Baby Steps to Raw Milk legalization in Oregon

March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015

Raw milk producers in Oregon have reason to rejoice.  The state senate there is moving to quickly pass a bill that would make it lawful for raw milk producers to advertise their product. It is currently prohibited.

The bill (HB 2446) will, in its own words, “Delete prohibition against advertising by unregulated producer engaged in small-scale on-premises sale of raw milk directly to consumer”.

Oregon is one of 30 states that allow for the sale of raw milk. The Oregon law restricts this sale to On-Farm sales only and limits the farmers to 2 cows in production. They simultaneously prohibited any advertising of raw milk.

Christine Anderson, a raw milk producer and farmer in McMinnville, Oregon had her raw milk prices listed on her farm’s website. In 2012 the Oregon Department of Agriculture told her that she was in violation of the law and that the prices must be removed or she would face fines or jail time. Anderson in response brought a suit against the state saying that the advertising prohibition was unconstitutional; a violation of her right to free speech. Her raw milk, was after all a lawful product to sell under Oregonian law.

There appears to be no opposition of the bill in the state senate and it is expected to move swiftly through the legislature. This bill addresses only the advertising prohibition and will not be attempting other changes to the state’s raw milk law.

 

 

New Raw Milk Bill to be introduced to Vermont Legislature

February 23, 2015
February 23, 2015

Barnard, Vt Representative Teo Zagar will introduce a new raw milk bill to the legislature in the coming weeks. The aim of the bill according to Rural Vermont is to “to expand economic opportunity and create fairness for raw milk producers as well as expand choice and access for raw milk customers”.

The bill aims to amend the current Vermont Raw Milk Law which can be found here. It proposes 8 amendments to the current law. These proposed amendments range from labeling on the milk jars, testing raw milk and the distribution of raw milk.

There are several changes in particular that American Micro-Dairies supports on the proposed bill:

1. The proposed bill would permit the sale of value-added dairy products: cheese aged 60 days or more, cream, skim milk, butter, kefir, and yogurt (all Tiers). Currently it is unlawful in Vermont to sell any value added dairy product made of raw milk.

2. The proposed bill would change the wording of the labels placed on each jar sold  of raw milk. Currently the bill requires the label reads:

“This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause illness particularly in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems and in pregnant women can cause illness, miscarriage or fetal death, or death of a newborn.”

Zagar’s proposal changes the wording to:

“Unpasteurized (Raw) Milk. Not pasteurized. Keep refrigerated. Raw milk is not pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys organisms that may be harmful to health. If handled improperly, raw milk may be harmful to health. Raw milk must be kept at 40 degrees or less at all times.”

The proposed labeling recognizes the risk of consuming a raw product but does not resort to scare tactics and sensationalism. It is a more unbiased label that does not aim to hurt the raw milk producer but rather only to keep the consumer informed of risk.

4. The proposed bill would increase of the allowed weekly production of raw milk for both Tier I producers (up to 100 gallons) and Tier II producers (to more than 100 gallons with no limit).  Currently the limits of production are 87.5 gallons and 280 gallons per week respectively. The increase in production would present significant economic gains for raw milk producers.

Parts of the proposed bill cause concern at American Micro-Dairies. Specifically the proposed change of  the bi-monthly testing standard for somatic cell count from 225,000/ml for cows and 500,000/ml for goats to a monthly testing standard of 400,000/ml for cows and 750,000/ml for goats for Tier II producers. Somatic cell counts are integral to determining the health of the lactating animal. The proposed higher counts would be much closer to the counts that are cause for concern for the health of the animal.

If you live in Vermont and would like to see this bill acquire more representative co-sponsors Rural Vermont is asking for your help by 4pm tomorrow (2/24/15). They are asking you to call your representative and urge their support of the bill.

