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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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