Sunday morning I woke up late, threw some clothes on, and ran over to the farmer’s market.  I had a list of things to pick up so I could get home, help Eric clean up the house, and get to work making dinner for an evening with friends.  Suddenly I wished I’d taken the time to wash my face; my first stop was the Organic Pastures booth, where I met the rock star of the raw milk revolution.

“You’re Mark McAfee, aren’t you?”  He smiled big and shot out his hand.  “Yeah, that’s me.”

I have to admit, I was pretty starstruck.  I mean, this guy was an EMS paramedic when he inherited the family farm in the 1980’s, converted it to certified organic, and in 2000 started California’s first raw organic milk dairy.  In the last ten years he and his family have become passionate advocates for making raw dairy available to all Americans.  Mark has spoken nationally and internationally on the subject, and even created and published the first international raw milk standards at www.rawusa.org.  He and his wife, Blaine, a registered nurse, know much about the health benefits of raw milk.  And whatever they don’t know from their medical backgrounds, they learn from the innumerable stories shared by customers who are believe that raw dairy is helping them heal from all sorts of modern ailments.  Here’s just one story.

I told Mark how excited I was to meet him, especially after reading last week’s excellent blog post at Cheeseslave.com about visiting Organic Pastures.  We talked about the raw vs. pasteurized debate, and the real underlying issue of trusting nature vs. fighting against it.  After all, that’s what it’s really about, we agreed.  I shared something I’d posted on a Facebook discussion about Cheeseslave’s blog:

“True, it’s not really about raw vs. pasteurized, although I think that debate is a reflection of the larger issue of whether or not you trust nature or fight against it. The McAfees trust their cows to express health if given less intervention and more support for who they are as creatures. They trust the land as an ecosystem in which every part supports every other part. Conventional dairies like the one represented in the article feel they have to “protect” against nature, by keeping animals out of the sun (WTF?), fighting off microbes with medications, buying special floor pads to make it easier on the confined cows…when seen in the light of the McAfees’ farm, it all seems so crazy, unnecessarily expensive, and disrespectful of the animals and ecosystem within which they operate.  Hence, conventional dairies don’t trust milk to be naturally safe (and considering all they do to alter the natural state of their milk, they’re probably wise to worry) whereas raw dairies are more likely to trust the natural safety of the milk their cows produce.”

Well okay, I paraphrased what I’d written, but Mark smiled big.  “You’ve got it.  Exactly.”  And then: “Have you heard about what happened in Humboldt County?”  No, I hadn’t.  He smiled even bigger and launched into a story about his battle to provide raw milk to the people of that county.

After a request by consumers to bring Organic Pastures products to the northwest corner of California, Mark scheduled trucks to make the drive, only to be shut down within a week of starting distribution there.  The Humboldt County Supervisors banned the sale of raw milk there; Mark submitted a request for reconsideration, citing Organic Pastures’ compliance with California state law allowing the production and sale of raw milk.  The County Supervisors cleverly bypassed state law and, with a lot of support from the FDA and their strong-arm tactics (the FDA has been raiding raw milk dairies throughout the country, even Amish dairy farms), denied Mark’s request despite strong and consistent evidence of OP’s product safety and health.

Not one to give up, Mark followed a hunch.  He called the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe, whose Humboldt County reservation is sovereign and not subject to county law.  Would they be interested in selling raw milk?  Absolutely, they said.   So now the people of Humboldt County have something their County Supervisors tried to take away from them: choice.

That’s what this is all really about, anyway.  No one is being forced to drink raw milk, but governmental entities at all levels are trying to force people to drink pasteurized, homogenized, processed milk.  Many entities are succeeding, with raw milk sales now illegal or limited to pet consumption in 13 states.  Mark’s bold partnering with Native American tribes might help provide raw milk to the consumers in those states who want the choice.

I gave Mark a big high-five – I love a good rebellion.  And hey, as I told him, Organic Pastures tried to play nice.  When political entities start throwing their weight around and restricting people’s most basic liberties (the liberty to feed ourselves and our families in the way we best see fit), we have to get creative.  Mark’s creativity and passion pay off big for all of us.

Mark and Blaine were kind enough to pose with me for a picture, and when I mentioned my interest in stoking the local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation, he offered to come up anytime to speak to the chapter.  This guy must have a grueling schedule, I thought, between running a successful organic dairy farm, keeping up with new grandchildren and traveling to farmer’s markets, speeches and other raw milk advocacy events around the world.  And yet he looks healthy and happy, not tired at all!  Maybe it’s all the raw milk.  Hm.

With Mark (center) and Blaine (right) McAfee at the Organic Pastures booth.

Advertisements