 

West Virginia Moves Towards Passing Raw Milk Legislation

February 23, 2015
February 23, 2015

This past Friday (2/20/15) the West Virginia state senate narrowly (18 to 16) passed legislation that would allow its residents to participate in cow sharing operations to drink raw milk. A cow sharing arrangement allows for multiple families to “buy” a cow and hire a farmer to care for and milk said cow. Because the families own the cow they are then allowed to consume her milk. Typically the farmer already has and milks said cow and then finds families to pay for the cow and thus the milk upfront. It is much like how a CSA model funds vegetables farms.  Most anti-raw milk legislation surrounds selling the milk and not around drinking milk from your own cow.   Many states don’t formally acknowledge the legality of the cow sharing practice and so farms have been operating in the legal grey area of this loop hole to anti raw milk legislation. Now West Virginia is moving to formally acknowledge and legalize this practice. Currently, Colorado, Indiana, Wyoming and Ohio are the only states that legally permit cow sharing. To see an articulate example of cow sharing in the “field” visit the website of Colorado farm James Ranch. Their webpage has a cost breakdown of the program, boarding contract, herd health, bill of sale, and dairy operation standards. The West Virginia bill next moves to the House of Delegates. Stay tuned West Virginians!

Dairy Diaries: Rock Paper Scissors Goat Dairy, Part 4.

August 19, 2014
August 19, 2014

 

Welcome to Rock Paper Scissor’s last installment of Dairy Diaries. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about their experiences running a small goat dairy in Cummington, MA. We encourage you to reach out to them if you’re ever in the area so you can try some of their fresh goat’s milk. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can donate to their operation here. Thanks for reading, and we look forward to continuing the Dairy Diary series by hearing from more awesome micro-dairy farmers around the country!

***

Expect the Unexpected!

About a week ago, Angie and I were getting ready to sit down to dinner with everyone from the homestead, and someone shouted out that one of our goats was in the road!  We were pretty shocked because Angie had just milked and put everyone in their evening enclosure.  And when we did a quick headcount, sure enough, everyone was accounted for– thank goodness!

There is a community spirit that is present in this lovely little town of Cummington, MA, and it is the kind of thing I hope I never take for granted.  During dinner two other neighbors drove up to let us know one of our goats was in the road, and we thanked them and gave our assurance that it wasn’t our goat.  I have to say, it was pretty amazing to have three separate sets of folks (all of whom we’d never met before) take the time to help with a lost animal.

Just before dessert, a little black and white doeling ran right up to our herd.  Meet Trouble!

Trouble the goat

Trouble stayed with us ten whole days before we found her people.  We called her Trouble affectionately, but there was no doubt in our minds how she ended up wandering the streets– that little goat can jump!  She kept us on our toes for sure.  We called around to other farms and neighbors, put the word out of the internet, and even put up “Goat Found!” flyers around town.

It turns out, she jumped out of a car while being transported to her new home.  She walked/ran/jumped about for an amazing 7.5 miles to get to our farm!  So even if she is fairly mischievous, you’ve got to admire the tenacity in that smart little goat.  We were happy to have a visitor for a few days, glad to reunite Trouble with her owners, and grateful to the experience to remind us that this is what small-scale farming is about.  It’s about knowing your neighbors, making connections, and keeping each other and our creatures safe when things go awry.

 

Dairy Diaries: Rock Paper Scissors Goat Dairy, Part 3.

August 4, 2014
August 4, 2014

The Business Side of Dairy

We’re a brand new small farm operation and are in no way business experts.  But, here’s some business-y things that have worked well for us, and we hope may help you!

A catchy, memorable name

Many people remark about our dairy’s name.  Rock Paper Scissors was an obvious choice for us, and we settled on it quickly.  Angie and I often play the game rock paper scissors to help us make everyday decisions.  It’s fun, quirky, and suits us.  People tell us that it’s easy to remember, too, which is key since so much of our marketing is done in person and spread by word of mouth.

Website

Today, when so many people use their phones to access the internet, having a versatile, functional website that works on various devices is essential.  Our website (http://rockpaperscissorsgoatdairy.com/) is hosted on WordPress, a site that is very simple to use.

Raw milk websites

We’re listed on every raw milk website I can find.  I make sure to use SEO (search engine optimization) at every juncture to increase our visibility and allow folks to find us easily through Google, etc.

Flyers

Don’t underestimate the old school ways!  We get calls regularly from folks saying they found out about us from a flyer.  I try to keep them up at all the food co-ops and farm stores in a 30 miles radius.

