The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

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Raw Milk

As more and more people discover the importance of healthy soil in relation to healthy plants, pastures and gardens, many are also discovering that manure is one of a farm’s most valuable resources.  Cows, in particular, are extremely efficient converters of mature plant matter into nutrient-rich, highly degradable organic material.  

While the percentage of nutrients found in manure can vary greatly from animal to animal due to differences in diet, cow manure is known to be a good source of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, all of which are important minerals for future plant growth.  While synthetic fertilizers may be more concentrated forms of these minerals, manure includes a high percentage of solid matter, which provides vital carbon compounds that build soil structure.  

In celebration of the Massachusetts dairy farmers who dedicate their early mornings to milking, spend the hottest days of the year in the hay field, and slip their mud boots on at midnight to deliver new calves, we’d like to thank them for their tireless efforts. 

If you have cow fever too, and are thinking about improving upon your existing dairy operation, trying your hand at cheesemaking, or are simply curious about what our local dairy farmers are doing to care for the earth while feeding our community, we have some exciting educational opportunities coming up for you. 

If there was a way to nurture natural systems, reverse environmental damage, and increase the health of people and animals around us, wouldn’t you want to support it?  If so, maybe you should start drinking more milk. 

Dairy farmers throughout the Northeast are embracing farming methods that sequester carbon from the atmosphere and draw it into their soils, where it nourishes the diverse microbial life beneath the surface of the earth.  This enhanced microbial network just so happens to be a prime environment for low-maintenance pasture and crops to thrive, which, in turn, offers an opportunity for livestock farmers to use their land to meet the high nutritional needs of dairy cattle. 

Will Rogers, of Rogers Farm in Warren, Massachusetts is following nature’s rules when it comes to managing his land and his herd of dairy cattle.  “We need to watch how nature works and mimic it.  We’re all based on biology, the food we eat needs to be grown by good biology to net a higher nutrient value food.” 

Dairy cows have been dubbed “the heart of the homestead” throughout American history because of their high productivity and ability to provide sustenance for so many other beings on a small farm.  On a diet of grass, hay and perhaps some supplemental grain, a dairy cow can produce enough milk to feed her calf and a small human family, with enough left over to share with pigs, chickens and other omnivores on the farm.  Her calves can be raised for beef or as future dairy cows, and her manure can be recycled into the landscape as fertilizer.  On some traditional New England farms, the cattle shelter was built under the family home to utilize the heat that the cow produced from ruminating to help heat the house in winter.  With so many benefits in one domestic animal, it’s easy to see how dairy cows have become a beloved staple on so many farms. 

The Robinson family of Hardwick has loved their 270 acres in central Massachusetts since before the turn of the 20th century.  Ray Robinson is the fourth-generation farmer to care for Robinson Farm and make it his own.  From a young boy playing and helping in the fields to taking the reins and steering the farm in new directions, Ray was raised to care for this piece of earth and all its living things

gmo labels

It’s here: Public Comments needed on Federal “GMO labeling” scheme

It may feel like ancient history, but our members might remember July 2016 when Congress passed and then President Obama signed a federal “GMO labeling” law designed largely by Monsanto and friends to keep consumers in the DARK about what we’re eating and supporting with our food purchases.

Raw Milk

Credit: Suzy Konecky

In recent decades, a diverse community of dairy farmers, consumers and nutrition advocates has campaigned amidst considerable government opposition, to secure and expand the right of individuals to produce, sell and consume fresh unprocessed milk, commonly referred to as ‘raw milk’. This advocacy shares important parallels with battles fought in the organic food movement over the past century. Both the raw milk and organic food movements originated with farmers and consumers who sought to replace industrialized food production and processing practices with more traditional ones. 

A comprehensive omnibus bill (S.2171) aimed to “promote agriculture in the Commonwealth” is making progress within the State House. This bundle of legislation, which just recently made its way out of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, addresses issues ranging from farm-specific tax reforms to a veteran agriculture program and much else in between. Many of the provisions included are specific recommendations that reflect the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan which was put together last year.

If you have been following the NOFA/Mass newsletter and e-blasts, you have likely seen the news that there is currently a bill in the Massachusetts state legislature that would allow for the delivery of raw milk.  Currently Massachusetts’ raw milk sales are allowed only at the dairy where the milk is produced.  Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture of raw milk laws and distribution to provide some context. 

The raw milk economy is an exciting one in Massachusetts, and around the country. In Massachusetts we have 29 raw milk dairy farms that are licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and Resources (MDAR) to sell milk to the public. These farms are inspected monthly by an MDAR inspector, who takes a milk sample for testing. The results of this test must show that the bacterial counts in the milk are below the permitted counts that pasteurized milk must have, after pasteurization. Raw milk has to be squeaky clean from the start.

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