This episode isn’t just for farmers. It’s for anyone who depends on farmers to provide food for their families! Today we have Charlotte Smith with Part 2 of our interview. She is going to talk about the impact of raw milk on her family’s health. She is also going to discuss what type of cow’s milk is easiest to digest, how to ensure your access to real food, and much more. What are you waiting for? Get listening!
Don’t miss Part 1 of this interview, Female Farmers Can Make a Viable Living
Charlotte Smith was named a food rebel, pioneer and visionary by PBS’s Food Forward TV, and a “Pioneering Leader in Raw Milk Production” by Mark McAfee, CEO Organic Pastures Dairy, and Food Tank named her one of the 25 “World’s Most Influential Women in Food and Ag” Charlotte Smith has created a sustainable farm-to-consumer business selling premium meats, poultry, eggs and milk. After witnessing one too many small business owners close up shop after being run ragged and still not being able to pay the bills with their sales, she founded 3 Cow Marketing to help others transform their marketing skills and begin to live the life they always dreamed of.
You can follow Charlotte through 3 Cow Marketing, Champoeg Creamery, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Other links mentioned in this episode:
- How Farmers Can Make a Viable Living with Charlotte Smith of 3 Cow Marketing and Champoeg Creamery
- “Organic” v. “Natural?” v. “Pastured?” – what’s a mom to do??
- Weston Price Foundation
- Farm Marketing from the Heart: How to attract your dream customers and build your profitable farm
Why Access to Raw Milk is Important
ADRIENNE HEW: Tell me about raw milk, how you got into it and how it’s changed your health in your life.
CHARLOTTE SMITH: Sure, my kids are 23, 20, and almost 10. So my 23 and 20 year olds when they turned 6 they developed eczema. My daughter had eczema for six years and as a mother; any mother of sick children, you’ll do anything to help your kids feel better. It was really awful and debilitating, it was all over her face. It was painful and red all the time. My son had bloody, scabby hands all the time. Itching. It was all over his body. So over that six years people would recommend all sorts of things; have you tried this herb or this salve and this cream and this vitamin, and I tried everything like any good mother would do. You’d run out and buy it and nothing worked. Well, someone mentioned that a doctor in California, which was Dr. Thomas Cowen, had been recommending, or people had been using, raw milk to heal their kids’ eczema. Well, I never heard of raw milk until 12 years ago, I didn’t even know. It was like, really? They don’t boil it? Well, that’s weird. It was very hard to find in Oregon as they have this weird law that you can have 3 cows or fewer which makes it horrendously expensive to produce.
AH: Oh of course, well that’s why they do it-we’ll let you do it, but it’s going to cost you.
CS: So there are hardly any raw milk producers still today, and they go out of business very quickly because they don’t price it at a point to pay their bills, so they’re out of business very quickly. I found this place, it’s kind of underground, and I had no expectations because in six years nothing else had worked with my kids. I brought home this raw milk and I think we had a glass a day. It’s dinner time, “Everyone you have to have a glass of this milk.” And 2 weeks later my son came out and showed me the backs of his hands and they were just pure smooth skin. The bloody scabbing that he’d had for his three years of eczema was totally gone within two weeks.
CS: So I looked over the rest of his body: all of his eczema patches were completely gone, they’ve never come back. My daughter had it for longer. Hers started subsiding right away and it took about 6 months to go away completely and it didn’t come back. So then we just kept drinking it. That was the first thing. I didn’t think much about it until a year later I looked back over the year. I thought up until that point, the mother of a 12 and a 9 year old, I was used to my kids having at least one or two ear infections during the winter and one round of antibiotics. That was normal, and that was really good as many of their classmates would have three or four rounds of antibiotics in the winter so I thought…
AH: You thought you were ahead of the game, right.
CS: I did, and we were eating the standard American diet. I thought, aren’t we healthy. I looked back and thought; no one had got sick, no one had antibiotics, it was just crazy. That was the only thing we changed that first year.
AH: That’s what I was going to ask you, did Tom tell you to do something else because that’s just insane.
CS: That’s all we changed because I was a busy mom of these two kids busy in school and I didn’t have time to even read or research it. I found my thing that cured their eczema and that was it. That’s all we changed. At that point we hadn’t even taken any of the bad food out. We were still eating a lot of processed foods. So really all we did was the addition of raw milk.
AH: That’s crazy, I love that! Dairy haters, I’m calling you out on this one. The people who are like, “Dairy’s so bad for you, it doesn’t do anything, it’s just mucus, blah, blah, blah,” but yeah.
AH: It’s not the milk, it’s what we did to milk.
CS: Yeah, pasteurized.
AH: Antibiotics and all the other jazz.
CS: It’s the number one most allergenic food in America-pasteurized milk. People are using raw milk to combat their allergies. That’s the other thing, I used to have terrible hay fever. Six months out of the year I was on over-the-counter allergy medicine just to leave the house and I could not spend much time in a grass field, even on the medication. Well, my allergies went away completely in the first two years.
