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Foxboro dairy farm sells its milk raw

By TOM MEADE

Journal Sports Writer

Article from projo.com

Terri Lawton is one of several Massachusetts dairy farmers opening their farms for the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Raw Milk Dairy Day tomorrow from noon to 4 p.m. The Oake Knoll Ayrshire and Holstein cows at Lawton’s Family Farm in Foxboro graze on grass, and they do not receive hormones or antibiotics.

Their milk is not pasteurized. Lawton sells it raw.

“Since we started selling raw milk and cheese, the farm’s viability has increased tenfold,” says the 28-year-old farmer whose family has owned the farm, at 40 North St., since the 1730s. She works with her father, Edward, who oversees the growing of vegetables the farm produces. They are building a facility to make their own cheese. Currently, the Lawtons sell raw-milk cheddar, gouda, and havarti produced by another raw-milk dairy.

The organic-farming association is promoting raw milk from organically kept cows. Agriculture and health officials in Massachusetts and Connecticut allow the sale of raw milk, produced under strict regulations for purity. Nonetheless, many municipalities still ban its sale.

The sale of raw milk in Rhode Island is prohibited, except to feed pets and farm animals.

Because organic raw milk is so hard to find, it’s more expensive than processed milk. A gallon of organic raw milk from grass-fed cows costs between $9 and $10, says Terri Lawton.

Why is raw so hard to find?

“Over a century ago, the U.S. milk supply became large and centralized,” according to a brochure from the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). “Many states began requiring pasteurization due to public-health concerns. Raw milk is inherently a healthful food, but — like other animal (and vegetable) products — its beauties can be undone by contamination. Both raw and pasteurized milk have caused food-borne illness, although raw milk is statistically more likely to carry pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter, and listeria than pasteurized milk. These can cause serious illness, especially in the young, elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems. Such individuals should research and consider carefully the risks and benefits associated with drinking raw milk before deciding on whether or not to drink it.

“Milk is a wonderful food, and, like all foods, is best-tasting and most nutritious if eaten fresh and unprocessed. Pasteurization reduces the vitamin, enzyme, and protein levels in milk. It may reduce the digestibility of calcium, and consumption of pasteurized milk may be associated with an increased risk of asthma and allergies. As with all whole, living foods, NOFA suggests you know the animal care standards and sanitary practices of your milk producer.”

Raw milk keeps for up to two weeks in a refrigerator. When it does sour, it still may be used, unlike pasteurized milk after it sours.

Kate Rossiter, NOFA’s organic-dairy coordinator, says, “It’s good for people to do the research on the risks and benefits of drinking raw milk. I think they’ll find that the benefits outweigh the risks.”

For Terri Lawton, selling raw milk at the farm provides a living wage, she says.

Many conventional dairy farms sell their milk to independent processors or cooperatives, such as Rhody Fresh in Rhode Island, The Farmer’s Cow in Connecticut or the Cabot Creamery Cooperative in Vermont.

“Processors pay the farmer, after expenses, the equivalent of 50 cents an hour,” says Lawton. “Mostly all small farms in New England are threatened, if not endangered. I’m probably not going to make friends saying this, but the reality is that co-ops don’t pay a living wage. They pay the lowest they can pay, or [the payment] is based on a government formula, because Americans want cheap food so that they can spend more money on entertainment.”

Rossiter says organic goat milk is available from Sandri Porter’s Lyons Brook Farm, 76 Drift Rd. in Westport, Mass. Her farm will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Several Connecticut farms near the Rhode Island border also sell raw milk. A list is available online at www.realmilk.com/where1.html#ct

More information about Raw Milk Dairy Day and organic dairy farms in Massachusetts is available online at www.nofamass.org/programs/organicdairy/rawmilk.php

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