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The Truth About Raw Milk, Part II

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In yesterday’s article about raw milk,  we learned about the history of pasteurization, health benefits of raw milk, and some very specific information about the nutrient-dense value of milk and how it positively impacts health.

Part II will include our family’s personal testimony of our experience drinking raw milk for the last three years, questions to ask your farmer when searching for the right place to buy raw milk, and how you can become involved in a vibrant raw milk community with passionate individuals who are committed to helping keep raw milk available for everyone to consume.

To recap what was discussed in yesterday’s article, read Part I of The Truth About Raw Milk.

Our personal testimony of raw milk

My husband spent a good deal of his life fighting with allergies. He suffered through sinus congestion of one extreme or another for many years in his childhood and young adult years. He took prescription allergy medications for nearly a decade. They worked sometimes, and then as time went on, they ceased to work at all. I kept saying maybe he should cut out dairy and wheat from his diet, but he didn’t think he could do it. Finally he decided he needed to do something different since the medications no longer affected him (and had side-effects). And his allergies were not showing any sign of letting up.

Our son was also diagnosed as having a dairy allergy at age 5. We had been giving him a fair amount of dairy like mainstream yogurt and commercial cheeses, although not much in the way of milk to drink for some years. When he was a baby, I couldn’t nurse because my pregnancy was interrupted when I was in my 7th month with a ruptured appendix. The infection I sustained, plus the early birth contributed to my inability to nurse.

Back then I didn’t know a lot about  health and food, and so I put our premature son on infant formula. Had I known then what I know now, I would have found a good recipe for homemade formula with cod liver oil, goat’s milk, and other real food ingredients. When he was first born and after he came home, he had “colic”. I now know that the colic symptoms he was experiencing were likely caused from or at least exacerbated by the fact that he was being fed poisonous commercial formulas (first based from pasteurized cow’s milk and later from soy) in addition to having an under-developed digestive system.

Gradually we began to eliminate wheat and dairy from our kitchen. I had been having health issues too, that were finally beginning to make me sit up and take notice about what I was eating. Soon after I began seeing a nutritional therapist and was becoming educated about how food affects health, I learned that raw milk was a healthful food and that people with lactose intolerance and allergies could often consume it, whereas the pasteurized variety made them sick.

I found Organic Pastures web site, read about raw milk, and decided to order some to try. Back then (in 2007), California state laws did not prohibit the sale and shipment of raw dairy products beyond state borders, so even though we live in Idaho, we could order it. After opening our first bottle and drinking it for a day or so, we found that all of us could drink it without any problems whatsoever.

We have now been drinking raw milk for over 3 years with no health issues or symptoms at all. We also make home-made yogurt and kefir, buttermilk, cream cheese, salad dressings, and other dairy foods with our milk. We also soak other foods in yogurt or kefir before we consume them like pancakes, granola, and hot cereals. Although we eat grains very sparingly in our house because all three of us has a fair amount of trouble with them, whenever we do consume them we always eat soaked, sprouted, or fermented, and our raw dairy is one of the things we use to soak.

And the allergies? They have greatly improved. We are still wrestling with getting my husband off grains, which also makes a huge difference in his health and his allergies. But since we no longer consume pasteurized dairy, his allergies have for the most part subsided except for occasional symptoms during high peak pollen count, and they are extremely mild and manageable when he does experience them.

Our suppliers of raw milk

In my home state, sale of raw milk in the retail environment has been legal for some years, but the State Department of Agriculture is not keen on making this a well-known fact. However, just last week for the first time in my life, I was able to walk into my local health food store and see raw milk for sale in the dairy section. And just days earlier, I went down the road to my farmer’s market which is just about two miles from my house and buy raw milk from a local farmer whom I could ask all the important questions about how the milk is produced. I can’t tell you how excited I am that both of these things are now possible, in my home state!

The name of the farm that sells raw milk at our local health food store and our farmer’s market is Treasured Sunrise Acres. They are located in Fruitland, Idaho which is about an hour and a half from Boise. Their milk is from Jersey cows on pasture and alfalfa, and they use organic practices. This is such a huge step forward for food rights, awareness, and our beautiful state!

