The MilkDirect™ Program

Herd-TheMilkDirect-600x626By Tim Wightman

It would be hard to catalog all the conversations, reasons and moments of enlightenment that have led our clients to our milk house door. I guess it’s best to start in the garden as that is where all good things come from and where the education of Gleta and myself began. Because it was in the garden that our vegetable customers began to ask us whether we had any other healthy and organic items from the farm to sell.

Our customers wanted to know about our herd and our milking practices and the availability of our milk. They described specific health problems or overall health conditions that they understood would be helped by a steady intake of unprocessed milk.

The Milk Book

An important step in our education was the discovery of The Milk Book by William Campbell Douglass-we haven’t looked back since. Our beat-up, dog-eared edition revealed to us what some of our customers already knew-whole unprocessed milk is a miracle food that could cure all sorts of conditions, conditions that baffle the medical profession. The Milk Book also showed us that the logical outlet for our organic practices was the sale of unprocessed milk-not only logical but ethical and economically sound.

But-could we do it?

Not according to the State of Wisconsin, not in an unprocessed form. We could pasteurize it, bottle it and leave it unhomogenized and compete with the big boys for product placement in our local grocery stores. It would be a better product than was currently available to the consumer, but that didn’t quite jibe with what we had read in The Milk Book. An impasse.

Guidance from Guidestone

Then came along a little newsletter out of Colorado called “The Direct Marketer” (I’m not sure of the name) that Gleta had a vague memory of subscribing to but hadn’t seen in some time. But this issue was the one we were destined to see—and bingo! In this blessed little paper was an article about a farm that was selling its cow herd on the Community Supported Agriculture concept. Sell shares in your cows and people get their milk in return! We had been running a CSA garden in our town for four years and this sounded like it could work.

We played phone tag for a week but finally I talked to the folks at Guidestone CSA Farm in Loveland, Colorado. He told me his story and also one of a farm in Wisconsin that was currently selling cowshares, although he was unsure of the details. With the help of a lawyer, Guidestone had come to an agreement with the State of Colorado so that the consumer could legally have raw milk. The rest is history.

Here is how it works. The State of Wisconsin is known as the dairy state and is loath to lose that title to anyone. Wisconsin has the toughest food safety standards in the country. These standards stipulate that there will be no raw milk sales whatsoever, certified raw or not, unless it is to a state-approved dairy plant, whereupon it will be pasteurized for the good of all people.

BUT. . . cow owners and/or dairy farmers can drink their own raw milk and give (not sell, give) it to nonpaying guests.

After a brief discussion with the Guidestone lawyer, I realized that it would be possible to come to an agreement with the Agricultural Department to make several independent parties “owners” of a single cow, which would allow them to “drink their own milk.”

The farmers’ role would be to rent these cows for these multiple owners, charging each of them a boarding fee at the end of the month equivalent to the amount of milk a single owner takes for his own use.

It would be extremely easy for the multiple owners. The drawback for the farmers was the extensive paper trail that would be required. But for $2.50 per gallon “boarding fee” compared to 89 cents per gallon (minus the capital costs, shipping, milk checkoff fees, etc.) we think we could do some paper work. Also, a second milk house constructed to Grade A standards would be needed, where the cow owners could pick up their milk. For $2.50 per gallon, we could build that, too.

We could also build some bones and healthy kids. That was a bonus.

Happy Customers

The biggest surprise has been the variety of people that sign up for our milk. We thought that our clients would be yuppies and retired farmers, but we have a very wide range of cowshare owners, some of whom had never been on a farm before they came to us. We now have well over 100 clients, some of whom drive 120 miles one way to get their milk, because of the standards we uphold and the product we provide. Many of them sign up after reading The Milk Book. When they do, the light goes on and it makes complete sense. Some of our clients drink the milk only for its great taste, while others drink it for therapeutic reasons.

