We would like to let you know about an upcoming transition that we are very excited about.
After five fulfilling years of producing the best, healthiest milk for you, our beloved Family Cow customers, we have decided to take the next step in our lives and buy a farm in Tunbridge, Vermont. At this farm we plan to produce organic butter and buttermilk from 100% grass-fed cows. Our products will be made only with our milk, so it will be considered single-source. Our research shows that no one in the U.S. is doing this, and we feel that we are the right people to start a new trend that is healthy for people and the planet!
However, this means that the Family Cow Farmstand in Hinesburg will transition to another farmer sometime this fall. Rest assured that we will work hard to find new farmers with a similar philosophy to ours who will maintain the same high level of quality that you have come to trust. We will work with the new farmers to make sure they have everything they need to continue serving you amazing milk from our happy, healthy cows!
We also want to assure you that we are working diligently to make this transition smooth for you in every sense of the word. One way we will do this is to leave half of our herd with the Family Cow farm so that there will be no disruption in milk production.
Thank-you for all your encouragement and love over the last five years. With your continued support we are changing the way people produce and consume food!
We will keep you updated as this transition develops.
Lindsay and Evan
New Studies Confirm: Raw Milk A Low-Risk Food
Washington DC, June 11, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Three quantitative microbial risk assessments (QMRAs) recently published in the Journal of Food Protection have demonstrated that unpasteurized milk is a low-risk food, contrary to previous, inappropriately-evidenced claims suggesting a high-risk profile. These scholarly papers, along with dozens of others, were reviewed on May 16, 2013 at the Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver, BC (Canada), during a special scientific Grand Rounds presentation entitled “Unpasteurized milk: myths and evidence.”
The reviewer, Nadine Ijaz, MSc, demonstrated how inappropriate evidence has long been mistakenly used to affirm the “myth” that raw milk is a high-risk food, as it was in the 1930s. Today, green leafy vegetables are the most frequent cause of food-borne illness in the United States. British Columbia CDC’s Medical Director of Environmental Health Services, Dr. Tom Kosatsky, who is also Scientific Director of Canada’s National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health,welcomed Ms. Ijaz’s invited presentation as “up-to-date” and “a very good example of knowledge synthesis and risk communication.”
Quantitative microbial risk assessment is considered the gold-standard in food safety evidence, a standard recommended by the United Nations body Codex Alimentarius, and affirmed as an important evidencing tool by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada. The scientific papers cited at the BC Centre for Disease Control presentation demonstrated a low risk of illness from unpasteurized milk consumption for each of the pathogens Campylobacter, Shiga-toxin inducing E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. This low risk profile applied to healthy adults as well as members of immunologically-susceptible groups: pregnant women, children and the elderly.
Given that these QMRAs appear to contradict a long-held scientific view that raw milk is a high-risk food, Ms. Ijaz noted (in line with United Nations standards) that it is important to confirm their accuracy using food-borne outbreak data . The accuracy of recent QMRA findings was scientifically demonstrated using a combination of peer-reviewed data and Ijaz’s own recent scholarly working paper, which analysed U.S. outbreak data for raw milk using accepted methodologies.
Peer-reviewed outbreak data confirming a negligible risk of illness from Listeria monocytogenes in raw milk was particularly notable, and demonstrates the inaccuracy of a high-risk designation given to raw milk in an older U.S. government risk assessment for Listeria. The forty-year worldwide absence of listeriosis cases from raw milk presented in a 2013 scholarly review, and affirmed in the QMRA results published in 2011, is attributed by European reviewers to the protective action of non-harmful bacteria found in raw milk.
“While it is clear that there remains some appreciable risk of food-borne illness from raw milk consumption, public health bodies should now update their policies and informational materials to reflect the most high-quality evidence, which characterizes this risk as low,” said Ijaz. “Raw milk producers should continue to use rigorous management practices to minimize any possible remaining risk.”