So then after that I got more involved in the Weston Price Foundation, found a source for grass-fed beef, and over those first few years we gradually started learning how to bring in higher quality foods and stop cooking with bad oils and started cooking with coconut oil. Now we cook with all our own pastured pork lard. So it was a gradual process but the initial feeling was so quick and so just big and complete. It was amazing.
So then, like I said earlier, we lost our raw milk source. Three times our farmers went out of business because it’s very, very, very expensive and also very hard on family life. So then I thought, I grew up in the country, I worked on the farm all my life until I went to college, I could have a milk cow. So that’s when I started taking the business side of it and I spent a year researching it before I brought home my first dairy cow. I had customers built up and everything. When I brought home my first dairy cow we had a waiting list from the very start. It was really just sharing my story of my kids’ healing and how healthy we were and people got on board and were excited. Mom’s groups and all that, it was just my network of people first and then it expanded huge over the years. But even at the time I thought, we were paying probably $12.00 a gallon for raw milk. I thought for sure we’re going to bring in all this money bringing a cow home. I can tell you this; it is still cheaper to go buy raw milk than to have your own dairy cow. Not just because it is very expensive, but also the price you pay for family life and all that.
AH: Right, I’m not going to say who this person is, but someone in my family thinks that I waste entirely too much time and money on my milk and my meat and everything. This person easily goes to Whole Foods once a week and drops six hundred bucks and then eats out most of the week.
Controversies Surrounding Meat
CS: Yeah, and Whole Foods is just fancy processed food, it’s just expensive crap. All the meat is from out of the country. With our labelling laws here in Oregon, most people don’t realize I can bring meat from anywhere in the world to my farm and as long as I package it on my farm I can say it’s from my farm.
AH: I had an Amish farmer tell me something very similar; he went over to, it was one running Terminal Square, in Philadelphia they have a market. So he was in there one day and he sees this Amish man who has his label about Amish meat. And he goes, “Oh, I’m in that town, where is your farm located? I don’t know that farm.” And goes, “Oh, well, I don’t actually raise it there, I import it from Fiji and then leave it on my farm for 24 hours, slap a label on it, and I can say it’s from Amish Country.”
CS: Yeah, I instantly think, wow, and I’m going to let myself into this category; we Americans are so stupid. We allow this go on, we know this on some level but we allow this to go on. It drives me nuts going to restaurants. In the Portland area there’s this slaughterhouse called Carlton Farms and it’s a slaughterhouse and they’ve done a magnificent job of marketing. They’ve painted a green pasture on the side of their delivery truck and put some cows out there. So all these restaurants think they’re buying this farm fresh meat raised in Carlton, but most all of it, 90% is from outside the country. They bring it here, package it, and put their label on it. So I hate when a waiter will say, “Oh yeah, that’s our $75 fillet mignon tonight from Carleton Farms” that came from Japan or Mexico.
And there’s no grass in Mexico. So did we just come to trust that the government? Well, the government allows this, therefore it must be raised on that green pasture down the street, otherwise the police would shut them down. Well, no.
AH: The other thing about this person in my family spends three to four times a month at the doctor’s with the kids with all kinds of infections and this and that constantly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen these kids without antibiotics being force-fed into them. It’s crazy.
CS: Right, the quality of life, and their fertility when they get into their 20s and 30s and their children are going to be born with autism, and it’s just going to get worse and worse.
AH: And I’m thinking to myself, you can’t just pony up twenty minutes a night to just get something on the table but you can sit in the doctor’s office for hours on end and then traipse over the drugstore and spend a bunch of time in there. I think my life is a little more streamlined. It may not be easy all the time but we don’t have to go to the doctor.
CS: Yeah, and often people don’t make that shift until it’s much more serious, until they finally get a disease that’s debilitating and it’s no longer just to the doctor’s office and then finally they decide to change their nutrition.
Running a Sustainable Milk Farm
AH: Yeah, like play catch-up at the end. This is something that’s interesting, you mentioned Sally Fallon, you know she has a farm now. When I visited her farm she said, because her husband was a farmer in New Zealand, she said to me that when they decided to buy the farm he told her that he would only do a farm if they only milked once a day in the morning and skipped the afternoon milking because they get 80% of the milk with half the work and more butterfat and half the work. Do you find that to be true with your farming and have you heard that before?
CS: I’m a dairy farmer, I know raw milk inside and out and those are nice numbers that he could throw around, but it’s not that at all. Once a day milking is wonderful if you can afford it because you can schedule it for any time of day. You can have your once-a-day milking be at noon, therefore you can have breakfast and dinner with your family again, so it’s very nice for family life. But no, you don’t get 80% of the milk, there’s no way, you don’t even get 50% of the milk milking once a day. And it’s also not half the cost either,
AH: She just means half the time because you’re only milking once, so you don’t have to be out there twice.
