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On November 15, armed officials from the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Food and Agriculture surprised Organic Pastures Dairy, the United States’ largest raw milk producer, with the news that over the course of an eight-week period earlier this year, five people tested positive for E-coli 0157:H7 and those five reported drinking raw milk. Sales were halted and the recall began.

Crates of Organic Pastures milk

But raw milk consumers weren’t scared off—before news of the recall hit the stores, people were buying up what they could still find on the shelves and freezing it for the raw milk famine ahead. Someone even broke into their Southern California Distribution Hub and stole their milk. (I would hope that was not the work of a typical raw milk consumer—perhaps it was some criminal opportunist looking to market the milk to desperate raw milk consumers!)

Third-party independent test results came back within three days of testing and showed no E-coli 0157:H7 from the dairy or the creamery.

Nearly a month later, they are still waiting for the official word—and still no trace of E-coli 0157:H7. Although they are able to make raw cheese (which needs to age for 60 days before it can be sold in California) and some butter, and can sell some of the milk to a milk pool for pasteurization and distribution under another brand name, this must be taking a massive financial toll on the dairy. Some speculate that the delay in returning the official test results is not an accident; others say that’s just how the government works. Either way, another bankrupt raw milk dairy would be tragic, not just for the 75,000 OPDC customers in California but for all who care about freedom of choice, and in this case, food freedom.

Raw milk supporters discuss food freedom at a recent meeting

This situation is one of many where the Raw Milk Institute can help. And they are. They aim to help educate farmers and consumers, as well as help with research and legislation relating to raw milk. But they’re young and need funding—and helping them out helps us all out in the long run. So I have posted an important message from RAWMI below.

The silver lining? Twelve hours after the “visit” from the officials on November 15, a new bottling machine (ordered six months earlier) was delivered to Organic Pastures Dairy. The timing of the arrival was serendipitous, as installation of the machinery required from a week to 10 days to install. So Mark McAfee put the time to good use, remodeling the creamery while under the watchful eye of the CDFA and building it to their exact specifications.

But that project is now complete, and the new bottling machine is ready—and California consumers are more than ready to get their raw milk back.

Until next time~

Help Us to Help California Raw Milk!

Just a month ago, many Californians would have had no reason to think that their access to raw milk was not secure. Then, we learned just how vulnerable our easy access to this nutrient-rich, life-giving substance is.
While the Organic Pastures Dairy Company works around the clock to comply with the many regulatory procedures that must be followed in order to return to production, another vitally important resource hangs in the balance as well…
Earlier this year, Mark McAfee founded the Raw Milk Institute to do for raw milk what individual farmers and consumers could not do for themselves. RAWMI is the voice of responsible leadership and advocacy for raw milk. Our mission is to expand raw milk access by working with farmers, consumers and regulators, and by providing legislative oversight.
RAWMI is working with the regulatory and law-making community right here in California. Current activities include:
Meeting with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to legally define herd-share operations. This will allow for lawful operations and will prevent commercial-scale pasteurization operations from simply turning the tap on their bulk tanks and masquerading as raw milk producers.
Future topics will address certain regulatory standards, policies and fees that are unfair to raw milk dairies like Organic Pastures.
In addition, a Raw Milk Day at the Capitol and an educational documentary are also in the works.
RAWMI can help farmers by being a third-party which can advocate in areas that a farmer-under-fire cannot. These are just some of the reasons Californians need the Raw Milk Institute.
RAWMI’s daily operations and start-up costs have been funded by loans from Organic Pastures Dairy Company. The current recall of OPDC products and subsequent shut down, lasting nearly a month, has created a serious financial hardship for the company.
For this reason, and others, RAWMI needs your financial partnership so we can continue to be a resource for raw milk farmers and consumers alike.
To survive, RAWMI has launched a Financial Independence Initiative aimed at operating without further financial assistance and with the ability to address our start-up loans.
We need to raise $60,000 in 60 days.
Raising these funds by Feb. 15th, 2012 will allow us to continue advocating for raw milk in California, across the nation, and around the world.  You can give a tax-deductible personal donation or organize a fund-raiser in your area. If you need ideas, we can help. For fund-raisers we can also arrange personal or live video appearances by Organic Pastures or Raw Milk Institute staff.
If every Organic Pastures household donates $10 to the Raw Milk Institute, we would meet our goal. On-going efforts are crucial. Please visit www.RawMilkInstitute.org and consider the gift you give yourself – an advocate for raw milk protection and access in California.
Thank you for your timely response.
-RAWMI Board of Directors
Toll Free: (866) 228-9406
Email: contact@RawMilkInstitute.org