MONTPELIER — History was made Saturday at the Capital City Farmers Market as raw milk was delivered for the first time under a new law — though the man delivering the milk wishes the new rules had gone even further.
Act 149, legislation that allows dairy farmers to deliver raw milk to farmers markets, went into effect July 1. The farmers can’t outright sell the milk at the markets, but can hand it over to customers who purchased the product previously.
The law requires a potential customer to first go to the farm where they want to purchase the raw milk. After one visit, the customer can thereafter purchase milk from the farmer without going to the farm.
The state already regulates who can sell raw milk, breaking farmers into two tiers, with the second tier reserved for bigger producers. Tier-two farmers, or those who sell up to 280 gallons of raw milk per week, were allowed to sell the milk at their farms or deliver to the customer’s home, before the recent law expanding delivery to farmers markets.
Frank Huard, a goat farmer from Craftsbury Common, was the first at the farmers market in Montpelier to take advantage of the new law. The Huard Family Farm has won the state’s highest quality milk award for its goat’s milk from the Vermont Dairy Industry Association in 2009, 2011 and 2013.
Huard said being able to deliver the milk at farmers markets is important because it gives small farmers the opportunity to expand into larger markets. It’s also more convenient for both the farmer and the consumer to pick up the milk at a spot where both were planning to be anyway.
Even so, Huard said he was disappointed the law requires customers to visit his farm before they can purchase his milk.
“It’s difficult for some people,” he said. “It’s just not convenient to ask them to drive all the way to Craftsbury to purchase milk. People are busy. I’m almost an hour away, so if they come and stay for 15 or 20 minutes and drive back, that’s almost three hours of (their) time.”
Huard said he had hoped the law would allow him to pick up new customers at the farmers market, not just at his farm. But he said he’d take the law as it is for now, calling it baby steps in the right direction for making raw milk more easily accessible to consumers in Vermont.
Huard took up goat farming after leaving the concrete industry in 2008 due to the Great Recession. He said he chose goats because they’re easier to care for than cows and, in his view, their milk is better.
For one thing, according to Huard, goat milk has about 7 percent less lactose than cow milk, which makes it easier to digest for those who are lactose-intolerant.
The man who was picking up the goat’s milk delivery from Huard was Alan LePage, owner and operator of LePage Farm in Barre. LePage also sells his own produce at the Capital City Farmers Market and is president of the Barre Farmers Market.
LePage said the new law was written because of farmers like Huard, and that people should be free to choose the food they want.
“I resent the fact that the state seems to think they know better than anyone else about the subject,” LePage said.
He said raw milk, which he has been drinking for 40 years, is no more dangerous than any other food or drink.
“The risks of raw milk spoilage are much less than they are with pasteurized milk,” LePage said. “The risks (of raw milk) are vastly exaggerated. If pasteurized milk spoils, there’s all kinds of bad things that can get into it. Whereas, raw milk generally makes cheese (when it spoils). You put it in a goat skin and travel to the other side of the hill on a 90 degree day, you’ve got cheese. That’s how cheese was invented. You can’t do that with pasteurized milk.”
LePage said raw milk has enzymes that pasteurized milk doesn’t. Those enzymes help keep certain pathogens out of raw milk.
As to why our food producers long ago started to pasteurize milk, he said it began when people started producing adulterated milk in what he called “dungeons” in the cities.
“Basically (the cows) were fed waste from breweries and basic inedible substances and the milk they produced was horrible,” he said. “People were dying from it. Rather than clean up these places and ban them, they simply insisted that all milk be pasteurized.”
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