Yesterday, I was angrier than I’ve been in a long time. But I realized that anger can be a good thing – it can be motivating & stir you to action.
There is a wonderful farm in Pennsylvania that has the most delicious raw milk I’ve ever had. I’ve been craving it and can’t wait to drink a huge glass as soon as I get to my parents next week. They also sell raw goat milk – they aren’t selling any at the moment because it’s springtime and spring means babies, but my mom contacted them and explained that I needed some for Nugget, during my stay, and they’re going to set some aside for her.
In the meantime, I wanted to stock up at home, to make sure that I had some ready and waiting for us on our return. I went to the website of the local co-op where I buy it, to check their hours, and read that they would no longer be stocking raw milk.
I immediately started shaking with anger. You see, Whole Foods had also stopped stocking raw milk, but I didn’t care, because it’s a large corporation and I’m not actually a big fan of their practices. But this place, this place is supposed to be smaller & more authentic and actually care more about supporting farmers and consumers’ rights to good, quality food.
First, I called up the creamery who supplied the goat milk and left a message asking if they’d be selling it anywhere else nearby. (Their farm is a 30 minute drive from here.) Then I left another message saying I saw on their website that they needed someone to coordinate new, local drops and that I would LOVE to help. Then I wrote a “letter to the editor” to this co-op’s website. And then I called them up to complain and had a lengthy conversation with their public relations person. Then I spoke to the woman at the creamery who gave me the information of the person who’d, just before me, stepped in to take up a private drop where I live. And after that, I spoke to the woman who would be doing the private drop for about and hour, ranting and raving about this whole ridiculous raw milk thing.
She was wary, at first, because she wasn’t sure I was legit. The previous person who’d done a private drop* had been busted by an undercover government person who shut them down for “illegal activites.” *Ridiculous, because a private drop is simply a person who collects orders from everyone who wants the milk, sends the order to the farm and the farm drops it all off at this one convenient, local location for everyone to pick up. And it’s totally true – the government sends “secret agents” in to spy on farmer’s markets and bust people selling raw milk (where the laws aren’t clear cut) all the time. I am NOT making this up. If you know anything about industrial versus small farming, it’s infuriating. The majority of the problems & food safety issues that come up are at large, industrial farms, NOT small, local farms. Yet the small, local farms are micro-managed, tested constantly and always getting hit with fines & fees.
So. It’s kind of fun because we’re all on the down low and being secretive about getting our raw milk from this new location. Mr Nikki likened it to crack. Along with Nugget’s goat milk, I’m also getting raw cow milk from a new source – an entirely grassfed source (which very much effects the flavor of the milk.) I was excited, because I wasn’t all that fond of the previous raw cow milk I’d gotten, which came from cows who were not fed organic feed. But this NEW stuff. Grass fed, baby. Mr Nikki, again, likened it to crack. This stuff is totally pure, uncut. *snort*
I continued to correspond, sending lengthy emails, to the public relations person at the co-op. At first I was understanding and just annoyed. Then I continued to think about it and ended with this last email:
Honestly, the more I think about this, the angrier I get. The state of Washington allows the sale of raw milk and I feel it’s very wrong for any one place, particularly a place that supposed to be supportive of farmers and “real” food, to deny it to anyone who wants it and to make that decision for us about safety.
As I’d said before, it would be easy to simply turn my head and go elsewhere for the milk, however, I feel that every battle needs to be fought or we’ll lose our right to drink raw milk in Washington, altogether. I know that people say we raw milk drinkers are “cult like,” but maybe we wouldn’t seem so if we would just be able to make our own decisions, like adults, about the foods we eat.
I know that it’s not your fault and that you don’t have much influence over what happens with raw milk in the future, but it all needs to be said and I’m hoping to rally together a good number of people to continue to press the issue. In the meantime, I feel it’s time for me to stop going to stores & co-ops altogether and start taking my business directly the farmers themselves. For the farmers are the only ones who truly stick to what they believe in without bowing to outside pressure.
She responded that she would hate to see me leave the conversation & debate and I wonder how much further I can go. I’ve left comments on their facebook page, asking people to write & tell them how disappointed they are. I’ve also used the power of Twitter.
One one hand, I told her that it’s not a big deal – I have a new source for my milk – cheaper, really, because private drops always are. But on the other, I feel like I can’t just let it go because every battle regarding raw milk needs to be fought, or the next step will be to ban it altogether.