Social Networking

Facebook is actually quite useful for name recognition.  Our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/rockpaperscissorsgoatdairy) is definitely helpful for connecting to local resources, farmers, and potential customers.  Other, more skilled folks may also find value in Twitter, Instagram, etc; I’m still working on it!

Utilizing Area Resources

Find the local resources that exist to support you!  We advertise in print and online (http://www.farmfresh.org/food/farm.php?farm=3635) with CISA, an incredible local food resource.  We also belong to our local NOFA chapter– NOFA has extensive resources and supports for beginning farmers.

A Healthy Dose of Realism and Inordinate Amounts of Flexibility

Basically nothing goes according to plan in a brand new farming venture.  Goats are hard to find, state laws make your life frustrating, milk literally gets spilled, and people cry.  I have to work an off-site job, money is tight, and most days have at least one unreasonably challenging part.  It is necessary to firmly hold within ourselves why we choose to farm, our aspirations for the people we want to be, the community we want to support and build, and the values we care so much about.  And, at the end of each day, we lay our heads down knowing we will wake tomorrow to a life we love and believe in.

-Angie & Lee

Dairy Diaries: Rock Paper Scissors Goat Dairy, Part 2

July 21, 2014
July 21, 2014

Introducing the Rock Paper Scissors Herd!

Finch It is most fitting to start with Finch.  She is an Alpine/Oberhasli cross and is our eldest goat at just three years old.  Finch loves her head scratched between her beautiful horns, and her friendly disposition and firm yet gentle approach allows her to be an excellent herd leader.  She makes the most adorable tiny contented noises when she eats her grain and stands so still on the stand, it’s like she understands this is her job. Pippi Pippi is Finch’s daughter and can often be found right by her side.  She is a two year old Alpine/Oberhasli cross, and a funny little sweetheart goat who loves to drink water straight out of the hose.  Pippi is a leader in training and is always at the front of the herd when we run the goats out to pasture and back in for milking.  She is mild mannered and eager to please, a gem on the stand, and friendly with the herd. Myrtle Myrtle is a purebred Alpine who we named after Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter because she is a real talker, even when she’s eating!  Myrtle is a bit of a nutcase on the milking stand with antics from her standard stompy toddler syndrome to her most extreme trick being to simply lay down.  Myrtle is our biggest producer, so we’re hoping this behavior mellows with age.  In the meantime, we keep reminding ourselves how adorable she is off the stand! Rosemary Rosemary is a yearling LaMancha/Nubian cross whose first freshening is surprisingly abundant given her small udder.  She stands perfectly still being milked, goes wherever she’s directed without fuss, and is happy and content even at the very bottom of the herd’s pecking order.  Sometimes the most seemingly ordinary goat is the one you’re most grateful to have! Flo Flo is our other yearling LaMancha/Nubian cross, and what she lacks in production she makes up for in personality!  Flo has a hilariously dramatic voice that can easily be picked out from the crowd.  She is solidly middle of the pack, fast, agile, and loves playing with the other goats.  Flo is not embarrassed to kick up her heels and jump around like she’s still a kid herself. Mouse Mouse is our dreamy little purebred Saanen with excellent production and selective hearing.  She is a bit of a loner, completely content to do her own thing.  There’s something terribly charming about her even though she is always the very last goat when we run them out to pasture, as she is easily distracted by all the delicious temptations along the way.

Rory

Pond

Rory and Pond are our two Alpine/Saanen cross kids.  Their big personalities and sweet little faces charm the socks off every farm visitor. The two of them keep the herd on its toes with Pond leading the charge as reckless adventurer with Rory not far behind, cautiously assessing each situation before jumping in.  They’ll both crawl in your lap and fall asleep if you let them (and let me tell you, it happens regularly).

Photo credits: Photos of Pippi, Myrtle, Mouse, and Pond by Kate Selden; photos of Rory, Flo, Rosemary, and Finch by Angie Arahood.

Dairy Diaries: Rock Paper Scissors Goat Dairy, Part 1.

July 8, 2014
July 8, 2014

Dairy Diaries

In an effort to promote all the wonderful small dairies out there, we’re excited to announce our new blog series, Dairy Diaries. In this series, we’ll hear stories from dairy farmers from around the country. Each farm will be featured for four weekly installments, allowing them to share their wide variety of experiences.