Here are some of the experiences reported by the clients we now have signed on the Milk Direct™ program here at Clearview Acres:

  • Bob, a traveling repairman, only drinks his milk when he is at home. Nevertheless, from this minimal amount, he has seen a reduction of the arthritis in his knees.
  • Harold tells us, “I don’t get gas or experience the other lactose intolerance problems I was experiencing with store-bought milk.”
  • Andi could not tolerate any dairy products and thought she was doomed to a life without any until a friend told her about unprocessed milk. Now she enjoys our milk and any dish prepared with it.
  • Dan, fifteen years in a wheelchair from a car accident, had become accustomed to taking large doses of pain killers for the arthritis in his shoulders. Two months after beginning to drink unprocessed milk he stopped taking the pain killers. If the family runs out of milk before the normal weekly pickup of ten gallons per week, he can feel the pain return. Dan is the father of a family of six.
  • Larry can feel his energy levels reduced if his family runs out of milk before their weekly pickup of four gallons per week.
  • Tom loves the taste and likes it best when it has begun to sour slightly.
  • Walker, age 8, wouldn’t drink store milk-“no way, no how.” Now that his folks bring home unprocessed milk, he “can’t get enough of it.”
  • Ben, a dairy farmer, was told 25 years ago to quit drinking milk because his cholesterol was too high. This past year, he needed crutches because his arthritis was so bad. He read The Milk Book and started drinking unprocessed milk. Within three days he wasn’t bracing himself to get out of a chair. Within two weeks he threw away his crutches. Three months later he went to his doctor who was alarmed that his cholesterol was so low! The doctor prescribed an additional drug to counter the cholesterol-reducing drug he was already using. Upon leaving the doctor’s office, Ben tossed both prescriptions in the waste basket and has had no problem with cholesterol or arthritis ever since. To this day the doctor does not know the true cure for Ben’s “managed” condition.
  • Karen, a smoker for 40 years, recently quit and also reduced her arthritis medicine. She and her husband consume four or five gallons per week.
  • Vivian was distressed about her grandson, who spends part of his time with her. Processed milk products gave him severe diarrhea. Now this three-year-old boy enjoys two to three gallons of unprocessed milk per week. When given store milk, the diarrhea is immediate and severe.

Lingering Doubts

When people come to us afraid-afraid of gaining weight, afraid of germs in unpasteurized milk, we simply hand them The Milk Book and seven out of ten sign up, wishing they had heard about the Milk Direct program long ago. Whenever the local newspapers interview some dietician from the nearby agricultural college, who is horrified at the thought of consuming nature’s raw milk, we get lots of calls and sign up a dozen more people.

YOU CAN DO IT

People are tired of processed food and farmers are tired of being tied to the processing plants. Our Milk Direct program turns this lose-lose situation into one that is a bigtime win for everyone. This program can help any farmer set up a cowshare program. We provide both legal and technical advice. The program includes testing to ensure that the highest safety standards are met.

There are several cowshare programs underway in other parts of Wisconsin, including one that has been approved for a large bank loan. We’ve also had inquiries from dairy farmers in Texas, Tennessee, the Carolinas and another in New Jersey. It’s the wave of the future, a true revolution in agriculture.

Call us anytime at 765-277-3352.

This article appeared in the Spring 2001 edition of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation

Update, Summer 2001

Since the article in the Spring 2001 issue of Wise Traditions, we have had many calls of interest and support. An many of you know, the Wisconsin Agriculture Department attempted to shut down the MilkDirect program with threatening letters to all the program farms in Wisconsin. Fortunately, all the state has the authority to do is send threatening letters. Never once was any program farm visited to see the operations and standards we hold as MilkDirect farms; nor did the State admit that it cannot come between an owner of a cow and the agreement that owner or owners have with the farmer to board the cow. Since the state will probably challenge us at some point, we have at the ready prominent, well-placed political attorneys at the state capital, ready to defend us for the right to do what we know to be the best possible option for the future of the dairy industry. We represent safe, clean milk from healthy cows on healthy land. Feel free to call at any time 715-462-3076.
— Gleta Martin and family & Tim Wightman and family

