Pasture Haven

By Katie Carpenter / Photography By David Johnson | February 10, 2016
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Amish farm offers herd shares for pastured raw milk


For Tina Paul, a mother of three young children, finding access to raw milk from a pasture-fed dairy in the Michiana area was a must, even before her husband accepted a new job in Fort Wayne. Her family had owned a share in a dairy herd in Kentucky before they moved to Indiana in the summer of 2015, and they wanted to find a similar program that would allow them to enjoy healthy whole milk straight from a local and sustainable dairy farm.

“My husband was diagnosed with severe diabetes out of the blue about five years ago. Up to that point we had been eating a conventional American diet, but that diagnosis was a huge wake-up call,” says Paul. “We started looking at making changes one at a time: First we looked at the fats we were consuming, then we looked at all animal products. The more I read about milk and what is going on with pasteurization and homogenization, I was convinced that raw milk was the way to go.”
 
Paul called many farms in Michiana before she found what she was looking for at Pasture Haven Farm in Syracuse, Indiana, about one hour from her 
new home.
 
A Different Way

Pasture Haven farmers Andrew and Norma Yoder say they have been “hooked on raising food a different way” for more than four years. Prior to farming in Syracuse, the Amish family ran a confined feeding operation hog farm in Millersburg, Indiana, with more than 350 sows.

“We could produce a lot of meat, but I kept thinking these pigs are not healthy because they are just standing in here with no sunshine,” says Andrew. After they moved to Syracuse in 2011, they made a big change: They began raising heritage breed pigs on pasture. At the same time, they bought a small dairy herd from Norma’s brother and started selling milk to a regional dairy processing company.

Still, they felt that there was something missing. The Yoders wanted to work face-to-face with customers and be a resource to local families. So about a year and a half later and after careful consideration, the family stopped watching a tanker truck drive off with their milk and started offering herd shares. They love the community that has grown up around it.

“So far we really enjoy seeing our customers every week,” says Norma. “If anybody wants to come and see what we’re doing, we’d love to give you a tour of the farm.”
 
 
Dairy Herd Shares
 
The Yoders feed all their animals, including 16 gentle Jersey cows, on pasture, hay and sorghum, all of which are grown without herbicides or pesticides on their picturesque 105-acre farm. Throughout the summer, the cattle, pigs and chickens are pastured in rotation. From mid‐November though early spring, the animals eat fresh barley sprouts along with hay and dried grasses.
 
The Yoders started offering herd shares in the spring of 2013 because retail sales of raw milk are prohibited in Indiana. Herd-share programs all operate under the same basic principle: Though retail sales of unpasteurized milk may be illegal in the state, it is quite legal to drink raw milk from your own cow. You simply buy a share in the dairy herd and pay the farmer a monthly fee to board, milk and maintain the cows. As a share owner, you have the legal right to enjoy the milk produced by the herd. Shares are typically based on expected volume, with one share usually entitling the owner to one gallon of milk per week.
 
“We love to help other people enjoy wholesome foods, and without herd-share programs many people wouldn’t even have a choice,” says Norma.
 
Laws and Risks

State raw milk laws are complicated and varied. Eleven states allow retail sales of raw milk, nine states license on-farm sales, eight (including Indiana) license producers to sell raw milk labeled as pet food and another eight allow herd shares by legal statute, regulation or court decision. For instance, in 2013 the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development adopted a policy officially recognizing herd shares in Michigan and allowing them to operate unregulated.

Admittedly, there are risks of bacterial contamination, just like there is with any other food product. In 2008, there were 23,000 food-borne illnesses reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these, only one half of 1% of total reported illnesses were connected to raw milk and raw milk cheese. (Pasteurized and unpasteurized dairy products combined accounted for about 4% 
of all food-borne illnesses in the United States.)

Since raw milk dairies are not uniformly regulated across the United States and only an estimated 3% of the population drinks raw milk consistently, it’s difficult to calculate relative risk without considering a multitude of factors. For instance, dairies producing milk meant to be consumed raw may follow stricter standards than those producing milk meant for pasteurization. It’s not 
nearly as important to carefully 
avoid bacterial contamination if 
you expect errors will be corrected during processing.

Most milk produced in the United States undergoes pasteurization, a process of briefly heating milk to 161° Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 seconds (or higher heat for ultra-pasteurized milk). This procedure kills most pathogenic bacteria that may be present in milk, but it also destroys healthful bacteria known as probiotics, which can improve gut health and boost immunity.
 
 
Quality, Community, Flavor
 
Norma and Andrew stress the importance of clean equipment at Pasture Haven and carefully follow a set of standard milking procedures. They milk the cows twice a day, spending about an hour each time to sanitize the equipment, clean the cows’ udders and collect milk with three mechanical milking machines. The milk from the herd at Pasture Haven is also tested weekly for pathogens, and each individual cow’s milk is tested periodically to ensure they are healthy and that their milk is free of contamination.

Norma describes milking as a sort of refuge from the hustle and bustle of the family farm.

