Nagoonberry

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Raw Milk: In Support of House Bill 367

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Here’s the public testimony I wrote in support of House Bill 367, which would legalize the sale of raw (unpasteurized) milk in Alaska.

When I was growing up in New Jersey, one of my favorite summer vacations was visiting the dairy farm in Ontario owned by my aunt and uncle. I loved the green pastures, the water lilies on the creek, and the soft noses on the newborn calves. I also loved the fresh, raw milk we drank there, an exotic and delicious substance that came from the huge tank in the milk room, rather than from plastic jugs purchased at the grocery store.

This Jersey girl is, in more ways than one, a long way from home. Here in Alaska I am building a life that has more in common with that dairy farm than the suburban life I knew as a child. I may live in Eagle River, with neighbors close on either side, but most weekends I drive to the Valley to purchase eggs and teach my dog how to herd a flock of Shetland sheep. In the summer I receive a weekly allotment of vegetables from River and Sara Bean’s farm in Palmer. I would like to be able to add local, raw cow and goat milk to my shopping list.

I am by no means alone in these kinds of endeavors. The New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2007 Word of the Year was “locavore,” meaning someone who believes “that strong local food systems are essential for environmental sustainability, food security, social equity, and the economic vitality of thriving communities.”[1] People are joining Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs), shopping at Farmers’ Markets, and tracking down local sources of meat and poultry, dairy products and eggs. Even in Alaska, people are responding to bestselling author Michael Pollan’s suggestion, “Shake the hand that feeds you.”[2]

In the end, it comes down to trust. When I purchase milk, I believe that I am better off trusting the dairy farmer whose clean barns and healthy animals I’ve had a chance to see, rather than the large corporations and government agencies who for fifty years urged us to switch to trans-fat-laden margarine. The dairy farmers of Alaska are good people, people we can trust to feed us a healthy, delicious product. Let’s free them from unnecessary regulation by passing HB367.

[1] Jessica Prentiss, quoted on the New Oxford Dictionary’s blog, http://blog.oup.com/2007/11/prentice/
[2] Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, p. 160.

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