Ms. Ijaz used extensive high-quality evidence to further deconstruct various scientific myths from both raw milk advocates and detractors. As Ijaz pointed out, increasing evidence of raw farm milk’s unique health benefits to young children, as well as the possible detriments of industrial milk production practices, will need to be carefully considered in future risk analyses. She recommended an honest, evidence-informed dialogue on raw milk issues between producers, consumers, advocates, legislators and public health officials.
“The BC CDC should be commended for recognizing this important research on raw milk safety,” said Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit nutrition education foundation that provides information on the health benefits of raw, whole milk from pastured cows. “I look forward to productive discussion with the US CDC and Food and Drug Administration in light of this new scientific evidence.”
This ad perpetuates so many fallacies about where the vast majority of our food actually comes from. This slickly produced, romanticized version of our food and food system perpetuates ignorance and apathy. Just an example.. those huge fields you see, the only way they get like that is from being poisoned – literally. The farmers in those tractors hardly touch the soil, if they did, they’d get really sick. Those same people who sit on the mega-tractor all day don’t also handle and raise young livestock or milk the family cow. Thousands of head of livestock are raised or milked elsewhere inside buildings and handled mostly by machines and/or by undocumented migrant workers. It is not their fault or their choice. They get so little money for their products, that the only way is to get HUGE and use mechanized labor and chemical-based practices. Our country used to be like this ad, but the days of the long-lived, passed-down, diversified family farm supporting and perpetuating the family and community are long gone. This is one of the many costs of cheap food. We may think this is changing here in Vermont. But ironically, on super bowl Sunday, I was at an all-day long meeting of the (all farmer) board of Rural Vermont trying to figure out how to increase membership and awareness for the regenerative, diversified farming movement we are trying to legalize. We have 800 members, which is pretty good for us. This is roughly one out of every 1,000 people in this state. At the end of last year we almost had to shut our doors due to lack of funding. Personally, my husband and I actually do work and have the kinds of days like are described in that commercial and have for years. We still brought home less than $30,000 last year – yes, combined, for each of us working way, way more than full-time. I am not bitter and not unhappy, I feel quite the opposite about my choices. I LOVE LOVE LOVE what I do, for many of the reasons beautiflully illustrated in this ad. I am just on a mission to try to tell a tiny bit of the truth. We are constantly over-fed feel-good un-truths so that the powers that be can remain. Does that ad speak to you? If so, don’t buy some Dodge truck… go out and really FARM!!! And by that I mean plant a garden, get a few chickens, raise a pig or milk cow maybe. It is as satisfying as Paul Harvey makes it out to be. And if you can’t do that, by all means, cancel your cable subscription and use that money to buy the kind of food lost farms and farmers that really do all that produce. Oh yeah… and JOIN Rural Vermont.www.ruralvermont.org
We often get asked by parents if it is safe to feed our milk to their kids. Here is a response…
Thanks for your note. I’m so glad you are enjoying the milk. I can totally understand your concern for your daughter. We have a 9 month old daughter. Of course, only you can decide what is the right food for your child!
But here is some info you may find useful… As with any perishable food from anywhere, there is no guarantee of safety. When you look at food safety data there are surprisingly few outbreaks from raw milk, (given all the hype) compared to other foods. The Centers for Disease Control estimates there are around 12 million people who drink raw milk regularly in the US. There are on average 45 reported illnesses per year attributed to drinking raw milk. (This includes people drinking milk from all kinds of farms, many of which are dirty, grain-based industrial dairies that produce for pasteurization.) In the past 30 years, no one has died from drinking raw milk in the US. Here is a comparative example: Adjusting for consumption rates, you are 10x more likely to contract listeriosis (a serious food borne illness) from eating deli meats than from drinking raw milk. This is the pathogen that is especially dangerous for pregnant women and young children. The most recent cases of listeriosis in milk were caused by pasteurized milk and resulted in three deaths in Mass in 2007. There are many times more illnesses attributed to vegetables, fish, poultry and beef then to raw milk. It is incredibly sad that raw milk is so vilified. My personal opinion is that it comes down to a political issue, NOT a food safety issue. I’m trained as a biologist and the data in no way support the crazy fear out there.
