How It Works
Amongst the many reasons we moved here and took on this farm and its many righteous causes was to be self sustaining, another to live a more natural healthy life. Both were motivations in deciding to have dairy cows. To be able to supply ourselves with milk, cream, butter, and the barrage of milk products from cheese to ice cream, supplying ourselves with these things would obviously be a step toward self sustain. Add to that the endless nutritional and health benefits from the raw milk aspect and it was a sure thing. After deciding, we picked our breeds, and here we are.
The problem arose in the fact that one family can only consume so much milk, and the shelf life is not that of freezable meat or canned vegetables. Basically, we knew we would have more than we needed. Having grown up with a father who would stop by Yellowsprings Ohio occasionally to pick up raw milk for the family, Neil had a basic knowledge of the fact that raw milk is… controversial to say the least. Not much investigating at all revealed the sad confusing truth that the sale of raw milk is strictly illegal in the United States. Unless you own a cow, you can only consume raw milk by being given it, and even then it is frowned upon. This was baffling and unreal; if raw milk was so bad and dangerous, why is it legal to drink it at all? Even if you own a cow? Furthermore, with cigarettes and alcohol legal, what is the government doing telling me I cannot distribute my delicious nutritious raw milk?
After doing more research and investigating than we had ever expected (there is a lot of information to sift through), we got to the bottom of things. As with most things, money is at the bottom of the raw milk debate. Money and blind ignorance that is. On one hand you have the big corporate dairies, who stand to loose a significant if not entire chunk of their monopolized hold on the worlds milk supply. On the other hand you have droves of people who are blindly ignorant to the truth, having been fed an endless stream of propaganda as to the health risks of raw milk. Without going too much into that topic as we have a different page to discuss the reality of raw milk, lets just simplify it to the tune of politics being the cause of raw milks bad name and illicitness.
Being motivated and diligent, we discovered what most would call a loophole in the system; the existence of cowshare and herdshare programs. In these programs an individual can purchase a percentage or “share” of a cow or herd. Having legal ownership of said share, one can legally pay a farmer to board and care for their share, and receive an amount of milk equivalent to the amount of the cow/herd that person owns. Many do not realize that the Wall Street Stock Market, originated through the trading of live”stock”, most typically cattle. In fact, cow/herdshares are one of the oldest contracts and agreements humans engaged in once becoming an agricultural society.
Fortunately for those of us in Ohio, we are one of the six states in America to allow herdshares. So, we decided we would do it. It should be said that this was no small decision, as caring for and milking cows is an extremely expensive, time consuming task. Not to mention that the FDA, USDA, ODA, and every other government agency is dead set against farmers providing raw milk. On a regular basis, everyone from local authorities to the Feds conduct sting operations, and armed raids on everyone from a one or two cow farm, to an Amish community. Yes, this both sounds and is absurd, wrong, and bewildering to hear, but rest assured it is true. In fact, just recently, a new Foodie documentary called “Farmageddon” has been made accounting the situation of the illicitness of raw milk.
In looking into the herdshare program here in the Buckeye state, we found that despite being legal, the government had regularly conducted illegal search and seizure raids, sighting technicalities in the wording of documents used to conduct the herdshare agreements. After several years and several “busts” a few farms banned together and formed the Ohio Dairy Grazers Association. They hired an ex-ODA attorney, and had a herdshare contract drawn up specifically worded to Ohio’s Revised Code. Thinking they had a solid contract, they proceeded in their farming. Without wasting any time, the government conducted raids on those specific farms, coming in at four in the morning with fully armed swat team. Needless to say the farmers were quite upset. After releasing the first attorney, they hired a raw milk enthusiast to step in. The case was settled after much time and money, in the favor of the farmers. The judge’s ruling stated that the state of Ohio had no right to interfere with a private contract between two individuals, which was legal according to Ohio’s Revised Code. The case was appealed and set to go before the Ohio Supreme Court when the Governorship changed hands, and the new Governor Ted Strickland having come from a small farm background, changed the head of the ODA and specifically told him to drop the case.
Since then, the ODGA has enjoyed a degree of peace and prosperity. The group expanded and each of the farms have thrived with more demand than any had anticipated or can keep up with. All state that things are moving in a positive direction, and they look forward to growing their herds to make the waiting lists they carry slightly smaller.
Deciding that this was the safest, most legitimate course to take for our farms herdshare aspirations, we contacted the members of the group. After talking with many of the farmers, and visiting six of the nine dairies in Ohio that provided raw milk, we were voted in and accepted in the group. Having to buy in to receive the contract since the group had incurred extensive legal fees in having the contract drawn up and upheld in court, we were good to go.
We are the smallest of Ohio’s raw milk dairies, but plan to expand as the demand and opportunity arises. Being the only raw milk dairy within more than one hundred miles, we look forward to helping meet the needs of families in the Southeast Ohio area. We are also unique in the raw milk scene in that we are the only farm to be working with endangered heritage animals. Literally all of the other dairies have Jersey cows, siting their higher butterfat as a demand from the consumer. We are passionate about saving heritage breeds, but if and when we find an organic old world Jersey, we are open to accepting her into our herd. Lastly, we are as well unique in that we are the only dairy that is running off strictly grass fed organic cows. As mentioned in our bio, we are not and will not be certified organic, but adhere to all (actually more than) the standards to be accepted as organic. For more info on the details, just ask.
For all the reasons listed above, we are on average a higher costing program than our friends at the other raw milk dairies. The program is structured as follows: One share is purchased at a time for $75, this is a one time cost that buys your ownership in our herd. The cost of the shares are reflective of the actual cost incurred in attainment of the animals and the value of the herd. The cost will go up or down depending on the size of the herd. If at any time you decide you no longer wish to be involved in the program, we will buy your share back.
Once you own your share, a “boarding agreement” contract is signed, hiring us to board, care for, and milk your share of the herd. This is a monthly boarding fee of either $30 or $32. The difference is if you want to provide your own containers, or use our standard milk jugs available in half or whole gallon. We drive to Marietta Ohio to purchase these from a large dairy that makes them on site.
The amount of product your share produces will vary slightly depending on stage of lactation, time of year, and quality of pasture the cows are on. Also, being strictly grass fed, the flavors of herbs the animals consume will be somewhat stronger taste wise than the grain fed milk. This is an opportunity to enjoy more complexity and connoisseurship as well as nutrition in the milk, much like a wine can reflect different flavors depending on the area it is grown.
At this time we are only offering milk through our program. However, we have purchased a mint condition nineteen-forty DeLaval Milk and Cream Separator and will be starting to separate cream. At that time we plan to expand the offered products to cream, butter, ice cream, yogurt and kefir, and a variety of soft and hard cheeses. The amount of each product will be figured in the same calculation used to figure the amount of milk. Usually something like one gallon of milk makes a pound of butter, or something like that. Until then, you are able to skim the cream and make the products yourself.