As the micro-dairy movement grows, we anticipate that the unique perspectives of dairy farmers will become more and more valuable. After all, it’s from our peers that we often glean the most valuable information, whether it be a cheap way to fix a stanchion, a valuable tip for detecting milk fever, or the best source for milk pails.

As we all know, no two farms are alike, and we here at American Micro-Dairies hope that  by providing a diverse range of perspectives on the industry, we’ll inspire, encourage, and fortify the farmers and would-be farmers out there.

For our first guest bloggers, we’ve selected Angie and Lee of Rock Paper Scissors Goat Dairy in Cummington, MA. The two of them are in their first season of providing milk to their community, so it seemed like a wonderful time for them to discuss the trials and tribulations of the dairy industry. So without further ado, we present to you the first installment of Dairy Diaries. We hope you enjoy it!

(P.S. If you’re interested in participating in Dairy Diaries, email us!)

***

Rock Paper Scissors Goat Dairy, Part 1

 

Rock Paper Scissors Goat Dairy was actualized almost as quickly as one plays the game.  Angie and I met Sarah Fournier-Scanlon from Taproot Commons Farm at the NOFA conference in August 2013 and less than a year later, our goat micro-dairy launched!  We started Rock Paper Scissors with the support and encouragement from our fantastic community–they’ve been behind us from the very beginning.

For our start-up, we ran an indiegogo campaign to which 94 people contributed, and we used those donations to build our little herd and buy our equipment and hay.  Additionally, Sarah’s support has been invaluable.  She welcomed us into her community and onto her land with tremendous generosity.  Sarah runs a cow micro-dairy on site, so nearly all the necessary infrastructure existed on our arrival.  She got our town’s first raw milk license and built the milkhouse and farmstand.  Starting our dairy in less than a year was a big job, though in the world of farming, our start-up was a breeze!   For this and many other reasons, we’re incredibly blessed to have Rock Paper Scissors at Taproot Commons Farm.  We believe this community-focused style of farming is the wave of the future and are so excited for this unique opportunity.

Angie built our beautiful milking parlor out of wood sustainably-harvested from the farm and milled on-site.  Here it is before:

rock paper scissors barn BEFORE (800x600)

And after!

rock paper scissors barn AFTER

An awful lot of time, energy, love, and white paint went into making this parlor a reality, and we think it’s pretty awesome!  Certified Grade A dairy start-up is a good deal of work here in Massachusetts.  The laws around raw milk sales here are incredibly strict, and we work tirelessly to exceed the standards required.

Right now, we’re milking just 6 does, and we sell raw milk seven days a week at our farmstand in Cummington, MA (just 20 miles NW of Northampton).  It has been a wild ride so far, but we’re strapped in and ready for the adventure.

(This post has been approved by Pond, Flo, Finch, Rosemary, and Rory.)

rock paper scissors goats

 

Our Stance on Raw vs. Pasteurized Milk

March 25, 2014
March 25, 2014

There’s a lot of heated debate concerning raw vs. pasteurized milk. Folks on both sides are adamant and impassioned, and for good reason: the diet choices we make play a huge role in our health. What we put into our bodies is a very personal choice–a mix of cultural traditions, dietary trends, personal preference, and health restrictions.

For American Micro-Dairies (AMD), the raw vs. pasteurized issue is one of personal choice: we support your right to make an educated decision about what sort of milk you and your family consume. We want both options to be viable options–viable for you as a consumer, and economically viable for the producer.

What we are against is putting milk on a truck. We envision a world where your milk comes from your community. This means you get a fresher product, produced by cows you’ve petted, farmers you’ve chatted with, from land you’ve stepped foot on. For us, milk is a local food issue. We want people to be drinking milk from their neighbors. We want the dairy farmers to be the ones making the money, since they’re the ones who contribute to working agricultural landscapes, who care for the animals that produce the dairy products we all crave. They’re not out to get rich, and they don’t wreck our watersheds or pollute our air with fossil fuels, either.

