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Will the Farmers Get Their Chance at Raw Milk Through a Maryland Cow Share Program?
The legislature is now considering whether to legalize raw milk through Maryland cow share opportunities. It’s been years now since cow shares were legal in Maryland. Over the past 10 years, farmers and consumers from around the state have participated in legislative initiatives to reinstate Maryland cow share operations to bring the raw milk economy back to the state. This year, the legislation offers the perfect solution—let Marylanders engage in cow shares.
The legislation, HB79 introduced by Delegates Morhaim and Kipke, simply gives farmers the legal right to engage directly with consumers who wish to purchase a share in a cow in order to obtain the milk from their own animal.
Cow shares, or agistment agreements, are age old agreements that allow for a farmer to board a cow for someone who does not have the land to care for their own livestock. Horse boarding is a popular use of agistment agreements.
Currently, only a handful of Maryland farms as registered to provide raw pet milk. However, there are many people in Maryland who wish to give raw milk to their families. Legal cow shares would create the possibility for families who wish to do so.
One Maryland dairy farmer, Kelly Hensing, currently registered to provide pet milk only, notes that “this kind of an agreement gives us more of a relationship with the people who want the milk. Cow shares are legal contracts between a farmer who has the space and expertise to raise and milk cows and a consumer who wants that milk. The agreements provide the necessary transparency and oversight for a comfortable and responsible relationship between consumer and farmer. I am excited about the possibilities this has to offer.”
She also comments that if she were able to provide cow shares, when they come to the farm to visit their cow or pick up their milk, they would also likely pick up meat and other items from the farm. This kind of economic activity would be helpful to small Maryland farmers who often struggle to make ends meet or who have to have off farm jobs to make ends meet.
The legislation, if passed, is set to take effect on October 1, 2016.
To learn more about raw milk and other nutrient dense foods, visit westonaprice.org