janet Martin of Peace Hollow Farm

The good life of a dairy cow at Peace Hollow

Milking cows is a family affair

Making corn silage for winter feed

Afternoon nap at Peace Hollow


m. said...

that was dreamy...

-Sydney- said...

Mmmmmm, I grew up on raw milk. My grandmother used to sell it as well, for people to give to their "cats"

megan said...

Dale - my desire for a family cow is now fervently renewed...can't wait for the next article!

Jennifer said...

One of the reasons I love Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Ubervilles" is because of the idyllic depiction of a dairy farm, where a cheerful owner helped his workers also find meaning in their job. It sounds like another such farm exists, centuries later. Thank you for sharing.

I guess I don't understand why regulations have to interfere.

Saffron said...

I remember being at my great grandma's farm when I was young and the warm raw milk being brought in for breakfast. My mom loved to eat it poured on bread with sugar sprinkled on top. Myself, I never did like the smell of it. the fresh butter though was always yummy!

Rachel said...

One of the reasons we took on a couple of goats was so we could have fresh raw milk. Around here the going price for raw milk is $16/gallon and we just can't afford that.