Raw Dairy Revolution

By on July 25, 2018

Biodynamic farmers are pioneering raw dairy production in the Tetons

Farmer Mike Reid and his cow Auntie Em near the canyon rim where the cows graze among wildflowers. Reid uses their fragant milk to make the Alps style cheese, Mahogany Ridge. (PHOTO: Jonathan Castner)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – In the 1930s, Dr. Weston Price traveled the world to research the effects of diet on dental health. He observed that North American Inuit, various African tribes, Gaelic communities in the Scottish Highlands, and other groups that lived agrarian lifestyles and whose diets were high in fat-soluble nutrients were healthier, both in body and mind, than his patients in Ohio.  

From natural, fat-soluble, vitamin-rich foods, such as fish, eggs, animal organs, and raw milk, their palates grew wide enough to fit their teeth and their bodies and minds developed fully and healthily. Despite the absence of a toothbrush, Price did not find a single cavity among them.  

But this discovery was not widely discussed or adopted by mainstream American culture, allowing for the proliferation of processed foods and people’s increasingly diminished health in the western world.

For Mike Reid, farmer and owner of Paradise Springs Farm, which has a raw Grade A dairy license, discovering raw milk and its health benefits saved his life. Since childhood, Reid suffered a gluten allergy. But he grew up during a time when that allergy was not recognized or understood.

“After college, my guts were fried,” he said. “I had to find something I could eat otherwise I was literally going to die.”

In 1995, after graduating from Colorado State University with degrees in biology and botany, Reid moved to Victor, Idaho, where he began working at Blue Flax Farm. There, he met Jed Restuccia and they started their own farm, known today as Cosmic Apple, rooted in the tenets of biodiversity.

A biodiverse farm is run on the practice of closed-system farming; it is one functioning organism. That means everything the farm needs is produced and cared for on that very land. To grow healthy crops and sustain “living soil,” the presence of livestock is vital. So, Restuccia bought a cow and Reid began to notice a difference.

“After drinking raw milk from this cow who ate grass and was treated as a part of the family, my guts were completely healed,” Reid said.   

In 1999, Reid bought the property now known as Paradise Springs Farm and built a state of the art raw dairy facility in Idaho. It is is one of the few states that has legalized the sale of raw milk even as federal health agencies like the Center for Disease Control warn against its consumption saying it can carry harmful bacteria. But Raw milk adovcates, like Reid and his customers, swear by its health benefits.

So what makes the milk taste so good?

Reid said not all raw milk is created equal. Most dairy cows are kept in barns, fed bad food, and are often sick, he said. The result is contaminated milk that must be highly processed.

Reid, however, treats his cows “like they’re part of our family,” he said. “Where most cows live to the age of four, I look out into my pasture and see my oldest cow who is 15-and-a-half. She’s got to be the oldest cow in Idaho.”  

According to Reid, most American dairies, including certified organic ones, house between 750 to 10,000 cows.

Farms with, say, 10,000 versus 5,000 cows are typically a quarter more efficient. That notion encourages farmers to have larger operations, Reid said. “The competitive market around the world is driving dairy farmers to extreme conditions,” he said. These cows are fed copious amounts of corn and fattening whey to produce as much milk as possible.     

For Reid and Plasse, however, their 12 cows are part of their living organism farm, which results in tasty, healthful dairy.

Raised on grass, and alfalfa and whey from the farm, the cows are set free in the spring on the Mahogany Ridge wild lands to graze on wildflowers.  

“The milk produced from this really tastes like flowers,” Reid said. That taste compelled him to turn the delicious, flowery spring milk into a cheese inspired by his “heros”: Swiss high alpine cow herders who have been producing cheese for centuries by following their herd into the highlands of the Alps, milking them daily as they graze on wildflowers, turning it to cheese that very night and sending it down to their caves to ripen.

In addition to the Mahogany Ridge cheese, the couple produces a blue cheddar and white cheddar that they sell in stores. As for their raw milk, they stay busy selling to families in the valley.  

“I can see the difference between families where kids were raised on our milk and kids who weren’t,” Reid said. “The difference in their facial and body development is staggering.”

Reid and Plasse are indeed Dr. Price disciples. “It’s an experiment we’ve been running here on the farm and it’s certainly been working,” Reid said.  

About Helen Goelet

You must be logged in to post a comment Login