We have been buying organic raw milk from a great producer, Saint John’s Organic Farm in Emmett, Idaho. That’s about 30 miles away from my house. For the last year we have belonged to a co-op of other families who also buy their milk from the same farm, and we take turns delivering it on a weekly basis to each others’ homes. Saint John’s Organic Farm is 100 certified organic with cows on pasture and alfalfa – they have Brown Swiss, Jerseys, and a variety of others. They also sell 100 percent grass-fed beef which is incredibly delicious. I am very impressed with how much Peter Dill and his family are absolutely committed to principles of sustainability. Peter has even managed to get aerial spraying of pesticides banned in his city, which is astoundingly difficult to achieve and is most commendable.

I’ve enjoyed being involved in these relationships very much, and it’s great knowing there are other families who are as concerned about sustainability and healthy food as we are.

Should I know anything specific about what to expect from my body if I start drinking raw milk?

If you have maintained a diet with many processed and artificial foods, your body could likely be suffering from not having enough good bacteria, as processed foods neither contain diverse nor good bacteria nor support a healthy immune system. You may also be experiencing symptoms from things like yeast overgrowth, IBS, Crohn’s Disease, diverticulitis, food intolerances, and allergies  due to eating a diet of processed food.

Drinking raw milk will give that back to you, but it may take some time. Some people experience what is known as die-off symptoms when healing begins. As the body goes into detoxification mode, sometimes you will start to notice abdominal symptoms like gas, cramping, loose stools or diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal movement. You may even start to have headaches or body aches for a brief period of time such as days or a few weeks. It depends on your body, how toxic it is, and how long you have maintained a diet with nutritionally-depleted foods.

Everyone needs an adjustment period when they make a change.  My family and I experienced no  symptoms whatsoever. The only thing we noticed was our health problems disappearing. But I have heard of people having some die-off symptoms when they start a cleanse, new way of eating, or detoxification protocol. Real food heals and detoxifies us, so those things are possible, but not necessarily guaranteed. No matter what, don’t let die-off symptoms stop you from continuing to drink raw milk. They will not last very long, if at all.

Where can you find raw milk in your area?

Visit the Real Milk web site for state-by-state law information, sources, and updates. As laws vary from state-to-state, it’s important to become acquainted with the laws and regulations regarding the sale of raw milk specific to your area. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund site has a good diagram and up-to-date information about state laws.

What should I know before going to visit the farm where I want to buy milk?

Knowing your farmer when buying food is really important because if you are going to make an effort to obtain healthy food, it is essential to have knowledge of the practices your farmer is using in producing it. When you go to the grocery store and buy something, there is an enormous distance between you and the food you are picking up off the shelf or freezer.

Much of that food is produced in ways you may not be aware of and likely wouldn’t buy if you had the knowledge – it comes from feedlots or conventional crop environments which use toxic and dangerous methods. Animals are raised in confinement and are given antibiotics, steroids, growth hormones, and are fed the wrong types of feed that are contaminated with pesticides, other chemicals, and are genetically-modified. Produce comes from genetically-modified organisms whose DNA are altered on a cellular level, are injected from seed with substances designed to make it resistant to disease, and is grown in infertile soil and sprayed with pesticides and herbicides.

Milk is no different. Whether you are visiting your local farmer’s market, the farm itself, or just happen to run into a farmer out and about somewhere and are having a conversation, there are some important questions to ask the farmer from whom you buy your milk:

What kind of cows do they have?

If the farmer has Brown Swiss, Jersey, Ayrshire, Guernsey, or some other good heritage breed that’s been around for awhile and the bloodline has not been hybridized, these are healthy cows for milk. Guernsey and Jersey are the best.

Holstein cows the milk volume from these breeds is higher but the quality is substantially lower due to less cream or butterfat content, which is a primary standard by which milk quality is measured. Because of hybridization and cross-breeding, many of the good heritage breeds have become contaminated or have disappeared. A1 milk, as produced by Holstein cows, the most common variety found in conventional milk purchased from most any grocery store.

Most heritage breeds produce what is known as A2 milk. Most Holsteins produce A1 milk.

