How to Have Herd-Shares for Excess Raw Milk

| 2/4/2019 10:54:00 AM

milking equipment

On our 13 acre farm, my husband and I only intended to grow food for ourselves while helping to save endangered breeds of farm animals. However, when our first two Dutch Belted cows together gave ten gallons of milk every day, we quickly needed other outlets for this bounty. The pigs and chickens were glad to help and I made lots of cheese for us. But raw milk is such a beautiful and nutritious food that we did want to share with friends and neighbors were eager to have access to raw milk.

Raw milk laws vary greatly from state to state, and we quickly learned that it is illegal to sell raw milk in Ohio. However, Ohio does allow farmers to sell consumers a “share” of the herd—no matter how small the herd. This system of “herd-shares” exists in some other states, while others allow selling raw milk through a retail store and others directly from farms to consumers. Only New Jersey currently prohibits obtaining raw milk by any means.

I might have found navigating the legal system overwhelming if a national group hadn’t been formed just as we were puzzling over our excess milk. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund was founded in 2007 to help small farmers keep legally safe when selling produce from their farms. This national organization provides the basic knowledge of state-specific laws, contracts, advice, customer information and even access to its lawyers, if needed. The annual fee varies for farmers, consumers, artisans or co-op; it is a great bargain to keep our small farms safe.

Here is some of the “legal-speak” that they taught us for doing herd-shares. Rather than buying milk, customers buy shares of the herd. These “owners” then pick up the amount of milk weekly that is equivalent to their share. For our share-holders, one share cost $50. For owning one share, a customer got a gallon of milk-per-week. An individual could buy a half-share, a single share or more than one share. That money was refunded when they no longer wanted milk or when we no longer wanted to do herd-shares.

We were not the owners, but the “agisters,” or care-takers of the herd. The way we got paid for our mucking and milking duties was a monthly fee. You can base the amount of your monthly “agister fee” on what your want to charge per gallon of milk. That fee varies by how many shares (or partial shares) an individual owns and therefore how much milk they get. We charged $28-per-share each month. People picked up their milk weekly on their designated day, but paid monthly at the barn’s entrance while checking off their name for that month. Remember, if there happens to be five Fridays in the month, the person who picks up their milk on Friday still pays the same monthly agister fee. In this way, the customers get pleasure with this rare bonus, and we stayed safe with the law.

2/11/2019 12:12:42 PM

I'm pretty sure it's legal to sell it in California. You can even buy it at grocery and health food stores.

2/11/2019 9:22:17 AM

I was told raw milk and raw oysters are not good for you at a city food handlers class. I told the teacher if that was the case I should have died years ago. I grew up on a 35 acre farm and drank raw milk from the age of six. I've eaten enough raw oysters to pave half of the streets in our home town. My kids grew up drinking raw milk and milking the family cow. I just turned 78 on Jan 1 2019 and my kids are in their 50s I'm shooting for 105. Dumb Politian's

2/11/2019 7:29:17 AM

It’s funny the article says raw milk is illegal in every state to sell. I can get it at a couple health food stores and even a delivery service offers it. I buy it a lot.

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