Our goal is happy farmers who milk happy, comfortable cows, goats, or sheep; farmers who can pay their bills, who enjoy the time they spend with their animals, who know their customers. The focus has been on raw vs. pasteurized, but the real issue for us at AMD is an issue of scale: smaller-scale dairy operations are more beneficial to farmers, livestock, and community members. Just because a dairy is small doesn’t mean it only offers raw milk: many micro-dairies are choosing to pasteurize on a small scale, in response to the preferences of their customers. Drink cooked or uncooked milk, we don’t care; all we care is that you’re drinking safe and delicious farm-fresh milk that was produced near where you live.

It’s hard to find good, objective data on this subject, because data always benefits one camp or the other. And so we ask that you do your research: talk to consumers on both sides of the issue. Read what the FDA has to say about raw milk, and what the Weston A. Price Foundation has to say. Do a taste test of raw and pasteurized milk with your family. Visit a large and a small dairy operation. You can’t afford to be swayed by other people’s passion, and you shouldn’t take other people’s word for what’s best for your body–decide for yourself what feels like the right choice for you.

At AMD, we believe that customers deserve legal access to both raw and pasteurized milk. As of right now, many states make it very difficult for farmers to sell raw milk. This means that farmers have less opportunity to make a profit, and customers are left with only one choice (pasteurized). We are against you having only one choice (though if you live in a city, access to raw milk may not be possible). Therefore, instead of working in opposition, let’s work together to establish a range of choices that will allow each of us to fulfill our individual needs.

-Taylor M. Katz, Program Director

milking a goat in the field

Great News for Small Scale Producers!

March 5, 2014
March 5, 2014

It’s been an exciting week here at American Micro-Dairies. To begin with, we’ve just received notice that we’ve been approved as a 501(c)(3), which means we can now accept tax-deductible donations! It has been a long road to achieving non-profit status and we are so thrilled to have finally passed this important benchmark. If you believe in what we’re doing and want to support small-scale dairy producers, please donate today—our appreciation knows no bounds!

Raw milk production and sales continues to be a pressing topic for small-scale producers. American Micro-Dairies exists to help small-scale producers make a living off their dairy endeavors, and for many, this means the sales of raw milk to their friends and neighbors.

As we all know, raw milk is a highly debated issue. Oftentimes, the “dangers” of raw milk are touted as the most significant reason for its lack of legality in so many states. Lucky for all of us, the Farm-toConsumer Foundation has come up with “Raw Milk University,” a series of webinars about how to produce raw milk in a safe and economically sound manner.

These webinars are for raw milk producers who want to learn what’s important in starting a raw milk dairy or improving any dairy and/or raw milk operation.  The series gives participants the opportunity to learn from experts in the raw milk community and offers sessions specifically for cow producers and goat producers, as well as an Open Forum where attendees can lead the discussion and ask questions directly to the experts on any topic that is of concern to them.

These webinars were launched in January 2014 and will continue on with the following courses:

April 9th: “What and How to Feed your Raw Milk Dairy Cow and the Microbes She Lives On”

April 16th: “Spring Lactation and Kid Management for the Raw Milk Dairy Goat”

July 9th: “Milking Practices for High Quality Raw Cow Milk” and

“Milk Room and Milking Equipment Setup and Maintenance”

July 16th: “Summer Dairy Goat Management in the High Production Months of Lactation and Breeding”

October 8th: “A Holistic Review of the Raw Milk Dairy Farm and Tools Used to Properly Assess Quality and Safety”

October 15th: “Fall Dry Dairy Goat Management and End of Lactation”

April 16th; July 16th; October 15th: Open Forums

All webinars are held at 1:00 pm EST and run approximately an hour and a half with ample time for Q & A after the featured presentation.

 Click here to register!

The third exciting bit of news for this week concerns the Vermont Farm Fund. For those of you unfamiliar with this organization, it was founded by Pete of Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, VT, after a barn fire that occurred on his farm. In the aftermath of the fire, he was amazed by the support provided to him by his neighbors and his community. Donations poured in from all sorts of sources, allowing Pete to begin rebuilding earlier than he’d thought possible. Pete was so inspired by this outpouring of support that he pledged to “pay it forward,” enabling others to receive the sort of support he did. With his seed money and a partnership with The Center for an Agricultural Economy, The Vermont Farm Fund was founded.