We work extremely hard to keep our cows healthy and our production methods clean. Our milk test results are outstanding. We eagerly and joyfully feed our homemade raw dairy products to our 9 month old daughter. She still drinks my milk, but will get our cows’ when she is weaned. With what I’ve learned about the dairy industry, I cringe at the thought of ever feeding her dairy from the store unless I personally know the farm. We sell our milk to hundreds of families every week and have for over 5 years. Many have young children and are very happy to give their kids our milk. Some have sought us out because they were referred by their doctor to find a good source of clean, grass-fed raw milk for their kids. Needless to say, we have never had an issue. So, again, as with every food (and most things in life!) there is no absolute 100% guarantee. We do everything in our power to make the cleanest, safest, healthiest, most wonderful food we possibly can. We farm because we are totally disgusted by ubiquitous industrial food that makes our community chronically and acutely sick while making a few people very very rich.
I hope this helps!!
All the best,
Today I got a letter from our insurance company reminding us that our policy is about to need annual renewal. My heart sunk. We have a great agent, a comprehensive, low-cost policy and peace of mind. In the past year, I’ve gotten some frantic calls from other raw milk farmers desperate to find insurance coverage. They say that the federal government has been pressuring insurance companies to no longer cover raw milk farms. About six months ago, I went to add a piece of equipment onto our policy. At the end of the conversation, the agent said “You sell raw milk over there, right?” Oh no! Well, when our policy comes due in October we are going to have to pay for a special “rider” to cover our raw milk. We don’t yet know how much (nor did my agent) this will cost us. From what I hear from other farmers, this type of “rider” is kind of like Andre the Giant “riding” a mini donkey, designed to crush our ability to do business. This has nothing to do with risk, nothing to do with an increase in claims! The US Centers for Disease Control statistics prove that raw milk is just as safe, even safer than other foods! I am weary of this war on personal freedoms and small farms. We are not forcing anyone to drink our milk. People are clamoring for it. I hope the war the feds and agribusiness is waging against raw milk is because they have reason to feel threatened. Maybe enough people are learning what food really is and is not in significant enough numbers for the “dark side” to be concerned. Thank you to The Atlantic for this…
The Latest Raw Milk Raid: An Attack on Food Freedom?
AUG 15 2011, 2:47 PM ET7
Federal agents organize a sting operation against a tiny raw milk buying club—and ignore more serious food-safety crimes
August 3 was a telling day for food freedom in America, but the events were framed in terms of food safety. In Venice, California, the Rawesome raw food club was raided by armed federal and county agents who arrested a club volunteer and seized computers, files, cash, and $70,000 worth of perishable produce. James Stewart, 64, was charged on 13 counts, 12 of them related to the processing and sale of unpasteurized milk to club members. The other count involved unwashed, room-temperature eggs—a storage method Rawesome members prefer. The agents dumped gallons of raw milk and filled a large flatbed with seized food, including coconuts, watermelons, and frozen buffalo meat.
That same morning, leaders at the multinational conglomerate Cargill were calculating how best to deal with a deadly outbreak of drug-resistant Salmonella that originated in a Cargill-owned turkey factory.
When word of the raw milk crackdown got out, a bevy of high-profile lawyers offered to represent the raw foodies pro bono, says Rawesome member Lela Buttery, 29. Christopher Darden, who helped prosecute O.J. Simpson, appeared at Stewart’s arraignment just in time to lower his bail from the $121,000 that prosecutors had recommended to $30,000, and to strike a rarely used clause that would have prevented Stewart from employing a bail bondsman.
Buttery told me the mood in the courtroom was almost comical when Stewart’s initial $121,000 bail was announced. “We’d been watching child molesters and wife-beaters get half that amount. James is accused of things like processing milk without pasteurization and gets such a high bail amount … the felons in court burst out laughing.”
Rawesome began 12 years ago as a small group of raw-milk drinkers who occasionally pooled their money and bought unpasteurized milk from local dairies. As more and more people joined, the club’s distribution facilities grew from a cooler in a parking lot to a rented storage space to the current warehouse. The inventory diversified, but the presentation remained minimal: food in piles, haphazardly labeled, as agreed on by club members.