According to BetaCasein.org, the differences are as follows:

On the other end of the spectrum is A2 milk. It is the original ancestor milk, and and milk from this cow can be tolerated by most anyone. Milk Protein “Beta casein A1 is a genetic mutation and contains the amino acid Histidine. A1 variant beta casein in cow’s milk is unique amongst all mammalian beta caseins, in having a histidine amino acid. Beta casein A2 has the amino acid Proline. Other species milk contains beta casein that can be considered A2 like, as they have a proline amino acid at this equivalent position in their beta casein chains. Water buffalo, yak, goat as well as human breast milk all contain the A2-like form of beta casein.”

A2 milk from healthy cows like the ones listed above is a life-giving substance that can prevent disease and health issues. For some scientific study information on the health benefits from this type of milk, visit Beta Casein.org.

What are they feeding their cows?

Cows should be fed grass and alfalfa, not grains, soy, or corn. If the farmer in question is feeding their cows anything but grass or alfalfa, the milk will not be healthy to consume because those other substances contribute to nutritional imbalances in the milk which offset good bacteria numbers, and Omega 3 content, among many other things. Many farms use a practice called “grain” or “feedlot” finishing where the animals are fed grass until the last 90 – 120 days or so of their lives and then converted over to grain, feedlot, or both. This is not 100 percent grass-fed and can greatly reduce the quality of the milk you are drinking.

Is the farm certified organic?

If the farm is not certified organic, are they at least using organic practices such as natural fertilization (no chemicals), no pesticides or sprays, no genetically-modified organisms on their land or in feed for their other animals/birds? Are the animals treated humanely and allowed to exhibit and engage in natural behaviors and are turned out on land, and do they rotate fields and provide the land an opportunity to regenerate itself ?(both of these are critical to manure and land stewardship)

Are cows given any foreign substances or growth promoter drugs?

Are they hormone/antibiotic use free? Are they using rBGH or other growth hormones to speed up the growing time of the cattle? By law, certified organic farms are not permitted to use antibiotics, genetically-modified organisms, nor growth hormones in their practices.

Want to know more? Take action!  Become involved in helping to keep the raw milk movement alive in your city, state, and country

  • Start by learning all you can about efforts being done to keep our food and milk safe from misdirected laws and prevent the loss of rights to procure real food
  • Support your local, sustainable farmer – and especially those who sell real, clean, raw milk from healthy cows. Don’t give your money to factory farming corporations who don’t have your health or the environment’s best interests at heart.
  • Go to The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund web site to learn more and become involved in one of our nation’s most important civil, social, political, environmental, and health movements. Read this informative article on Dr. Mercola’s web site which poses a not too-critical eye at the condition of our food safety system and the current conditions surrounding the production and sale of raw milk. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund is putting donation dollars to work to defend the rights of farms to sell healthy food to consumers in court. Please consider donating to this worthy cause.

Read all you can on the subject of raw milk. Suggested reading:

Watch food politics film documentaries, videos, join networking sites, and spread the word!

  • Keep up on the latest news about raw milk at The Bovine.
  • Join the Organic Pastures Facebook page
Activism Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family

The Amazing Compost Pile Behind My House

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Compost piles are truly amazing; they are a perfect example of the circle of life. You dump a bunch of organic material into a dedicated spot, keep adding to it, turn it now and then, give it air, sunshine, and a bit of moisture if it gets too dry…and within a year or so you should have a whopping pile of fantastically healthy dirt.

And that’s just what we have. A busy, bustling, incredible little eco-system all our own in our alleyway. Last summer my husband built a compost bin behind our fenced yard and beside our new shed that he constructed from the ground up the previous summer. He’s very proud of that shed. It was a tear-down project from our sad little dilapidated garage that couldn’t be salvaged because the wood was mostly rotted away.

It took him about three months of diligent effort working on it during evenings and weekends to raise it up from nothing. It has all the characteristics of our 1920s Craftsman style Bungalow, including the absence of coverings on the eaves, roof supports for the overhang on the front and back of the shed, and the cedar-shake siding. And it really needed something to keep it company. Now it has a compost pile there as its companion.