CS: That sounds good in theory but I would never tell a dairy farmer those numbers. You’re going to get less than half. We’ve done that on our farm and the cows still take up the same amount of ground; we move to fresh pasture every single day so they’re still using the same amount of pasture, and you probably get about a third of the milk. Just think of a woman and when you stimulate her mammary glands, the more you stimulate them nursing her baby, the more milk she produces. And then when you cut back on nursing your baby your body adjusts and produces less milk. What I went through, my last year of nursing, because my kids nursed till they were older, well not that old, 2 1/2, not like 12.
AH: There was an April Fool’s joke about that. I was reading it the other day, I was like, 15 years old – what is she, nuts?!
CS: Yeah, right, so the last six months of nursing I nursed them before bed and gradually over time my milk production decreased. I know this is very intimate and personal, but a lot of mothers are the ones doing the farming and the marketing and listening to these podcasts and they can relate. So it’s against common sense to even think that you could get 80% of the production. It’s against nature, it goes against everything. So maybe the first week you switch to once a day you’ll get high production because those cows are still adjusting, their bodies are still producing milk for twice a day. But six weeks later, eight weeks later, you’re going to drop from five gallons a day to one gallon a day. I know this because of my own experience, but also working with hundreds of dairy farmers. So no, that it’s not the answer to a sustainable dairy farm.
CS: We did that for a year and then I did my taxes again and I was like, holy cow, I can’t. Because I have to be profitable in order to be in business. I couldn’t sustain that. We went back to milking twice a day.
AH: Okay good, that’s one of those things, one of those factoids somebody throws at you and it doesn’t really play out. It sounds good in theory but there’s always more than meets the eye.
CS: If you’re making your money on your farm doing grass-fed beef and you want to have a milk cow in the back yard and feed your family and leave the calf on it and raise one calf a year and milk it once a day, it’s perfect for that. It’s perfect for one or two gallons a day. But if you’re trying to have a raw milk dairy with a business, no, it’s not really feasible.
AH: Okay that makes a lot of sense. So what kind of breeds are you advocating for when it comes to dairy cows? We know that the Holstein was designed, built, bred, whatever, for quantity more so than butterfat. What are your favorite breeds and why?
CS: Again, going back to knowing that those farmers don’t make it past the two year mark, and going back to your chicken analogy, often people get into it with very idealistic dreams. They’ve read about these certain breeds. I have a student in our course who drives from Oregon to Missouri to pick up their specific breed of dairy cow. Well, that’s not sustainable. Every time you need a cow you can’t drive five or six states and sustain that for a long time. You could be really idealistic but if you’re trying to have a sustainable dairy farm you need to find something that’s close by. We milk Jerseys and Brown Swiss and I think nothing can beat the Jersey milk, but the reason I milk Jerseys is because one of my girlfriends, we grew up together, she’s a third generation dairy farmer, she lives a mile from my house and I can buy my Jerseys from them. And I can tell you this, too; working in the health area of raw milk and being a raw milk producer and seeing my customers heal is if all you can find is a Holstein cow to get raw milk from, go ahead and get it. I see people heal from raw milk from Holstein cows just as quickly and completely as raw milk from Jerseys.
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AH: As long as they’re being fed the right way.
CS: Fed the right way but also, when a Holstein on a conventional dairy is fed twenty-five pounds of grain a day so they’re producing this enormous amount of milk. When you graze them on grass like we do – I don’t have a Holstein, but if I did it would just eat like my Jersey cow and it would give me the same four or five gallons a day and it would have a very thick cream line. A big Jersey on a conventional dairy is going to produce something that looks like skim milk because the more quantity of milk a cow produces the less fat is in the quantity. The less milk they produce, the more fat. So you can have a Holstein that produces just as good-and I see this in the healing of the people-the quality is the same. But again, you have these people who want to get started and are very idealistic. Even customers, we have people who say we only want to drink milk from this breed of cow and it’s like, you’ll heal from any of them.
The Differences Between A1 and A2 Milk
AH: This actually brings up a really good question in my mind. A2 vs. A1 milk, do you get caught up in that?
CS: No, I don’t and here’s why. I read the book, so what they say is that A1 cows have been modernized, like the Holsteins have been modernized so they’re missing one of their chromosomes is missing or altered so that their milk is different than that of an old breed such as a Jersey or Guernsey or Brown Swiss, or any of those older breeds. So therefore you’re going to have a bigger reaction to milk from Holstein vs. milk from these older breeds. There’s a genetic test you can do. Take a hair sample and sample that But again, I see just as many people healing from illness, from the raw milk from Holstein cows as the raw milk from Jersey cows. I have evidence to show that the quality’s the same. Because it’s trendy, Holstein dairy testing their cows, sending it in for this test and sure enough 50% of Holstein cows are A2 as well.