Rawesome members sign a form attesting that “as a member of this private members-only club, I demand access to food that is 1) produced without exposure to chemical contaminants such as industrialized pesticides, fertilizers, cleansers or their gases; 2) complete with its natural unadulterated enzymes intact; 3) may contain microbes, including but not limited to salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter, listeria, gangrene and parasites; 4) the cows are grass-fed and the goats are pastured on a regular basis; 5) fowl are regularly given the opportunity to range outdoors and not fed soy products; and 6) eggs are unwashed and may have bacteria and poultry feces on them.”
The August 3 raid was not Rawesome’s first. A June 2010 raid resulted in seizures of cash, computers, and other equipment that has yet to be returned, Buttery says. It also resulted in Rawesome’s agreement not to distribute raw milk from Santa Paula-based Healthy Family Farms, which had been supplying it to Rawesome.
With the prohibition against selling to Rawesome, Healthy Family Farms owner Sharon Palmer, 51, disbanded her dairy herd. Palmer and her employee Victoria Bloch, 58, were also arrested August 3 on charges related to marketing chicken products, one count of which involved Rawesome’s unwashed, room temperature eggs.
California is one of the few states that allow the sale of raw milk, but only from dairies permitted by the state. Until August 3 Rawesome had been obtaining raw milk from a variety of sources. Buttery says many club members object to the Holstein breed used by the one certified raw-milk label in California: Organic Pastures. They prefer milk from heirloom cattle varieties that contain different proteins. And many members prefer the milk of goats, sheep, or even camels. It’s safe to say that uncertified raw milk was being spilt at Rawesome, which would indeed be illegal. But since the general public can’t just walk in and buy raw camel milk, Rawesome members believe there’s nothing wrong with a private club of consenting adults obtaining unpasteurized raw milk together.
Later that day, as Stewart, Palmer, and Bloch languished in jail, Cargill issued its voluntary recall, four months after people began getting sick, of 36 million pounds of ground turkey traceable to an Arkansas plant. Cargill has a history of deadly outbreaks, is a major supplier to the nation’s public-school meal programs, and sells turkey under dozens of brand names, none of which include the word “Cargill.”
The labels at Rawesome don’t say much either, but records in the club’s office sourced each batch of raw milk. This information, before it was seized, was available to members. If a contamination issue were to have flared up, members contend, it could have been much more quickly traced than, say, that Cargill turkey. Buttery says that in 12 years there hasn’t been a reported problem.
Despite a lack of victims, Rawesome stands accused. And while Cargill has no shortage of victims, nobody at the company has been charged with a crime over the turkey recall. The government has fewer options against multinational corporations than it does against neighborhood food co-ops. USDA oversees the safety of meat products but can only encourage “voluntary recalls” of products that have been infected with antibiotic-resistant pathogens, reports Tom Philpott of Mother Jones. The final decision to recall was left to the company, which inevitably considered the bottom line as well as public safety when making its decision.
While Cargill self-polices, the Rawesome club has been under more intense scrutiny than members even realized. “Since the raid it’s come out that we’ve been under investigation since June 30 of last year,” Buttery says. “They’ve been monitoring us from unmarked vehicles; they have agents who have become members.”
The L.A. County prosecutor’s office has advised defense attorneys to expect a “voluminous discovery period” for the trial, in part because there were two sets of undercover investigators. And they have made motions to add new charges, including tax evasion, money laundering, and illegal resale of food.
The proceedings against the “Rawesome Three” have been compared to the trial of the Chicago Seven, as well as a street corner shell game. The new charges are unrelated to the initial raid on raw milk, and they threaten to distract from the heart of the issue: whether consumers can enter into private leasing arrangements, which are similar to arrangements commonly used on a daily basis by all kinds of businesses in the U.S., to obtain their food. The Rawesome situation seems barely different from, say, a group of co-workers going to a colleague’s house for lunch, and they drop him some paper in return.
Despite massive financial problems in California and Washington, D.C., the government was able to find enough money for a multi-year, multi-agency undercover investigation to root out information that nobody was trying to hide. Details on the provenance of Rawesome’s raw milk is available to all members, including the undercover government agents.
