Monday, April 5, 2010
Raw Milk Renegades , the sequel
First of all the pin. It amuses me therefore I have it on my blog, but I do not for a moment think raw milk is the answer to all the illness in our lives. No one food product can heal on its own. I do however, believe raw milk is a great PART of a healthy diet and I also believe that as adults we have the right to ingest whatever food we choose to , be it raw milk, 100% grass fed beef, Java Stout beer (which is great with the beef) or a great big plastic wrapped Twinkie. This is still, although sadly a rapidly changing, America.
Which brings me to our issue with the company who buys our milk, or I should say, the issue our milk company is having with us .To recap, for the last 11 years we have shipped milk to company A. They pick up the milk every other day.On the off days we have several people who buy raw milk from us directly following Illinois State law. They come to our farm with their own containers , fill them and then drink the unpasturized, non-homoginized milk in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. Renegades, all of them. Recently milk company B made an uninvited visit to our farm suggesting we sign up with them as company A was planning to stop buying milk from dairies in our area.
The catch; company B tells us we must sign a statement saying we will not sell raw milk to private customers. Even though it is legal to do so in Illinois. Even though there is not a single proven case of raw milk related foodborne illness in Illinois, even though farmers have the right to sell products from their farm as a manner of making a living. Even though the conventional milk company pays us only 1/3 the price our private customers pay us.
.We asked for a copy of this written contract over 10 days ago. We have not received it.
Today a representative from company A called to inform us the head office was now "aware" of our selling raw milk and they wanted us to stop. Company A has never in the past given us anything in writing telling us it was against their policy to buy milk from farmers who sell raw milk off the farm. In fact, Company A, who again we have been selling milk to for ELEVEN YEARS, has never asked us to sign anything related to raw milk sales. Nor have we ever hidden the fact that we sell raw milk since it is legal to do so.
The representative went on to tell us we should expect to receive a letter in the mail very soon which would give us 30 days to stop selling an important farm product that has been proven to be very healthy for both children and adults. A product that provides needed revenue for us. A product people want. A product that Illinois State Law says we may sell.
All of this begs the question "Why don't you sell ALL of your milk direct to customers ?" We would like to, but our dilemma sits with Illinois State Law which states we can sell raw milk but we cannot advertise that we sell raw milk. What ?!?! Let me say that again. What ?!?! I can advertise my raw ground beef but not our raw milk ? Seems the "Don't ask, don't tell " mentality isn't limited to the military. And what about this blog ? It appears I am practicing free speech, but what if every time I write the oh-so-frightening words RAW MILK in the same sentence as our farm South Pork Ranch, it is considered "advertising ?" The law, as written ,does not offer any interpretation of "advertise." I suppose I need to put a new item on my to-do list for tomorrow. Call the Illinois Department of Public Health and ask for some clarification.
We have options. Several of them. Once we make a decision on which path to follow I'll update you. Oh man, will I ever update you.