Dairyman pushing bill to allow consumers to choose unpasteurized product
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
By Theo Stein
Denver Post Staff Writer
Loveland – As Colorado’s chief advocate for raw milk, David Lynch has been spending time lately at the state Capitol in pursuit of a small victory on the long road to legitimacy in Colorado.
He is pushing a bill that would make it legal for investors in a dairy herd to obtain raw milk from their cows. The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, survived a state House committee vote after passing the Senate last month.
“This is such a compelling right-to-choose issue,” Lynch said. “We need to provide people a way to access foods that they determine are best for their health.”
The 56-year-old Lynch is the inspiration behind Guidestone Farm, a tiny organic co-op tucked in a little valley near the Big Thompson River.
Raw milk has been a human staple for almost 10,000 years. Lynch and others argue that raw milk contains a suite of enzymes and bacteria that the body needs. “It’s a healing food,” he said.
But Colorado regulations require that milk must be pasteurized – rapid heating and cooling that kills most of the organisms, good and bad.
Otherwise, disease-causing agents such as campylobacter, salmonella, E.coli 157 and listeria could build up during the time the milk is handled, processed, packaged and shipped to stores.
So raw-milk producers and drinkers found a loophole in the law: They buy and sell shares in the cows and pay for their upkeep, then get the milk for free. State health officials have known of the cow-share arrangement for several years but never sought to regulate it.
The bill would require producers to identify standards to maintain herd health and register with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
With 400 cow-share owners and a waiting list of 357, Lynch’s small herd of Jersey cows can’t possibly keep up with demand. Nor does he want them to.
“The minute you get to large-scale production, the risk to human health increases rather dramatically,” he said. “But a person doing small-scale dairy can make it work.”
Part philosopher, part farmer, Lynch preaches a model of agriculture as it used to be: small organic plots tended by a landowner who sells a variety of products directly to local customers.
Lynch’s cow-share operation provides almost half the farm’s $250,000 annual income.
Colorado dairy producers don’t think much of Lynch’s raw-milk program. They feel one bad outbreak of milk-borne disease from unregulated raw milk could taint their food-safety image.
“The thing our dairy farmers support is rigorous testing and oversight by the health department and FDA (Food and Drug Administration),” said lobbyist Cindy French of the Colorado Dairy Farmers.
Annelis Johnson of Brighton stayed away from dairy products for 18 years as a result of intolerance. After enduring bouts with ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia, Johnson finally tried raw milk from Guidestone. And loved it.
Daunted by Lynch’s waiting list but unwilling to give up milk again, Johnson took an unusual step: She became a dairy farmer. Investors in her small farm support five cows.
Lynch is betting Johnson won’t be the last.
“My goal,” he said, “is to see other small dairy farms with raw-milk operations in every county of the state.”
Staff writer Theo Stein can be reached at 303-820-1657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.