BY CAROLYN R. WILSON
For the Washington County News
People who enjoy the benefits of drinking raw cow milk — milk that’s not been homogenized or pasteurized — soon will have the opportunity to purchase their own cow from a local Abingdon Farmers Market vendor.
That’s right. A cow.
Dwayne McIntyre, his wife Stacey, and their five young children are regular vendors at the Abingdon Farmers Market, selling grass-finished beef and pastured poultry, but their newest venture is to kick start their own family farm in Russell County, Virginia, by selling shares of cows on their farm.
Because it’s illegal to sell raw milk in Virginia, people who prefer fresh, raw milk, can purchase the shares that entitle them to have access to the milk produced by their Jersey cow — without having to do the hard work.
The McIntyres do the milking, grazing, doctoring and delivering, while the herd owners get the fresh milk.
“It’s not illegal for people to drink milk from their own cow, so we’re giving people the option to buy their own milk cow. We’re not selling milk. Customers are buying our cows and paying us to take care of them. Unless you have a cow in your backyard, you need a herdshare to enjoy raw milk in Virginia,” said the farmer.
McIntyre knows of several herdshares in the region and believes it’s a growing and expanding marketplace. “However, I believe there would be a huge market for raw milk that hasn’t been processed if the industry didn’t use the strong arm of the government to prevent competition of small family farms from running traditional American farm models,” McIntyre said.
He’s traveled to Richmond twice recently to General Assembly sessions where he spoke before the subcommittee of Agriculture in support of the Food Freedom Act.
“The bill was submitted by Delegate Rob Bell of Charlottesville which would, if passed, essentially allow two consenting ‘freedom and liberty endowed’ adults the freedom to buy, sell or trade whatever they wanted food wise without government permission and over regulation to do so. It was tabled both years,” said McIntyre.
“There’s something different about the quality of raw milk. Raw milk is a living food with enzymes and bacteria that’s good for you. When you boil the raw milk at high temperatures, those good things are killed. Store bought milk becomes rancid, but raw milk sours and can be turned into other products like cheese, butter and yogurt,” he said.
“People think the organic way of living is something new, but it’s really an age-old practice. The Old Testament in the Bible gives a detailed description of how to farm both organically and sustainably. We’re getting back to our roots. That’s our business model and the mission of our farm,” said McIntyre, who named his farm Goshen Homestead.”
At the onset, customers pay a $40 purchase fee for their portion of the herd. Start-up costs include the herd purchase and the first month boarding fee which goes toward labor costs, monthly milk tests and other necessities to keep the herd healthy. A routine boarding fee of $35 is due at the beginning of each month. Half shares also are available. Milk will be delivered to the Abingdon Farmers Market, but McIntyre is making arrangements for drop spots in town for people who can’t come during market hours.
McIntyre said he can sell as many as 30 shares for each of his three Jersey cows, which are known for producing high quantities of milk.
“We’re hoping the herd share program will generate profits and start building our farm business,” said McIntyre, who also is farm manager of Roffey Cattle Company in Elk Garden, Virginia.
McIntyre, who attends the Abingdon Farmers Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, will begin accepting herdshares on Tuesday, Aug. 18, at the market where he will answers questions about the program. His program will launch on Sept. 1.
Learn more about the program by visiting Goshen Homestead on Facebook. A website will be available at www.goshenhomestead.com beginning in September.
McIntyre can also be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carolyn Wilson is a freelance writer living in Glade Spring, Virginia.