Couple deliver raw milk from their farm to suburbs
Marney Rich Keenan
Article from The Detroit News
Let's be up front about this right away. Kevin Hicks, 50, and his girlfriend, Jenny Samuelson, 48, who operate the Hicks Dairy Farm in North Branch, DO NOT sell raw milk.
And when they transport their raw milk weekly to discreet parking lots in six locations across Metro Detroit, they are DELIVERING raw milk, they are NOT SELLING raw milk.
Got that? They stress the clarification because selling unpasteurized milk for human consumption in Michigan is illegal. Hush-hush leasing operations and cow-share programs are ways to circumvent the law. Technically, the leases are not a sale but compensation to cover board and transport costs.
Raw milk enthusiasts in Michigan got some unwelcome attention two years ago after gallons of raw milk and $7,000 of fresh food items were seized by state cops from Richard Hebron in Ann Arbor, who runs a farming cooperative. When no charges were filed, Hebron was back in business a week after his goods were seized; his list of customers all the more emboldened to campaign for raw milk rights in Michigan.
That's welcome news to the 350 clients and counting who have contracted with Hicks Dairy for the raw milk since they started leasing in January 2008. (Leases to cows are $57 for a year. Boarding is $7 per gallon of milk that is received from the cow.) The couple say that with rising prices of both gas and feed (feed prices tripled last year), the small farm would not have been able to survive had they not supplemented their business this way.
"We have a state rep that gets milk from us," says Samuelson. "We have cops, doctors, lawyers, diplomats. Politicians say raw milk is harmful. We're farmers. We don't care about politics."
Kathleen Stroman of Clarkston started her youngest son, Noah, 12, on raw milk about five years ago. Noah has autism and a unique protein allergy; the combination has resulted in a complete food aversion for Noah. When a kinesiologist suggested raw milk to Stroman, she went straight to Hick's Dairy Farm. Now, says Stroman, "Noah still has autism, but he is calm and happy; the meltdowns are few and far between."
Stroman says she was hesitant to tell their gastroenterologist about the raw milk. "But the doctor said: 'What can I say? He's doing so great!' "
While word of mouth touts how raw milk's "stem-cell-like properties" cleared up asthma and ear infections in children and improved osteoporosis and arthritis in seniors, scientists warn there have been no conclusive studies to show the benefits would outweigh the risks of exposure to harmful bacteria.
Hicks counters that because his dairy sells a portion of its milk to big milk production companies that pasteurize it, all of the milk is tested frequently for bacteria levels by the state, and his is a grade A dairy, the top level for dairy farmers.
The couple lead a typical farm life. Six days a week, they start work at about 4:30 a.m., and they don't stop working until it gets dark.
Kevin Hicks moved with his family to the farm in 1963 when he was 10 years old, and he's never left.
The cows are pasture fed and have outdoor access year round. On the Web site, Hicks has written: "Believe in the things God has given us already for healing. If you trust and believe, you will be amazed at what can be done without man made drugs. Have faith."
Maureen Petrucci, an artist-illustrator who lives in Royal Oak, started drinking raw milk 20 years ago, but that's not the only organic food she orders from Hicks.
"The eggs are glorious!" she says. "I made lemon squares with them, and my friends all thought I put food coloring in them. ...
"It's just so great to know the actual farmer you buy your food from. These people exemplify American heritage in the best sense. It's a tradition that should not be allowed to fail."