“It’s just nice to be out there and not think about anything else going on,” she says. “We love milking the cows, and, I guess, to me, it’s so worthwhile knowing that our herd-share owners are benefiting from the milk.”
 
Fresh milk contains healthy fats, beneficial enzymes and other nutrients that would be destroyed or compromised during pasteurization. For example, studies show a loss of B vitamins, vitamin C and soluble calcium in pasteurized milk versus raw milk. Some European studies also show that raw milk consumption is associated with a lower risk of childhood asthma and allergies.

Those same nutritional benefits also enhance the many dairy products that can be made from raw milk, including butter, yogurt, cheese and kefir. Tina Paul says another reason her family enjoys raw milk is that they can make it into whatever nutrient-dense dairy product they want. “We make yogurt, kefir, sour cream, butter, ice cream, ranch dressing and soft cheeses like cream cheese and cottage cheese.”
 
But health isn’t the only reason people become herd-share owners—many simply want to support small, local farms. Pasture Haven’s first customer, Barb Sheets, says she’s not a “radical foodie,” but she takes every opportunity she can to support a neighboring family farm.
 
“I’m not really picky, not a fanatic in what I eat, but anytime I can choose a more natural thing, I do it,” she says. “Supporting the family as they try to make a difference in people’s health—that is really the biggest thing for me.”

Paul also reports that fresh whole milk just tastes better.

“The rich creaminess of raw milk is truly like a vanilla milkshake,” she says. “It is filling, and so very satisfying. 
We could never drink anything besides it again.”
 
Pasture Haven Farm
Syracuse, IN

574.642.9903 ext. 1
 

 
Raw Milk Facts
 
History
 
Raw milk has been consumed as a staple for centuries in many cultures.
 
During the mid-1800s, feedlots in major cities where cows were fed leftover grains from alcohol production led to sanitation problems in milk production.
 
In the early 1900s, the American Association of Medical Milk Commissions was established to oversee the production of raw milk around the country. During this time, physicians often prescribed raw milk–based diets to help people heal from diseases like tuberculosis and arthritis.
 
In 1947, Michigan became the first state to mandate pasteurization 
and many other states followed 
its example.
 
Consumer demand for raw milk is growing. An estimated 3% of the United States population drinks raw milk regularly, according to a survey conducted in 2007 and 2008.
 
The Raw Milk Institute was created in 2011 to set strict safety standards for raw dairies. It certifies only dairies that have passed rigorous inspection.
 
Laws
 
Michigan prohibits retail sales of raw milk. However, in 2013 the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development adopted a policy recommended by the Michigan Fresh Unprocessed Whole Milk Workgroup (Policy #1.40) officially recognizing herd shares and letting them operate unregulated.
 
Indiana prohibits retail sales of 
raw milk unless sold (with a permit) as “pet food,” but herd shares 
are permitted.
 
11 states have legalized retail sales of raw milk.
 
9 states license producers for on-farm sales of raw milk.
 
8 states allow herd shares by legal statute, regulation or court decision.
 
7 states license producers to sell raw milk labeled as pet food.
 
Raw milk is legal in nearly every European country, with the exception of Scotland.
 
Health
 
Dairy products (pasteurized and unpasteurized) account for only about 4% of all food-borne illnesses in the United States. In 2008, there were 23,000 food-borne illnesses reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 132 came from raw milk and raw milk cheese—that’s slightly over one half of 1% of total reported illnesses.
 
The consumption of raw milk is associated with a lower risk of childhood asthma and allergies, according to some European studies.
 
Some people who have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance find they don’t experience discomfort from raw milk.
 
Studies show a loss in B vitamins, vitamin C, soluble calcium and enzymes in pasteurized milk.
 
References

The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights and The Raw Milk Answer Book: What You Really Need to Know About Our Most Controversial Food by David E. Gumpert.
Peter Kennedy, president of the Farm-
to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund board 
of directors.
 


Michiana 
Herd Shares

These Michiana herd-share programs are committed to sustainable farming practices, including feeding their cows on pastures not treated with pesticides or herbicides and 
not giving antibiotics or 
growth hormones to the herd. Every farm listed below invites potential herd-share members 
to come out for a visit.
 
Bluebird Farm & Orchard
Grass-fed Jersey & Brown Swiss herd (no silage or baleage), milked by hand
Three Rivers, MI

269.244.8207


Forest Grove Dairy
Pastured Jersey herd (some organic corn)
Middlebury, IN

574.825.8847

Moo-nique Dairy
Pastured Jersey, Guernsey 
and Friesian herd (some non-GMO grain)
Pick-up in Vandalia, Kalamazoo, Portage and Paw Paw, Michigan
Vandalia, MI

269.330.8432


Pasture Haven Farm
Pastured Jersey herd
Syracuse, IN

574.642.9903 ext. 1
 
Look for more local herd-share programs at RealMilk.com.
Article from Edible Michiana at http://ediblemichiana.ediblecommunities.com/shop/pasture-haven
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