CS: So I don’t see that that has much foundation to it. We milk older breeds, we milk the Jersey and the Old Swiss so there’s a very high likelihood that our cows are A2 but I don’t test them. If all you have access to is milk from a Holstein, go for it. You are going to heal.
Why the Cream Line Differs Over the Year
CS: My problem is that since I moved to Hawaii I can’t get a good cream line on my milk. It has cream, but when I used to buy from the Amish I used to get this really thick cream and it would easily be a third to a half a gallon of milk would be cream. And here, people are telling me that they’re feeding almost exclusively grass or exclusively grass. I think they’re stealing the cream, because I’m not getting that much cream off the top and it’s watery when I do.
CS: There’s a lot of that, but is it legal in Hawaii? You’re drinking raw milk, right?
AH: Um, it’s not legal.
CS: We won’t go into where you’re getting it. Are they milking a Jersey or a Holstein or do you know?
AH: I believe the one is a Holstein mix and the other one’s supposed to be a Jersey.
CS: Do you get it in the half gallon jars?
AH: Like the Mason jars.
CS: And it has two inches of cream or less than that?
AH: Less than that.
CS: You might talk to them about it. If they only have a couple of cows the earlier in the lactation the cow is, the less cream they give per volume they give. When our cows just calf, our cream line goes down and everyone knows that. Hey, she’s just had a calf, there’s nothing I can do about it, but then you make up for it. Right now we have a cow at the end of lactation and some of her jars of milk are half cream. I’m not going to charge you extra for that, remember that when she has a calf. But if you’re finding it’s consistently the same year round, then I’d guess that the cream may be going elsewhere.
AH: I know the one was also doing some butter but the other one, he’s not fessing up.
CS: This is where that whole relationship with that farmer comes in. You have to be able to look your farmer in the eye and trust them. Would you sit down to dinner with them and trust everything they say? We’ve been at the butcher. We haul our chickens to a USDA butcher over here and we’ll be standing next to another farmer and they’ll say, “Are yours organic?” And we’ll say, “We do non-GMO, what about yours?” “Oh yeah, we’re organic. “Well, we tell our customers that but they don’t know the difference.” There is a lot of that going on in the farming world. So again you have to be super ethical. You have to find someone who’s very ethical and is in complete alignment with their practices and their values, and that can be hard to find in any field, let alone farming.
AH: Yeah, and actually, before I moved here, a friend of mine, her nephew who suffered from a ton of allergies and then made massive changes, he was living on a farm down here and that’s when he started drinking raw milk. He said that the farmer, the owner of the farm, would take the cream off and say “farmer’s rights” and basically, screw the customer. So unfortunately, there are some.
CS: Yeah, that can be fine if you tell your customer.
AH: And then there are the freaks like me who just want the cream. For most purposes I could care less about the actual milk. I just want cream. I want a nice creamy mashed potato or whatever, or homemade sour cream mac and cheese with lots of good fresh cream and eggs in there. Oh my goodness, it’s just so good.
CS: We’ve had extra cream lately and I made crème brûlée over the weekend. And we didn’t have guests over or anything so we ate crème brûlée every day for about five days, it was just out of this world.
Truth in Labeling
AH: I can think of worse things! So tell me about some of these labels because I think this is something that really stumps a lot of people. Organic. Natural. Grass-fed. Pastured. What do we have to look out for when it comes to these labels? I’m always telling people don’t get too hung up on organic. Sort of what you said about the guy that said they don’t know the difference anyway, but also because it doesn’t always mean what people think it means.
CS: Yes, I just wrote that blog last week about it and it was probably one of my most popular blog posts this year. A lot of our customers, and I’m writing the blog posts to my ideal customers; women, 30s and 40s shopping for their families and we’ve been duped again into thinking that organic is the ultimate. It’s not. There are levels to each one. Organic can be better in some cases, pastured can be better, grass fed. Now it’s usually beef when they say grass fed. Grass-finished beef is the ultimate. But there’s no legal definition to either pastured or grass-fed. We irrigate our pastures, they’re two feet high of fast-growing lush grass most of the year and that’s what our cows are fed and finished on. Our beef cows. It makes it unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It makes a difference in the flavor and the nutritional value. So that’s grass-fed.
And our neighbor who has her cow on a little lot and feeds it hay twelve months of the year because the pasture is so over-used there’s no grass anymore, it’s just a dirt lot. She can also call her beef cow grass-fed. We do farm tours once a month in the summer so that our customers can get out on the pasture and see what a grass-fed actually looks like and is eating because it’s not what you think it is. And the way we do our beef, we’re in the minority. Most grass-fed cows are eating hay most of the time and grass very little of the time. This is just our own personal standards; we’re the only ones who hold ourselves to those standards.
