Questions To Ask Your Raw Milk Farmer

Fresh, raw milk cow cheese, made in a similar fashion to Chevre (commonly known as Goat Cheese)

As a follow-up to the first post on raw milk (Buying Raw Milk in Tennessee), I thought it would be useful to provide a list of questions that we feel are prudent for consumers to ask prior to buying raw milk or participating in a herd share. These are questions that, in our opinion, customers should be asking their raw milk dairy farmers. (If additional quesitons come to mnind, I'd love it if you left them in the comments.)

Before we get into the list of questions, it's important to make sure the farmer will give you the time to ask questions in the first place. If a farmer is going to sell you raw milk, a share of their herd, or a raw milk product, he/she should give you ample time to ask questions. If they don't, then don't buy their milk. That's the first warning sign.

Also, if you get a bad vibe from the farm, or you sense the farmer is lying to you or avoiding answering your questions, move on. Don't hesitate. Trust your gut, or your gut may pay for it later. Raw milk is great and it's wonderful to have, but don't risk buying contaminated raw milk. It could make you very ill, and in extreme cases it could be lethal. We've been to a number of raw milk farms where we wouldn't dare drink the milk. We've also been to plenty where we would drink the milk. Knowing the difference is critical and I hope these questions help you identify a high-quality raw milk farmer in your area.

Ok, on with it. This is written from the perspective of someone buying raw cow's milk, since that is by far the most common raw milk available. We have dairy goats and so do lots of other dairy farmers. Raw sheep's milk is also an option. These questions can be substituted for raw milk from any type of dairy animal, it's not cow-specific.

Questions To Ask Your Raw Milk Farmer


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Buying Raw Milk in Tennessee

Since we milk seasonally (March/April through December/January), there are 2-3 months where we don't have any of our own milk. No milk for coffee, no milk for cheese, none for our cereal, etc. Of course, all of the milk we drink is raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk, and we'd like to continue drinking raw milk even when our goats are not lactating.

Raw milk mozzarella "bocconcini" made with milk from Brian's Jersey cows

So we buy milk from a local farmer that produces raw cow's milk from Jersey cows. His name is Brian Harville and you can find his contact info through the Tennesseean's For Raw Milk website by contacting Shawn Dady. I believe he delivers to Murfreesboro, Nashville and many surrounding suburbs. Brian was recently featured in The Tennessean in an article titled "Health Claims of Raw Milk Debated. Farmer Sees Increased Demand, Despite a Lack of Government Oversight".

Brian rotationally grazes his 20+ herd of Jersey cows on a farm about 10 minutes away from us. I go once per week and pick-up two gallons of milk for us to drink and a few gallons of milk for Sweetbreads to make cheese with (which we split with Brian and his family).

Sounds all well and good, right? Milk straight from the cows, from a farmer we know, just down the road. Well, in many states it would be totally illegal for us to pay for his milk. Fortunately, it's perfectly legal in Tennessee.

You see, raw milk isn't the milk you get in stores.

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