Organic dairy products, at 15% of the U. S. organic market, are second only to fresh fruit and vegetables in sales. The northeast, with our cool seasons, plentiful rainfall, abundant pastures, and hilly (even rocky) terrain, is ideal for dairy farming. The presence of so many nearby population centers makes small, specialized, value-added and raw milk dairies financially possible – in some cases even attractive.
Most of us know someone who is a dairy farmer. Many of us even buy our milk at a local farm. But how much do we know about the biology of milk production itself, the biochemistry of fermentation and culturing which makes so many milk products, or the advantages of natural, unpasteurized milk? For that matter, how many of us know much about the economics of dairying or the realities of raising and milking goats, sheep, or cows?
For that purpose, to inform readers interested in all aspects of organic dairy production, we devote this issue of The Natural Farmer. During the short few years that your humble editors kept a family cow for their thirsty offspring we learned a lot about the dedication and labor required in dairying. We also learned about the amazing wealth that nature has enabled ruminant digestion to create from humble grass. The cheeses soft and hard, cream, yogurt, butter, ice cream and abundant fresh milk we enjoyed made us feel very rich. Looking back, we were!
As we learn more about the incredible evolutionary partnership among herding ruminants, photosynthesizing plants, and carbon-hungry soil organisms – each taking from the others and giving back more in return – the more dairying looks less like another way to make a living and more like a calling. I hope we have touched on that sense among the dairy farmers we feature in this issue.