Derek and Ruth Owen have always had a milking cow at their farm in Hopkinton, where they’ve lived together for more than 40 years. The couple each grew up drinking unpasteurized raw milk, and they still keep an ice-cold metal pitcher of it in the refrigerator – the same white pitcher Ruth drank milk from as a child.
The Owens, along with a couple dozen other small farms in New Hampshire, also sell raw milk. And like other raw milk producers in the state, they can barely keep up with the demand for the unpasteurized product. They receive weekly phone calls from people looking for milk straight from the cow and often have to turn customers away, some who are willing to drive from as far away as Boston.
“There are more people who want our milk than we are able to supply,” Ruth Owen said.
The problem for the Owens is not a lack of unpasteurized milk but regulations that keep them from selling too much of it. Many state and federal health organizations have deemed raw milk unsafe for more than a century, and its sale is prohibited in New Hampshire unless a consumer buys it directly from the farmer.
Raw milk advocates said they would like more support from the state, including looser regulations and recognition of the health benefits of drinking raw milk. But some of them admitted that, for now, New Hampshire’s regulations give them a lot more leeway to handle their growing customer base than other states that are cracking down on raw milk distribution. “They’re trying very hard to outlaw sales of raw milk in all states,” Derek Owen said of federal health regulators. “And the basic objection is, you might get sick…”