She was intrigued when I said I drank raw milk all through pregnancy & give it to my son, because, the mainstream thought is that raw milk is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and children. Yeah, well. Drinking raw milk throughout pregnancy also boosts your immunity and passes it on to your baby.
I know what people say about raw milk, about how “dangerous” it is, though I follow these issues closely and I know that eating a hamburger at a fast good joint, or buying industrialized spinach are more dangerous. (And every time there’s a food safety scare with industrialized farms, it’s business as usual for them. Why is that?)
Raw milk is legal in the state of Washington (one of only 13 states where it’s legal, by the way) and I resent these stores & co-ops making this decision for me. It’s my choice, as it is to buy raw fish, eat sushi, eat tuna or steak tartare, eat raw oysters, or hell, drink wine while pregnant.
The “against” side will tell you how dangerous it is, that there’s no health benefits and that people get sick from it all the time.
However, I’ll tell you that neither Mr Nikki nor I have been sick in TWO YEARS since we started drinking it. While in Santa Monica, he was surrounded by people who got hit during flu season. But not him. My friend, J, has never been able to consume dairy without getting violently ill. But she can chug raw milk by the gallon. She makes yogurt, ice cream, butter, and now her own cheese from it. Her eczema has also cleared up. Her 2 year old daughter will ONLY drink raw milk (pasteurized tastes disgusting, after drinking raw and she notices the difference) and for a two year old, almost never gets sick.
And I did not take the decision lightly, to give raw goat milk to my infant son. I researched and more importantly, I publicly sought out people who were raised on & raised their own kids on raw milk. A surprising number of people came forward, and I asked them about their health. Not one person had gotten sick or had any complications from drinking raw milk (especially as opposed to breast milk or formula. Some women tried to tell me that goat milk didn’t have enough nutritional value for babies, but uh.. no one came forward as deficient.) My dad lived on a farm, and he & his brothers drank raw milk. I also spoke to people from other countries where it’s very common for babies to be fed raw goat milk. Countries where I couldn’t find any evidence of people being killed of or hospitalized from raw milk consumption.
The particular farm that I go to, I’ve visited. I’ve seen the place. It’s very small. It’s clean. They take great care with safety. It wouldn’t behoove them, at all, to be careless and risk get anyone sick on their milk now, would it?
So now I’ve found myself rallying people together to make videos and to attempt to approach the “management” at this co-op. I’m helping out with the private drops & have offered to help the creamery with their new, online ordering system. I’m thinking about making a website about my experience with raw milk, using pictures of Nugget and saying, “This is the face of raw milk.” I’m definitely being very loud & public about my use of it. This is bullsh*t.
Along those lines, I also have a new project in the works. I was disheartened, when I asked for experiences with raw milk on the mom forums. I was slammed for even suggesting it. Honestly, I really don’t like “mainstream” moms. Having children should open your mind, not close it.
So. I’m making my own forum. I’ll let you know once it’s up and running. I intend for it to be a forum where parents can comfortably discuss off-the-beaten-path options, such as raw milk in place of formula. I was once scared away from “hippy” forums, because that’s not me, either. So this will be for the rebel parent. The one who makes their own way and wants to talk to like-minded parents about the options. I’ll be away all next week, without my laptop, so it should be up in another week or so.
And to complete this rebellious streak, on Sunday, I fly East to visit my parents and attend one day of the midwifery conference in Philadelphia. I know, pretty much, that I don’t want to be a midwife – honestly, it’s too hands-on for me and at this time in my life, I can’t deal with the on-demand schedule. I want to be in a position to be more of a loud-mouthed advocate than be involved in hands-on birth. I consider being a birth doula, because that would put me in a position to fight for a woman’s desired birth when giving birth at a hospital, etc – but again, I’m not at a point in my life where I can be on call and run off to attend a birth at 3 am and leave Nugget with a babysitter or Mr Nikki, who works crazy hours. When Nugget is older, I’ll consider transitioning to birth doula, but right now I’m thinking childbirth educator and postpartum doula. Postpartum doulas can set their own schedule (you schedule times with women, when to go visit, etc) AND, having had some of the struggles that I’ve had, I feel like I’d have a lot to offer. I wouldn’t be afraid to talk about pumping exclusively (most people won’t, because they want you to breastfeed at all costs) and I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to say, “If you don’t want to use formula, goat milk is an option.”
I also know what it’s like to deal with depression, being away from friends & family & doing it all on your own.
Because, really, doing it all on my own and demanding my own way is what I’m all about – and I would love to instill that in others.