While the Cargills of the world get to help decide the rules, tax dollars are being used to do away with freedom of choice. This is the state of food freedom in America today: It’s being sacrificed in the name of food safety.
PROVIDED Evan Reiss and Lindsay Harris of Family Cow Farmstand in Hinesburg own two of the growing number of micro-dairies appearing throughout Vermont that provide raw milk for customers.
As the milk churns
Micro-dairies bemoan ban on raw milk sales in stores
This spring, as lambs once again graze upon Vermont’s meadows, there is a new breed of farm expanding in their midst. It is the micro-dairy, and it is proliferating at an encouraging rate throughout Vermont.
These farms are carrying on the work of the larger farms which have dotted Vermont’s hills and valleys since its inception, but are now greatly depleted due to the overwhelming cost of doing business. These smaller dairies are the passion of those who, like their predecessors, are dedicated to providing the best in sustenance for their families and customers while caring for their animals and for the land itself.
Vermont’s new farmers are going back to what once were basic, natural ways of producing food, yet in safer, cleaner, more secure settings provided by ever-growing technologies.
Family Cow Farmstand on Shelburne Falls Road in Hinesburg is a raw (unpasteurized)-milk micro-dairy, the first state-certified raw-milk dairy in Vermont, according to co-owner Lindsay Harris.
Harris was a field biologist and wetlands ecologist for the State of Vermont when she and her husband, Evan Reiss, who has a degree in ecological agriculture from the University of Vermont, decided to farm full-time three years ago. Though she was born in New Jersey, her grandparents lived in Vermont.
“I was born to farm,” she said. Her husband, also “a born farmer,” she said, grew up in Hines-burg. Their first child is due in May.
The Harrises have 17 Jersey and Guernsey cows and young livestock, breeds known for their high protein and butter fat. They milk six of them.
“Why raw milk?” said Harris. “Because it’s better tasting: rich, yet not heavy, a healthy whole food with amazing flavor.” When the milk is pasteurized, she said, the natural enzymes and probiotics that aid in digestion are destroyed.
The cows are grass-fed and the Harrises sell directly to their customers, as state law prevents the sale of raw milk in stores. The Vermont Health Department contends that is for safety reasons, because raw milk could potentially contain harmful bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli.
Though recent legislation has loosened regulations somewhat in Vermont, farmers still cannot skim the milk to make cream and butter for sale purposes.
Explaining the difference between the dietetic approach of small farms versus that of corporate farms, Harris said, “A cow is born to eat grass. Her digestive system is set up that way and, as a result, the pH in her stomach is in balance. When she has a healthy pH, her rumen is supporting a whole community of beneficial organisms that help her digest her food.
“But, when a cow is fed grain and concentrated feeds, which is what commercial cows are fed almost exclusively, they [cannot digest it]; they get a condition called acidosis and become susceptible to pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli. Those nasty bacteria don’t have any competition; the beneficial bacteria are very reduced, out of balance, and the cows can get sick.”
“The industry standard is that it’s okay to put diseased milk into the system because you’re just going to pasteurize it. It’s more about money than it is about health.
“When you have healthy cows and a clean farm, there’s no reason to pasteurize,” she said.
Other farmers who provide raw milk for a living are in resounding agreement. Doug Flack of Flack Family Farm on Pumpkin Hill Road in Enosburg has a friend in California who milks 330 cows, all on pasture land, producing raw butter, raw milk, raw cream, kefir, raw yogurt and cheeses sold in 350 retail stores.
In Maine, Flack said, numerous raw-milk dairies have been selling their products to stores for at least 10 years.
“Anyone who has drank raw milk from good, clean, healthy herds can testify to its benefits,” said Sara Armstrong Donegan of Trillium Hill Farm on Route 116 in Hinesburg village.
The industry has taken away so much control from farmers that it forces them to compete in a market where they’re losing money, Harris said. This isn’t true for smaller dairies.