Today my son and I went out to see what had become of our little compost pile. I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I do with a lot of projects in my home, I hadn’t done anything with the pile since we started it last summer. Not a single turn. I kept hearing that if you don’t turn it, you won’t have anything but half-decomposed material in the pile.

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So naturally I was a little apprehensive at what I might find. But after a few minutes of shoveling and turning, I began to discover this gorgeous, rich soil beneath where the grass had started growing on the top. A few big roots here and there and some tomatoes, egg shells, and squash that hadn’t quite broken down yet. But otherwise, glorious, moist, healthy soil. I was so happy! What’s really great is that once again I proved to myself that with not much effort or money, I could create something quite amazing and good for my health.

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I’m still in awe at nature’s cycles and how it really does take care of itself in a way that modern technology and science never could. This little pile (and actually, it’s really a pretty big little pile) of dirt is capable of sustaining life! I can use it in my garden and in my pots, and to grow my little seedlings that I started this week in the house for my garden when the frost finally stops for the season. Our dirt is replete with pill bugs (affectionately known as rolly-pollies), earthworms, and all the other necessary elements for healthy soil to make something grow.

It’s beautiful, moist, and rich – and that’s saying a lot for the typical dry, hard soils of southern Idaho which are known (infamously) for their frequent deposits of clay and sand. It reminds me of the expensive, acidic potting soils that western Oregon and Washington are so proud of, that people pay good money for at the garden center. Mine was practically free! The only cost was a little bit of lumber, wire, and all our leftover rotting produce and egg shells from our meals over the fall and winter.

So let’s review the benefits of a compost bin:

  • You can share with your children how life renews itself in one of the simplest ways imaginable – by dumping your unwanted organic material in a pile and watching it transform itself into something that can sustain life. If that isn’t a lesson in sustainability, I don’t know what is!
  • Having access to healthy, gorgeous dirt for all sorts of uses – gardening, planting, and endless other projects, all for the price some rotting vegetables and fruits.
  • It’s a project you can work on with your family or neighbors, gain fellowship over an honest day’s work, and get your Vitamin D at the same time.

Here are some of the more technical benefits of composting (courtesy of Compost Fundamentals):

  • Compost retains micro and macro nutrients often absent in synthetic fertilizers and soil compounds.
  • Compost helps sandy soil retain nutrients and water better than without.
  • Compost causes tightly bound particles in clay or silt soil to loosen so so plant roots can spread, water, drain, and air penetrate.
  • Compost modifies the structure of soil, causing it to erode less and preventing spattering of soil on plants, which can be the cause of disease to spread.
  • Compost holds nutrients tight enough to keep them from washing out, but loosely enough so plants can take them up as needed.
  • Compost makes any soil easier to work.
  • Compost releases nutrients slowly, over months or years, unlike synthetic fertilizers
  • Compost provides a buffer to the soil and neutralizes both acid and alkaline soils, thus bringing pH levels to the optimum range for nutrient availability to growing plants.
  • Compost brings a rich, diverse group of bacteria to feed the soil, also attracting the right type of worms, fungi, and insects to support the healthy growth of soil.
  • Bacteria in compost break down organics into plant available nutrients. Some bacteria are capable of converting nitrogen from the air into a plant-available nutrient.
  • Compost enriched soil have a wide variety of beneficial insects, worms, and other organisms that burrow through soil to keep it well aerated.
  • Compost may suppress diseases and harmful pests that could overrun poor, lifeless soil.
  • Compost increases the soil’s ability to retain water thereby decreasing runoff damage.
  • Compost encourages the growth of healthy root systems which also decreases runoff.
  • Composting can reduce or completely eliminate the need for use of synthetic fertilizers.
  • Compost can reduce chemical pesticides since it contains beneficial micro organisms that may protect plants from diseases and pests (hmmm, that sounds like something else we know – could it be eating real food to keep ourselves healthy and avoid taking medications and antibiotics?)
  • Only a 5 percent increase in organic material quadruples the water holding capacity of the soil

So what are you waiting for? If you have poor, lifeless soil in your yard or on your land, consider a compost pile as a start to begin the renewability of life in your corner of the world for cultivating and growing living things. Compost is where sustainable food comes from; it has made a believer out of me!

Budgeting and Planning for My Garden