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

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.

One of NOFA/Mass’ smaller programs is the Raw Milk Program. This is a network of dairy farmers around the state who produce and market their fresh, raw milk, and have a license to do so by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. There are 29 licensed raw milk dairy farms in the state that we know of, producing either cow’s milk or goat’s milk. I coordinate the program and plan to share the stories of these farmers in coming newsletters. In this issue, I want to give a little insight into the economics of selling raw milk, using the farm where I work, Cricket Creek Farm, as a

“I am a real lover of raw milk” shares Max, a raw milk dairy farmer and cheese maker in Cummington. Max and Amy purchased Grace Hill Farm in 2012, and spent 2 years getting themselves (and their cows!) on their new piece of land. They are nestled on a beautiful Hillside just off of The Berkshire Trail (route 9). For 2 years, Max and Amy were busy building their creamery, milking room, and barn, while their cows were busy eating grass, getting pregnant, and getting ready to make milk.

On September 19, NOFA/Mass will host “Sustainability for Massachusetts dairies: Grazing, raw milk, and organic certification,” an on-farm workshop for dairy farmers and those considering dairying in Massachusetts.

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