This update appeared in the Summer 2001 edition of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Update, Fall 2001

On September 24, Clearview Acres, pioneers in the MilkDirect Program, received a complaint from the state of Wisconsin stating that the sale of their raw milk posed “an imminent public health hazard.” The farm was sited for nine violations and a tenth separate offense of placing advertisements. A prehearing is set for Oct 18. Naturally, Clearview Acres will defend itself against all charges. We will keep you posted of developments. Meanwhile, feel free to call at any time 715-462-3076.
— Gleta Martin and family & Tim Wightman and family

This update appeared in the Fall 2001 edition of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Update, Winter 2001

On September 24, Clearview Acres, pioneers in the MilkDirect cowshare program, received a complaint from the state of Wisconsin stating that the provision of raw milk to cowshare owners posed “an imminent public health hazard.” On Friday, December 17, Clearview Acres filed a brief requesting that all charges be dropped. Meanwhile, state officials have singled out Clearview Acres as the culprit in a local Campylobacter outbreak even though only one of the nine confirmed cases drank Clearview Acres raw milk, and Clearview Acres milk consistently tests negatively for the disease. The outbreak follows on Thanksgiving which means that consumption of underdone turkey is the likely cause—72 percent of turkey is infected with Campylobacter. Clearview Acres will resume providing cowshare owners with their milk pending the results of State tests on the milk. Meanwhile, Tim Wightman and Gleta Martin are confident that the State has no legal case against them. For further information, call 715-462-3076. — Gleta Martin and family & Tim Wightman and family

This update appeared in the Winter 2001 edition of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Update, Spring 2002:DATCP shenanigans in Michigan

Tim WightmanTim is a founder and board member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and president of its education and charitable arm, the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation. He is the author of the Raw Milk Production Handbook, a handy resource guide for farmers interested in producing quality raw milk who wish to implement testing and safety standards, used in thousands of small dairies worldwide.

Tim is best known for pioneering one of the earliest herd sharing programs in the U.S. to help his customers legally obtain raw dairy products. He has actively worked with state legislators to write more sustainable, farm-friendly laws. He is an instructor in Cow Share College & Goat Share University where he now trains and consults with small farmers on quality food production, food safety, herd management and direct marketing to consumers. A lifelong farmer, Tim is on the forefront of our nation’s transition back to a local farm economy. Over the last two decades, Tim has launched several CSAs, organic cooperatives and farmers’ markets, and was the owner/operator of a major organic farm and store, bakery and restaurant that featured locally produced foods.

Tim has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, and interviewed by numerous other media outlets nationwide. He has appeared in such national publications as Acres USA, Agri-View, Country Today, and Milkweed.

Tim lives in Western Ohio with his daughter, Anastasia, and works on national local food policy and sustainable agriculture issues.

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3 thoughts on “The MilkDirect™ Program

  1. hi, i run one east Indian restaurant in Baltimore and i need at least 40 litter milk every week. just want to know if u have any plan to supply milk directly to the resturant.

    • Milk Direct is a herdshare. People buy a share in the herd of cows and then, as owners of the cows, receive the milk from their own animals. I’m not sure how Tim set his up down to the last detail, but in most herdshares you buy in for an initial fee (giving you a part ownership in the herd) and then pay a monthly or annual boarding fee (to cover the farmer’s labor to care for and milk the cows and bottle and store your milk for you to pick up at the farm, or perhaps to deliver it to you). Typical herdshares I have seen are priced by how much milk you want to get out of the arrangement, most commonly one share=one gallon per week. So a big family might need more than one share to get the quantity of milk they need. Some farms might sell half shares or set them up so that one share=one half-gallon per week, which would be better for smaller families or singles.

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