Now pastured; there’s no legal definition. So you can have a dirt lot and call your animal pastured even though you and I think pastured is tall green grass. Well as long as it’s a dirt lot you can call it pastured and there’s not a blade of grass in sight. So it comes back to you can’t only just know your farmer, you have to go to your farmer’s farm. That’s why I had this dream of these farms scattered all throughout the US where their customers can visit them regularly and see the grass and all that. It holds their farmer to a higher standard, too.
AH: I love your relationship building. You talked about that at the beginning. Now you’re telling me you invite people actually to your farm to see what it’s like. It’s so important to be able to walk on a farm. I remember when I was in New Jersey, I met this woman. She was really snarky with me-we were talking about milk and she’s like, “I get a milk delivery from blah blah,” and I said, “I like to go out and know my farmer and see the farm and have the kids experience it and pet the goat.” And she snapped at me, “I know my farmer!” And goes off on this crazy tirade and I’m thinking to myself, you’re whacko lady. But I think it’s important. I don’t think she’s ever seen the guy’s farm. She knows the guy because he drops it off, but she never seen where he’s raising this stuff.
CS: Oh yeah, I’ve had people call me because they’re on our raw milk wait list and they can’t get it yet. So they’ll say, “Oh, I went to this other farm and I just had to talk to someone because, have you been there? It’s so awful. There are flies and this and that”. And you only get that through visiting the farm.
Labelling can do so much if you put a label on your product; eggs or chicken or whatever. And it’s a grass pasture with an animal on it; people think that’s what you have. They think you have this grass meadow with a few animals out there and no flies and no dirt. The only way to know different is to visit the farm so I think that’s really super important. And again, trust that your farmer’s telling you the truth and not showing you their farm and getting their products from a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations)or something like that.
AH: One thing that I have found is that very few will actually lie to my face, but they will be more likely try to paint me as dumb for wanting certain things. So if I say, “Is this organically raised?” “Oh well, you got to spray stuff or it just doesn’t grow.” And it’s like, BS, you’re freaking lying to me. Exactly, you’re not doing it right if you got to spray stuff, you’ve got problems buddy.
CS: Can I circle back to one thing, I want to make one point. When you asked about the organic vs. grass-fed. The one thing I try to hold at the top of that list should be pastured on green grass. If you have a cow and you have a choice between an organic cow which can be in a feed lot fed organic grain and they’re an organic cow. So you have an organic cow vs. meat from a pastured cow that’s not organic and maybe they used round-up around the fence-line. That is a much more nutritious food for you than the organic one raised on the feed lot. You’re going to have a lot more of the CLAs (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) and the omega-3s and everything in that pastured animal.
AH: Thank you, I think that is a huge point. And again, that is one of the reasons I tell people don’t get too hung up on organic. As you know with chickens, they are omnivores just like pigs, and humans for that matter. So many things will say organic vegetarian feed on their chicken eggs.
CS: Which means it is raised on concrete; they didn’t touch a patch of dirt with a worm or a bug on it. That’s crazy.
AH: What this also reminds me of, is a farmer that I know of. It’s funny, because the first time I met him, “What made you get into the chicken business?” “I don’t know.” And I’m like, okay, what’s the deal? I just thought I’d buy a couple hundred chickens and I thought it might be a good business. He’s saying that they’re grass-fed and he shows a couple of pictures. This is my farm, and you could tell they guy doesn’t know anything about why he’s doing it, has no background story about nutrition or if he feels he’s being a part of something bigger than himself. So I’m thinking to myself, what’s going on with this guy? I bought a chicken, it was okay. I’m not going to say it was over-priced but considering I wasn’t totally sold on what he was saying, I’m not sure I would do this again. So I’m talking to people and it comes out that somebody else had the idea. And he heard this person saying something. Not only that but I then saw how he’s really raising his chickens and oh yes, they’re grass-fed, but they’re in black tents and tiny little tunnels where they’re not really getting the sunlight and they’re not being moved.
CS: Oh wow, that’s awful, that’s a feed-lot chicken.
AH: Totally, but they’re on grass so they’re quote, “grass-fed” and they’re just getting feed.
CS: He’s doing nothing illegal by telling you that. Not that I want those terms legislated, we need more ethical people.
AH: More transparency. If your farmer doesn’t want you coming to the farm then your farmer’s probably hiding something.
CS: Exactly, if they won’t let you on the farm, there’s a problem.
AH: And I’ve noticed there’s some of them who will say, “Oh the government regulations say that I can’t have anybody come onto the farm because blah blah.”
CS: That’s bs.
The Controversy Around Raw Milk
AH: So tell me before I let you go soon, I’ve really talked your ear off here, but tell me a little bit about the raw milk controversy. We talked a little bit about the fact that it’s not milk, the raw milk that’s bad, it’s the stuff we’ve done to milk that makes it potentially bad. What is the controversy and why?
