“No milk for research!” (A Sisyphian tale … still in progress)

Based on our “back to the future” protocol revision approved by the, we began to contact dairies, creameries, farm organizations, and agriculture-related educational institutions. We assumed that obtaining raw milk would be relatively easy given that the study’s investigators lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay area which included the global birth of the organic food movement in Marin and Sonoma Counties.

We were wrong.

At least 43 phone calls and emails to dairies, creameries, went un-returned. When that produced no results, we resorted to personal visits and “milk driving” around Sonoma and Marin County looking for any dairy or cheesemaker who might be willing to help direct us to a source of milk.

Among those many unrequited attempts were:

Straus Family Creamery
McClelland’s Dairy

Petaluma Creamery

Spring Hill Cheese

Achadinha Cheese Company

Dairy Science Program, Department of Animal Science at the University of California Davis (including the bovine herdf manager

Animal science department at Santa Rosa Junior College

Sonoma County Farm Bureau

Cooperative Extension offices in Sonoma and Marin Counties

Nicasio Cheese

St. Benoit Creamery

Bellwether Farms

Gambonini Family Ranch
Hilmar Cheese

Laura Chenel

Cowgirl Creamery


Organic dairy pioneer no help

Typical was the frustration with one of the pioneers of organic dairy.

In late 2017, I made a visit to Straus Family Creamery which says it is the first certified organic creamery west of the Mississippi River.  The logic in starting with them was that — with their commitment to sustainability — they would be able to talk about plastic contamination as it applied to them and their organic dairy customers.

On that occasion, no one was there to talk with me, but I was given the card for Sustainability Director, Joseph Button. I was told he would be in on December 1, but he was not there. I pestered him with emails on Dec. 2, 8 and 2.

On December 21, I finally received his reply: “I do not have the bandwidth at this time nor in the near future to answer these questions with the attention to detail they would require.”

“In a quick conversation that I had with Albert Straus [creamery founder] this morning, he had mentioned that the dairies dealt with this issue around 10 years ago when they all switched over to low or zero phthalate/BPA tubing. His recollection is that just about all the dairies that he is aware of use the same tubing and he suggested that you get in touch with the main manufacturer to obtain data as to when dairies began purchasing the better plastic tubing.”

Further attempts to get more details including the specific tubing type or manufacturer zero phthalate/BPA tubing of the zero phthalate/BPA tubing were fruitless. I did email and call the manufacturer of Tygon – which makes zero phthalate/BPA tubing for dairy — but received no response.

I was also unsuccessful in getting details on whether Straus Family Creamery had an inspection or compliance program to ensure minimum contamination from dairies.

The closest we got to a source of milk came from a countywide “mild drive” where when hand-lettered roadside signs caught our eye near Sebastapol in western Sonoma County: Bohemian Creamery

There, we stopped into their tasting room  to taste their delicious hand-made cheese server up by one of their cheesemakers.

We struck up a conversation, explained that we were looking for organic raw milk.

How I almost bought a cow

In short order, we were referred to a small artisan operation even deeper into the West County which is where we almost had a cow. Or rather, we almost bought a cow — Actually almost bought a fractional limited partnership share of a five-cow herd.

To be Continued

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