From Conventional to Raw Dairy Farming

So, this guy just blew me away. I was so impressed by his story as well as his farming practices. He was born into a farming family. His parents started dairy farming when he was 4 or 5. He said he always dreamed of being a dairy farmer, and was getting paid to do dairy work before he was even 10 years old.

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Cows grazing on pasture. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A few days ago I had the privilege of meeting a new raw dairy farmer in town. I was at a WAPF potluck (which are the BEST potlucks EVER, by the way), and the raw dairy farmer and his wife were there. I had learned about them a few months previously when they moved to the area, and had been interested in possibly switching over to them, so I was excited to learn they would be presenting at the potluck.

So, this guy just blew me away. I was so impressed by his story as well as his farming practices. He was born into a farming family. His parents started dairy farming when he was 4 or 5. He said he always dreamed of being a dairy farmer, and was getting paid to do dairy work before he was even 10 years old.

His parents did dairy farming the old fashioned way. The cows grazed on pasture and the milk was sold raw. My mom was raised on raw milk around this time.  That was in the day when the milk man would deliver bottles of fresh milk every day. Can you imagine? I could only dream of such service now!

By the time he was an adult, dairy farming had become much different for most dairy farmers. I missed the part of his story where he went from being a farm boy to working for Biotech, but somehow he got to working for Monsanto. His dairy farm was pretty conventional. He used all kinds of chemicals on it. He talked about how he would go to workshops for how to kill flies and how to kill birds with poisons. He was taught that it was important that the poison killed the birds instantly so they didn’t fly off and drop into people’s yards. He was learning how to spend $6000 a month to throw poisons on his farm to kill these nuisances. Can you imagine?

Of course his animals would get sick, just like all conventionally raised animals do. They ate GMO feeds tainted with herbicides and pesticides, they ate antibiotics, they were given an average of 11 rounds of hormone treatments to help them get pregnant on a regular basis.

This farmer got sick, too. Even though he was robustly healthy in his youth, he had veered away from eating whole, nutritious foods and ate a conventional diet of processed foods, conventionally grown meat, pasteurized milk, etc. Isn’t strange that there are farmers who don’t eat real, fresh food? At his peak of unhealthiness, he was 365 pounds.

He didn’t say what he was ill with, but that he had tried multiple antibiotics without result, and he felt that he was dying. Someone had him try some kind of tincture that helped him and then encouraged him to go on a high fat diet. He thought a high fat diet was nuts because he was already so fat, but the guy convinced him that he was fat-starved. So he did it, and I think he said he was drinking green smoothies or something like that, too. He dropped 150 pounds in six months and never went back to his conventional diet.

Instead, he took five acres of his farm and made that little plot into a mini organic farm for feeding his family and himself. He put a cow and a few goats in there, some chickens, maybe a pig, and grew a garden. For the first time in many years, he was drinking raw milk again. His family ate the organic food, yet he continued to raise conventional milk to sell. It made him feel sick to see the milk truck driving away with that milk every day.

At this point he hated Monsanto. He used to be the one to convince old fashioned dairy farmers to switch to the biotech way of farming (aka “lots of chemicals”). Now he had done a complete 180. Other dairy farmers in his circle were saying he had “gone hippie.”

He decided to try organic dairy farming and worked for a large organic dairy brand for a while and then later a different brand. He was disheartened to find that so many of the dairy farmers in his new circle didn’t really believe in organics. They worked only to get the organic label, nothing more. They had no passion for it. They ate conventional foods. They did things as cheaply as they could, such as buying “organic” soy from China, which isn’t really organic at all. Disgusting, right? He says organic dairy is way better than conventional, but it’s still not good.

He was doing amazing things with his cows. He discovered the benefits of feeding them fodder instead of unsprouted grains to supplement the grass they ate. Fodder is so nutrient rich that it vastly improved the health of his cows. He said for the first time he wasn’t seeing any mastitis and the guy who would come work on the cow’s hoofs on a monthly basis was no longer needed. His cows looked great. Even their skin changed–he could feel the udder and teats become silky. And he said their “prana” was through the roof. These were happy, healthy cows.

But he was getting paid the same price for his high-end quality milk as were the other “organic” farmers. It was all the same to the big milk brand. Growing fodder is labor intensive but makes the milk more nutritious. He wasn’t getting the price his milk deserved. And I imagine he wasn’t too happy about it getting all mixed in with everybody else’s milk and being pasteurized. So, he left “organic dairy” and moved on to raw dairy.

One thing that excited me as a potential customer were that his milk’s bacterial counts are so low that they are practically non-existent. He used to be on a raw dairy forum and got kicked off because they didn’t like him saying that they should publish their bacterial counts on their websites for their customers to see. Does that make you question your raw dairy farmer? I have had two different raw dairy farmers so far, and both said they would put their numbers up for customers to see, and neither did. It’s always bothered me.

Another thing he said that I really liked is that he would not buy any feed for his animals that has a GMO equivalent–no soy, no corn, and he wouldn’t buy alfalfa until he found an alfalfa producer that was every bit as picky as he is. He doesn’t want to risk accidentally buying GMO food for his animals.

I also love that he only breeds A2/A2 cows, a variety of old fashioned cows that produce the non-mutated gene protein that is easier to digest. And he lets the mama cows raise their calves. He even hates killing animals. He currently has to raise meat chickens and pigs to make ends meet until he can sell enough raw milk, but he would like not to kill animals. This guy has a big heart and I love it.  I feel fortunate to now have this option for raw dairy.

I loved getting a peak into the life of a farmer who used to work for Monsanto and then ran away from Monsanto. The other conventional dairy farmers–most of them, anyway–were quite content with how they were doing things, it seemed. It’s like the ones who end up hating and turning from Monsanto, they do it because they have a wake-up call. They suddenly realize one day that things could be done better–way better–and that Monsanto is just a greedy chemical company.

I also appreciated the inside view of the organic milk industry. I’m telling you, know your farmer! Buy from small local farmers whenever possible. Know what their practices are. If they don’t have a major passion for their health, your health, and the health of their livestock and the soil, then you’re better off getting your food from somewhere else.

Do you drink raw milk? Tell me what you love about your raw dairy farmer!

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