CS: Well, again, a hundred years ago they started pasteurizing milk because our world was changing. People were moving into the cities, the industrialization of America was happening. They’re working in factories and could no longer get their milk from the farm so they decided to bring the cows to the city. They were concentrated around these swill dairies eating the spent grains. A dairy cow would literally have one calf; she would stay tied to her same stall her whole life. She wouldn’t move until she died in her own pile of feces; they’d milk her to death.
And people were not yet aware of how disease transferred through foods. They weren’t washing their hands and a person with tuberculosis would milk the cow and make someone else sick. The death rate for children under age 5 was 50% so that was a very dramatic, terrible time and something dramatic had to be done. Pasteurization was very helpful and the death rate for children improved. I’ve heard that called the 18th century solution for an 18th century problem.
We don’t have that problem anymore; we have the technology to make sure raw milk is safe today. The moment it comes out of the cow you can do instant tests on it and get turn arounds very quickly so we no longer have that. But there’s this huge political attack, I call it the poster child for food freedom. Instead of attacking all farm fresh foods they choose one, and that’s raw milk. It’s unfairly attacked.
If you produce milk in the right way you can produce safe raw milk 100% of the time. I know this and I see this and I teach people how to do this. But the problem is we have a lot of new farmers who leave their jobs in the city and they buy their five acres and they bring home their milk cow and they do not educate themselves and they don’t have the marketing skills. They can’t sell their milk; they don’t have it priced right so they’re losing hundreds of dollars a week so they don’t take the precautions necessary.
We have hundreds of safety precautions we do in our dairy barn to make sure our milk is safe. When you don’t have the financial resources to do that, those are the things that suffer and then you can have an e-coli outbreak or something. We have this reason and need for more experienced farmers. Now that doesn’t happen very often, it rarely happens, people die. They’ll do a recall of a million pounds of ground beef and have seven people dead and that’s all fine. But people don’t die from e-coli from raw milk. We haven’t had a death from raw milk in 30 years or since they’ve been tracking it. The statistics just aren’t there to back that up but it’s still unfairly attacked
AH: Like military style, that’s the scary thing, this is insane, oh my gosh, I can’t even. Like there was the one dairy in California, or sorry, it was the food club that was attacked with just disgusting…
CS: Yes, they’ll do raids. They’ll go in like you saw in the Farmageddon movie. They go in with their militia rifles into family’s homes. They treat you like criminals. I’ve had the health department out here. They’ll do a big a show, pull up in front of my car so I can’t drive away. And they’ll say, “I heard you produce raw milk, I want a sample.” I’m like, really? “Okay, I’m happy to comply.” And anyway, they treat you terribly like you’re guilty of something and it’s awful. It’s just to posture and let you know that they can do you in at any moment.
We kind of take the brunt. Raw milk takes a big hit for all of food. But, I do have to say, because I think you found me maybe through the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund. When I started with them 7 or 8 years ago when I first became a member, raw milk was illegal in half the states in America and they’ve worked steadily over the last seven or eight years to the point where I think it’s only illegal in ten states now. We only have ten left so we’re making progress. But even in the states where it’s legal they still try to trash you up.
AH: In Pennsylvania, several of my Amish farmers were taken in at gunpoint with their families. These poor little Amish children who, if they were lucky, got to fourth grade. Can you imagine how that scars a child at such a young age? Particularly a child who doesn’t see regular technology, let alone guns and having their dad hauled off as a criminal for providing a service to people who desperately need this healing food. Really a disgrace.
CS: The most powerful healing food there is. I think it’s no mistake they have attacked the most healing food because of the pro-biotics and enzymes and the healing powers of it.
AH: Big Farmer doesn’t like that. Big Farmer does not like us knowing how to take care of ourselves. It is quite a disgrace and I always say that if the founding fathers thought that food would be under attack in this country that they would have written it into the constitution that it couldn’t be.
CS: Right, of course.
AH: It isn’t the most illogical thing to my mind. I don’t mean to get too controversial, but I’ll put it this way; I can get a permit to get a gun but I can’t get a permit to get my milk. There’s a problem with something that is designed to kill being allowed and something that could potentially, but then again what couldn’t hurt you, something that maybe has a slight potential, but it is not its intention. And it doesn’t hurt anybody but me
CS: And the good it can do is endless. It’s interesting, a year ago we passed the marijuana bill here in Oregon so marijuana is treated just so much better than raw milk, it’s crazy. I’m a criminal because I have milk from a cow, yet everyone can go and buy and smoke marijuana.
AH: Exactly. I don’t deny that there’s probably some healing benefits in cannabis as well.
CS: And it’s legal.
AH: Exactly, but milk, come on, really? Oh, well the government wants to keep you alive, that’s bs okay. Yeah.
Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund: Protecting Farmers Rights to Grow Real Food
AH: Tell us a little bit about what Farm To Consumer Legal Defense is and how can people get involved?
CS: It’s an organization, it’s a non-profit that was modelled after the Homeschool Legal Defense Fund. Small farmers like me, we don’t get subsidies. We’re unfairly attacked. We have these regulations that are unfair and unbalanced put to us. Regulations on food are meant for these huge CAFOs and hundred-thousand acre farms and corporations, not a three cow dairy, yet they demand we try to meet them. It’s a real struggle for farmers when they have legal problems; of course they can’t afford an attorney so the Legal Defense Fund is made up of several attorneys who donate a lot of their time, or get paid very little for the stuff they do get paid for, to defend small farmers. For instance, we had the first raw milk case go to trial last year in Wisconsin and we won! Yeah!
CS: Yes, the first trial, can you believe they put raw milk on trial? I’m on the board, I was elected to the board a couple of years ago and we all donate a lot of time educating the public and then the attorneys give of course, a lot legal advice. It’s very easy to become a member, I think it’s $50 for a regular person and then maybe $125 if you’re a farmer. It is so worth it. Think of what an hour, a cheap attorney would be $250 an hour, that’s a cheap attorney, so I joined seven years ago when I brought my first dairy cow home. And before I got on the board I had probably three or four conversations with them about legal things that were happening that I would have had to go to an attorney and pay for, and that was free, it was covered in my membership. And then if they have to defend you in court it’s often at a reduced rate.
Raw milk is not the only thing they defend. They work on all sorts of food freedoms. If you’re at the farmer’s market trying to sell your canned peaches and they unfairly attack you, they’ll work with you to challenge those sorts of things. There’s over-spray happening where organic farms are being sprayed by their neighbors and crops are destroyed. They’ve been involved in some of those cases. We’re trying to pass laws to help with slaughtering of animals. It’s really hard to find slaughter houses because of the regulations so they’re trying to work with that. They do endless good and they’re really wonderful people and it’s not that expensive. It’s the cheapest insurance you could ever have.
AH: And as a consumer and advocate, I support the fund as well because like you said, with all the farmers who went out of business right, when you were trying to heal your children. It’s really a no-brainer, it’s just one of those investments in saying, I’m contributing to help my farmer be protected.
CS: Yeah, that’s how I feel. If you eat farm fresh food from a farm, from a farmer’s market, become a member. If you’re just a person eating good food, become a member because you’re supporting those farmers by doing that. You’re helping their insurance policy there.
AH: It’s that “Be the beauty that you want to see in the world,” or whatever that quote is. It just makes sense and I do encourage anybody listening, whatever you can donate, it helps them out. It helps them to do this good work and to ensure that when you need it your food source will still be there.
Catch Charlotte on PBS Food Forward TV
AH: One thing that you mentioned to me that I didn’t realize just before we started was that you are on a series of PBS Food Forward TV, what were you talking about there and how did that go?
CS: it was a wonderful documentary, I think it’s a series of twelve or thirteen, thirty-minute episodes, and they cover a different aspect of food each week. There’s one on foraging mushrooms and they actually go out and forage with the farmer. It’s very hands on; the people were there. The directors came to the farm here and the producers and they filmed the whole process milking my cow and I was involved in the dairy episodes.
There was my dairy, which is a small micro-dairy and there was the largest raw milk producer in the nation, Mark McAfee, they went to his dairy which is very different, and then I think they went to an ice cream store in San Francisco. It was all about dairy.
It was fun to watch the series; one of the episodes was on road kill. There’s this whole thing and it’s somewhere back in the hills somewhere where there’s a roadkill festival where they’re eating squirrels and all that. It was just exploring food that people are eating all around the US and the champions in that.
People that are doing really good in their little niche whatever it is. There was one episode on this woman. There’s a seed library somewhere in Arizona where you can go and get seeds that you can’t get anywhere else in the world. You check them out, you grow them and then you harvest your crop and you give some of your seeds back to the library for the next person. How cool is that? Because most of the seeds now are genetically modified too.
AH: That’s like an uphill battle.
CS: I know it is, but that was very eye-opening. I learned a lot about other foods, things I took for granted and never thought of.
AH: Yeah, next time you hit something on the road, stick it in the back of the truck!
CS: I know.
AH: Road kill, I need to see it happen before. Like I’m not just going to go grab something that’s dead on the side of the road. Here in Hawaii we have a lot of wild pigs so every once in a while you see a wild pig on the side of the road, or a goat or something like that. But yeah, I don’t know when you were killed, I don’t know why you died, you might have just keeled over from something else, I have no idea
CS: It’s not my thing. People think I’m really weird for doing raw milk but I think that’s a lot more tame.
AH: And you also know where it’s coming from. And raw milk, what’s nice about it-you can leave it in your fridge. The milk went bad? Oh, I have cheese!
