Dairy Clubs to Fight for Raw Milk
Under a proposed state regulation that will be aired in Boston on Monday, people can continue to purchase raw milk from farms, but they will need to drive to the farm themselves. Under the regulation, people will no longer be allowed to join...
May 7, 2010 | Source: The Republican | by DAN RING
BOSTON – When Blanche Lennington last year started a small
club to purchase raw milk directly from farmers, she figured
it would be a good way to share her passion for the product
and support local dairy farmers.
The club thrived – until it was suddenly shut down this
year by the state.
The state Department of Agricultural Resources is banning
Lennington, a Becket grandmother, and other consumers from
purchasing nonpasteurized milk from a farm and then
distributing the milk to fellow club members.
Under a proposed state regulation that will be aired in
Boston on Monday, people can continue to purchase raw milk
from farms, but they will need to drive to the farm
themselves. Under the regulation, people will no longer be
allowed to join groups that allow them to pay another member
a small fee to purchase the raw milk for them and drop it
off at a convenient location for pickup, such as a rural
retail store or private home.
“It’s a death knell for small farms,” said
Lennington, 50, who started the club mostly to save others
the time and expense of driving to a rural farm that sells
Advocates for the clubs say the ban will hurt dairy farms
and damage the economy by ending a local type of commerce
based on a common love for “real milk.”
In the past several years, sales of raw milk have boomed.
Consumers cite the health benefits and the need for
“Raw milk improves the quality of my life greatly and
it tastes fabulous,” said Pj Schott, 59, of Boston,
who belonged to a club closed by the state.
Of the state’s 160 dairy farms, 27 sell raw milk
directly to consumers, including Misty Brook Farm in
Hardwick, Sidehill Farm in Ashfield, the Hager Brothers Farm
in Colrain and the Cook Farm in Hadley. There were only 10
farms in the state that sold raw milk in 2006.
The state Department of Agricultural Resources this year
sent “cease and desist” letters to Lennington and
the operators of three other clubs.
Agriculture commissioner Scott J. Soares says it’s
always been illegal for individuals to distribute raw milk
and the proposed regulation would clarify that.
“The clubs have essentially been operating as illegal
milk dealers and milk distributors,” Soares said.
State officials want to be sure the product is safe after
it’s taken from a farm, according to Soares.
The commissioner pointed out that Whole Foods stores in
four states, including Connecticut, this year stopped
selling raw milk.
Massachusetts does not allow the sale of raw milk at retail
stores. Massachusetts is among only 17 states that allow the
sale of raw milk at farms, Soares said.
The hearing on the regulation will be held 10 a.m. on the
second floor of offices at 100 Cambridge St.
Once the raw milk leaves a farm, no safety standards exist
for handling, sales, storage, shelf life and labels, Soares
The dairy farms that sell raw milk are inspected and
certified by the state, Soares said.
Albert L. Hager, a dairy farmer in Colrain, said he has
never sold the raw milk to clubs, but some dairy farmers
rely on the clubs and will be hurt if the groups are
The regulations should be structured, Hager said, to allow
the buying groups to operate, though he conceded it will be
difficult. “Food safety needs to be at the top of the
list,” Hager said.