“That’s why we love to do what we do,” she said. “We can produce an extremely high-quality product and have control over our pricing. Last year, our vet bills for two little kittens were three times as much as for our entire herd. We feed grass, and the grass makes healthy milk, safe milk, and it takes care of the cows: it’s a beautiful, efficient system.”
Though regulatory hoops can be challenging, Harris said, the new laws allow farmers to sell up to 40 gallons of raw milk per day. “It’s exciting,” she said.
Harris and Flack both serve on the board of Rural Vermont, a statewide grassroots organization dedicated to building a prosperous rural life. “There are very unfortunate limitations in the new bill which are hard to work around, and we’re working on getting some of those changed,” she said.
Farmers recognize the fact that raw milk has had an unfortunate reputation in the past, Harris said. “But nowadays, when we know how to care for cows, can vaccinate against infectious diseases, we have advances in sanitation and know how to keep our equipment clean, the data just don’t support that.”
Armstrong Donegan and her husband, James Donegan, raise goats.
“They’re really wonderful creatures,” she said. “We’ve both lived with digestive problems, and have found relief and renewal from drinking the fresh milk that our goats produce.”
The Donegans are currently focusing on their Community Supported Agriculture sales to about 25 families. They also sell milk to Beth Sengle, a caterer at NRG, and to the Farmhouse Tap and Grill in Burlington. They milk nine goats, grow vegetables and raise pastured laying hens.
When it became legal to advertise, they did so and their customer base has grown accordingly. Like the Harrises, the Donegans foster an ideal environment for their goats in terms of diet and housing, using foods and herbs that support their immune systems.
“Pasteurization is cooking milk and just like when you cook any food, you lose some of the nutritional value of the food,” Armstrong Donegan said. At Flack Family Farm, workers are immersed in biodynamic farming and educate the public through farm visits, seminars and even plays. Flack has a Doctor of Philosophy in ecology, zoology and botany, and has a vast knowledge of grass farming.
The farm herd is comprised of 15 mature cows as well as young stock, bulls and beef animals. Flack milks between four and six cows for the micro-dairy, providing raw milk to some 20 families in the area.
Natural minerals and planned grazing for their American Milking Devon cattle, Flack said, rejuvenate the soil, sequester carbon, and yield nutrient-dense foods and medicines in what they produce. This includes dairy products inclusive of raw milk, grass-fed beef and pork, eggs, fermented vegetables and herbal tinctures.
Flack said he is frustrated with the “situation that Vermont has gotten itself into, where we’ve been trying to compete on a national scale for commodity milk and we’ve lost too many family farms.”
“We’ve sent off the land a population roughly equal to the size of Burlington since the early ’70s. These are special people with diverse skills; [professionals] who are highly motivated and work without complaining for hours on end . . . we’ve been very slow as a state to wake up to the devastation this has created to rural Vermont.”
The potential for producing nutrient-dense food here in Vermont, Flack said, includes those foods “grown outdoors from animals that are [pastured], all raised in the sunlight. Right on the top of the list is raw dairy.”
“The best medical practitioners of the mid-20th century [at] big clinics such as Yale, Mayo and Johns Hopkins were aware that certified raw milk was one of their most effective tools for not only producing healthy people, but for healing serious illness,” Flack said. “This is fully documented in the scientific literature. There’s a whole literature on the subject.
“Roughly 300 organic dairy farms are shipping commodity organic milk to competing companies, but there’s a long way to go before they receive parity,” he said.
Citing the “powerful new interest” in small dairies and in farming generally that is now being realized, Flack said, “There’s this fabulous collection of people in Vermont now who are rebuilding the farmscape.
“Here we have this demand and hundreds of small farmers starting to take on family cows and wanting to have raw-milk dairies and not necessarily small dairies . . . it could move so quickly and heal so many people if we created the proper environment, which includes education for consumers, for legislators and other leaders. It needs some serious education for the so-called food experts and the medical establishment; educational opportunities for farmers who are interested.”
“It’s sad,” Harris said. “We make butter and cheese, and we really enjoy a wonderful bounty from the farm. We’re working to get [the laws] changed so that our customers can enjoy those products, too, but right now the law forbids it.”