This organization provides loans when farmers need it most: in the wake of disaster. In addition, the fund now offers innovation loans to help farmers and food producers capitalize their business ideas.

We bring this to your attention today because for those of you in Vermont, this is a valuable resource, a newly established form of support provided specifically for you. We encourage all of you to apply for an innovation loan, or if not, keep this foundation in mind in case of an emergency.

That’s all we’ve got for this week. We wish you a successful and smooth kidding season, lambing season, and calving season!

-Taylor

ef8823c90bb78667bb79faceb3d381ae

Check it out: our picks for this year’s NOFA-VT conference.

February 4, 2014
February 4, 2014

The annual NOFA-VT conference is fast approaching (February 15-17 in Burlington, VT) and we thought we’d provide a list of workshops associated with dairy farms and processing. We’ve also provided additional information (via linked businesses) so you can learn about who’s teaching the workshops. We’ll see you at the conference! (Workshop descriptions are from the NOFA-VT conference website.)

 

Saturday

10:45am-12noon: Calf Health Today for Tomorrow’s Production

Raising calves in New England’s climate can be challenging. Amy D. Bartholomew, VMD, a large animal veterinarian from Cold Hollow Veterinary Service in Enosburg Falls, Vermont will present about strategies for feeding and managing calves for optimal health and future production. Common problems encountered in calf rearing will be discussed along with preventive practices and organic treatments, calf housing and solutions to ventilation challenges.

2:15-3:30pm: Milk Quality and Nutrition: From Glass to Farm

How does organic milk differ from conventional milk? Is it tastier or have greater nutritional value?  How do farm management practices affect milk quality? In this workshop, presenters will explore these questions by discussing research on the health benefits of organic milk and farming practices that affect milk quality. John Barlow and Jana Kraft are both Assistant Professors in UVM’s Department of Animal Sciences, and John Cleary is the New England Manager for Organic Valley Coop.

3:45-5pm: Grazing and Pasture Management: Improving Design & Troubleshooting Problems

This workshop will focus on the use of good grazing management principles to improve pasture system design, get the most from your pastures, and avoid common grazing mistakes. Presenters Sarah Flack and Adam Wilson will use photos of real farm examples to explain troubleshooting tactics and how to make improvements to pasture plants, soils, fencing, water systems, and lanes. Adam Wilson is co-owner of the grass-finished beef operation and micro dairy Bread and Butter Farm, and Sarah Flack is an independent consultant and NOFA-VT technical advisor, nationally known for her public speaking, workshops, books and articles on a range of agricultural topics.

or

3:45-5pm: Scale-Appropriate Regulation: Rural Vermont’s Campaign for Raw Milk

Small-scale raw dairy offers exciting opportunities for diversified farms. This workshop is designed to be both informative and interactive as participants learn the story of how Vermont’s raw milk regulations came to be and where they are headed. Staff member Rob Kidd from Rural Vermont and Board members Ben Crockett and Ashlyn Bristle from Wild Carrot Farm will describe the current campaign to make improvements to regulations and will seek participants’ ideas on how to improve access to raw milk.

 

Sunday

2:15-3:30pm: Cows, Climate, and Why Grazing Matters

While livestock are often maligned for their environmental impact, proper management that situates animal behavior in a holistic context can actually play a key role in addressing climate change. This talk will explore soil carbon, hydrology, biodiversity and how new research on climate empowers organic farmers and land managers. Judith Schwartz is author of Cows, Climate, and Why Grazing Matters and Abe Collins is a consultant, grazer and the president of Collins Grazing, LLC.

*Check out this NPR interview with Judith Schwartz about her book “Cows Save the Planet.”

3:45-5pm: Tips and Techniques For Running a Successful Micro-Dairy

Do you milk cows as a hobby and want to make it a business? Do you currently have a micro dairy, but want to milk fewer cows and spend more time with each cow? Come to this workshop and hear the story of one successful farm that has been making a living milking eight cows. Kayln Campbell started dairy farming three years ago on a jersey farm in Pennsylvania, and recently bought the Family Cow Creamery in Hinesburg. Henry Cammack currently works at Shelburne Farms and the Family Cow Farmstand.