Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cowshiners

Saturday, my wife and I ran over to the local dairy where we buy our raw milk. We drink about two gallons of milk a week, unless we are making cheese or cooking a lot. The dairy is a nice 15 minute country drive, and the milk is $4.00 per gallon. Over the past few weeks, I have been noticing more cars with Ohio plates, and more people buying LOTS of milk. Last Saturday, this culminated in a woman buying somewhere around 40 gallons of raw milk to take back home to Cleveland. We, and two other local people waited patiently while this lady filled her 40+ jugs one at a time from the bulk tank. She will drive the 90 miles home and fill her freezer, then thaw the milk as she needs it.

The State of Ohio, in its infinite wisdom has deemed raw milk too dangerous a substance to be sold to the general public. Our local licensed raw milk dairy is the nearest place these poor people can come to legally get milk that has not been pasturized and homogenized so it can taste like swill and probably lose its nutrients. I keep telling the dairy to send a Christmas card to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. ODA might miss the card, because they seem to be busy conducting undercover stings against anyone who would sell raw milk.

I have a strong taste preference for raw milk. I also like that I can look inside the dairy and see how the cattle who are giving me their milk are treated. I like seeing that the milking parlor and milk house are clean. I like not having to milk a goat twice a day (Which we used to do) and still having decent milk. However, I can only enjoy this because of my good fortune at being born a few miles east of the Pennsylvania-Ohio line.

I have been to Youngstown, Ohio. It is a heartbreaking place. The main businesses seem to be selling illegal drugs, drug addict women selling their bodies,auto lots with cheap cars to leave town. and bars to drown out the reality of living in Youngstown. I would think that the law enforcement resources of the state of Ohio might be better put to a place like that than undercover sting operations against dairy farmers. However, I suspect ODA's undercover goons are too cowardly to go up against real criminals.

As the lady pulled away, I remembered the old time moonshiners, running cars full of whiskey. I like to think of her as a "Cowshiner" a kind of 21st Century suburban moonshiner. I hope the ODA doesn't pull her over, dump the milk and Taser her. I hope that mini van can go fast enough to outrun them. Good luck cowshiner lady.


Some of the girls who keep us in milk.

13 comments:

Robert said...

We are fortunate in the Grand Rapids area of Michigan to have two farms that will sell raw milk. But the State of Michigan is similar to Ohio and won't allow the sale of raw milk to the general public.

You have to "own" the cows by purchasing shares. The monthly cost at each dairy (for the room and board of "your" cow) is about $45 and there is also a one-time membership fee of $200 for the full share. You get about 2-3 gallons per week with a full share, so it averages out to about $4-6 per gallon - without the taking into account the membership fee! (Oh and the cows are not milked during the late winter/early spring season while they calve, so you have to freeze some milk to get you through those periods.)

For health reasons I'd love to make the switch to raw milk. But the pasturized stuff is only $2/gallon on sale and our one-income family just can't justify the cost.

Out of curiosity, what does raw milk taste like, anyway? I don't know anyone with a membership at our local farms and I'm a city boy who has never had a chance to sample some.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Thank you for stopping by Robert. I have heard about cow share programs and wish them well. Store milk is about $3.89 a gallon here, so there is no significant price difference for us.I suspect the cow share price is higher because they must keep the milk separate for each buyer/owner, which would be a very big technical pain for a dairy.

Taste: My wife says raw milk is richer and creamier. My best comparison would be perhaps the difference between a garden tomato and the kind of tomato you might see in the grocery store in
February. There are also taste differences between breeds, and times of year. My wife generally prefers Holstein milk, while I have a strong preference for the Jersey milk from my childhood. Spring grass milk can be richer than Winter milk.

Anonymous said...

Raw milk, when it is available around here, sells for $7 a gallon. Needless to say, we can only afford it every so often.

We enjoy the taste of raw milk. It actually tastes fresh. When compared to homogonized milk in my own personal side by side test, the homogonized (from a sealed jug) stuff tasted like it was going sour. It's such a huge difference in flavor. The same goes for free range chicken eggs, homegrown cauliflower, tomatoes...oh just about anything that has had the freedom to grow. There's just too much of a difference.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Wow, for $7.00 per gallon I would hand milk a couple of Jerseys and deliver the milk. Unfortunately that is not legal anymore.

Right now my neighbor says wholesale price for milk around here is $15-16 per hundredweight. The farmer is thus getting about $1.28 per gallon.

Of course every American is subsidizing conventional dairy farmers to the tune of maybe $466 per cow each year. (A guess based upon what my neighbors receive in subsidies).

Danman said...

Cow-share programs are alive here in Indiana, even in my own town. There's a farmer I know who runs a grass-fed production and sells his milk with a pet food label "not for human consumption". But he takes the milk to a famrer's market and sells it like hot cakes. Of course, what people do with it when they get it home is totally up to them. It usually runs from four to six dollars a gallon. A little bit too much for my budget right now when we go through about two gallons a week. But I agree, real milk is the real thing. I think it's rediculous that there are such regulations. Ever read "The Untold Story of Milk"? Good book with good insight into how all this nonsense got started.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Hi Danman,
You are right, Untold Story of Milk is a great read. I have a copy.
One of my cousins and his wife did the "pet food milk sale" trick for a while with their goats. We drank some and it was pretty tasty for dog and cat food!

Ethan+ said...

A great read, Rick.

Sadly I have to admit that I've never tasted "Raw Milk"--sounds interesting, though!

Kaira said...

I wanted to clarify one point on the milk shares. I too live in Grand Rapids, MI and I've been fortunate enough to enjoy raw milk on many occasions. The farmers do not store the milk from each cow, they combine it all into a bulk holding tank and each family fills their own jugs. It is all an honor based system. When participating in a milk share there are weeks where you get much milk and seasons where there isn't as much. You are told in the beginning that you should get so much milk, but it varies a bit - especially when new calves are born.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Thank you Kaira.
I was wondering about what a pain it would be to keep milk for customers without a bulk tank. I understand the the Cow share is really a share in the herd.

Display Name said...

Howdy! Our raw milk around here is about $3.50/gallon. 3 of my friends use their own goats milk, too.

Also, I was excited to see you mention the Lenni-Lenape as I just read a book about them a few weeks ago. (Hooray! I knew my reading would pay off someday! LOL)

Thanks for your nice blog from a fan out in the middle of rural Kansas. :)

The Midland Agrarian said...

Thanks for reading. $3.50 a gallon is a very good price, well below the national average.

Lenni Lenape blood is fairly common in older Pa German Families. If you see a first name only in a baptismal or record or marriage record that is often a clue. As the Native culture broke up in the mid 1700's Indians were sometimes absorbed into Pa German Families, especially among Mennonites, and the small "Connewago Catholic" community.

Melonie said...

Great blog! I just came over after finding you via Danman's Ramblings of a Hopeful Homesteader. I've already learned a lot just in the posts I've read and even the comment you made at the bottom here about the Lenni Lanape - I was an anthro major in college but my focus was Plains and SW tribes. I think I've gotten my "something new" learned for today and then some here! :-)

I sure hope your "cowshiner" lady outran the fuzz too. It's sad what this country has come to - but maybe this economy will lead more folks into researching and ultimately *living* more agrarian. We can hope, at least.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Thank you for dropping by Melonie,
I am glad the posting is useful too you!