In Arkansas, there is legislation being considered to make it legal for people to sell modest amounts of raw cow milk as on-farm sales. This would be so wonderful for our state – if you are interested in supporting this, now is the time to let your state senator know. The bill has passed the house overwhelmingly, but as far as I can tell is still in the committee in the Senate. Below is the letter I wrote in support of the bill, HB1114. I’ll keep you posted.
I am writing in support of H.B. 1114 – to allow the incidental sale of whole milk that has not been pasteurized. As a consumer, I would love to be able to purchase raw, whole, cow milk. As the owner of a farm and business selling locally grown produce, I know that others want this product as well.
While other rural states are reaping the benefits of the local food movement, in southwest Arkansas our grocery money continues to flow elsewhere instead of into the pockets of our local farmers and then back into the community economies that are so critically important to our state. I offer a subscription-type delivery service of locally grown, high quality produce in the Texarkana area, and the demand for my product is far above the supply I can produce at this time.
The local food industry must have both buyers and sellers to succeed. Right now I have lots of buyers on a waiting list, but not enough sellers – growers of local produce – to supply them. While of course I don’t sell milk to my subscribers, any measure that strengthens and diversifies small farms in Arkansas is good for my business and good for the food consumers of Arkansas.
In my investigations of local food distribution in other states, I have noticed that states with laws that are friendly to raw milk access have vibrant and successful small farming and local food communities, where the dollars of local consumers cycle in their local and state economies, creating state and local revenues. Providing raw milk access seems to be an indicator for the growth and success of the local food industry.
We must remove archaic and meaningless regulations that prevent Arkansas landowners from developing profitable and sustainable farming operations. Encouraging young farm families who are committed to a healthy rural Arkansas lifestyle is good for my business. H.B. 1114 helps the family dairy cow become an asset, not a liability, and therefore makes the whole farm stronger. I want to buy plentiful, high quality, beautiful, local produce to provide for my customers. I need young farmers to buy from – while I depend now on the network of farmer’s markets in my area, they are overwhelmingly staffed by older folks for whom farming is a hobby. Farming must become profitable for young families if Arkansas is to take advantage of the powerful local food movement that is so good for local economies. Offering small farmers the ability to sell a few gallons a month of excess milk makes the expensive prospect of owning and maintaining a dairy cow more manageable.
While the average consumer of high quality, high end gourmet local food does not consume raw milk, many small farm holders form a stronger commitment to this lifestyle if they can successfully integrate a cow into their operation. They are likely to be farming year round, and more involved in the operation as a family. Their children can have the benefit of dairy calves to show at fairs and for FFA projects and their family can benefit from dairy products such as home-made cheese, butter, and yogurt.
In Miller County, where I live and work, there are empty fields along any road you choose to travel. Some are filling with overpriced, cookie-cutter, shoddily built, suburban housing that represents only the massive debt and lack of foresight that has driven our entire country into economic crisis. These fields could be developed into thriving farms, growing food to be sold nearby, keeping Arkansas money in the local communities, providing healthy nutrition for our citizens, and allowing farm families to have a lifestyle that is one of integrity and pride. These fields can produce wealth for Arkansas families. And yes, the sight of a grazing dairy cow and her calf would be inspiring and affirming to those of us who love our state and know that the rural life that has always existed here is a good one.
Please support your local farmer, because the local farmer does so much more for our state than just till the soil. Please vote yes for H.B. 1114.
230 PR 1102
Fouke AR 71837