CS: Oh yeah.
AH: Or sour cream, right. It doesn’t go bad, it just morphs. It just does what it’s supposed to do naturally, which normally we use different agents like rennet or what have you to turn it into whatever we want.
Is there anything else you’d like to add, Charlotte, before I let you go. Any tips for new farmers, or do you just want to tell people where to find you online?
CS: Sure, our local farm, we have a farm store, we don’t ship our products, but local here between Portland and Salem in Champoegcreamery.com and then for farmers I have my website 3CowMarketing.com and that has all sorts of information. Blog posts regularly, all the information about my courses to help farmers build a profitable farm.
Probably the best, one of the neatest things I have going on right now is a private Facebook group for farmers called The Profitable Farm With Charlotte Smith and it’s free. That’s just been a real gold mine for farmers because it’s a safe place for them to talk about their practices and their prices without being criticized by other people on Facebook. We’re in there supporting people and if you’re a new or experienced farmer you’ll want to be in that group. It’s amazing the ways people are helping people out.
We keep it very positive, the other day a lady put up her milk was $9 a gallon and some guy, another farmer, criticized her in the Facebook group. I said, “Whoa, that’s not here; this is the profitable farmer.” Raw milk is so expensive to produce. He argued with me back and forth and I was about to delete him from the group and I finally said, “This is a group where if a woman says she’s charging $100 a gallon for her raw milk, we’re going to say, “you go girl” because all of us who are raw milk farmers know what went into that, and trust me, that $100 is nothing compared to what we sacrifice.” So that’s been a really fun network for farmers all across America mainly, but also around the world.
AH: Right, For sure. You talked earlier about regulations and how they’re designed for the big players of the big commercial dairies for example. What people don’t realize, it’s not even necessarily just the regulation on what you need to do to produce it, it’s the fees just to get the testing and to get the label on your food. They’re charging, this happened in New Jersey with day cares of all things, they were charging the corporate entities that were in the basements of the pharmaceutical companies £30K a year to get some particular certification but the little Mom and Pop deal, the person who’s just watching a six or seven kids in their home after school to make a little extra money, she had to pay the same $30K and it’s quite the same with farmers, right?
CS: It is. One of the biggest ones that stand out is the raw milk. California made raw milk sales legal in stores from Grade-A certified dairies so now you can sell it in the store and be Grade-A certified for how many ever cows as you want if you bought the $200,000 bottling system. So me with 5 or 10 cows would never be able to do that. So basically, sure we made it legal and you gotta do this, so ha-ha, you can’t have a business anyway.
They really want little guys to disappear. I haven’t even gotten into taxes and workers compensation. I don’t even have a tractor, why is my rate so high? Nobody looks at the little guys whether it’s the government regulations or insurance companies. But you know what? We’re only going to change it by the trailblazers getting out there and doing it, taking the brunt of it. I built all those into my prices and I educate my customers so that they understand that I’m not doing this and we’re getting rich, I have to charge this amount of money so that we cover the costs of this license and this fee and this inspection and this kind of insurance and that is all required. Our customers get it and they understand, and they’re happy to pay for it. And the farmers should pass that on, that’s a cost of doing business so it needs to be reflected in their prices
AH: Absolutely, thank you so much Charlotte for speaking with us today and for giving us such a wealth of information not only on raw milk but on what you can do to help farmers. I’ve been little by little investing more and more of my money into these products with my maybe not so famous, but on the podcast before I’ve talked about my $5 pound broccoli back in the early ’90s and that has now gone to about $1 a pound. But back then, I made up my mind. When I had the extra money, I was going to buy the stuff that I want to see more of, it has moved forward.
You know this is what people are talking about when they say vote with your dollars, folks. You might have to cut out cable TV and sign up for Hulu instead. Figure out where you’re going to make your sacrifices and what’s important to you.
CS: Yep, everybody has a choice for farm fresh foods because if they’re not choosing that, they’re spending their money elsewhere. Even people on lower socio-economic levels, they’re still spending their money, so it’s a matter of choice. Everyone has a choice.
AH: Except in Chicago. From what I understand in that neck of the woods, by the way it is the seat of the American Dietetics Association. They don’t have health food stores and stuff, even Dr. Mercola has to go to Pennsylvania to get his meat.
CS: They should rise up.
AH: That’s the thing, public outcry. We’re gonna have to sadly be marching in the streets to protect our food freedoms and I always say, why do the Monsantos of the world have to use their powers for evil and not good? You’re so smart, you figure out how to do what you do, but make your money without destroying the planet and destroying our health.
AH: Charlotte Smith of 3 Cow Marketing and Champoeg Creamery. I can’t say it with a straight face because I know I’m going to screw up. Thank you so much for your time, it was a pleasure having you on the show and we hope to get updates from you in the future.
CS: Thank you, it was really fun. Thanks for having me.