It is early evening on a particularly beautiful Sunday and my little car is humming along a country road where the farmland glistens beneath the clearest of blue skies. The green grass splashes against functional looking barns and cows lackadaisically chew their cud not knowing how lucky they are to be surrounded by such beauty. I see my turn up ahead and hit the blinker as my 10-month-old son babbles happily in his carseat. We have arrived at the farm.
I lift Wyatt out of the car seat and his eyes fix on the two happy dogs that have run up to greet us. Wyatt smiles and waves (his newest and most adorable talent) and I lift my clean, gallon-jar out of the ice chest in my backseat.
This wonderful trip has been part of our weekly routine since I was 6-months pregnant with my now-bouncing-baby-boy. It is not a daycare field trip (although it sure feels like one) and it is not a trip to visit family members (although the folks here sure feel like family). This is our weekly trip to Duivenvoorden Farms in Cottonwood, Calif. to pick up our weekly gallon of RAW (real and wholesome) milk.
I first found out about Farmer Mark and the crew at Duivenvoorden Farms when my sister introduced the idea of RAW milk to me during my first trimester of pregnancy. Being a Journalist at heart I immediately did some research and after reading the “horror stories” I rejected the idea all together. However, in the mean time I discovered Weston A. Price and my life was changed forever. I attribute most of my “granola mom” persona to Weston A. Price, the real milk campaign and the wonderful (and undeniable) information I learned back when I had time to read articles and follow message boards — those were the days.
Although I originally bucked the idea of RAW milk (how could something unpasteurized be SAFE?!) I was soon drawn into the information and the amazing testimonies about the health benefits of drinking RAW milk as an adult and of the seemingly supernatural babies that drank RAW milk formula. Can you imagine a child of 3 years old that has never had a single illness? No colic, no skin irritation, no ear infections, no flu, not even a COLD?! And this wasn’t just one crazy, hippie lady leaving fantastical tales on a health-nut message board. This was legitimate mothers from all walks of life and all areas of the world testifying to the power of RAW milk. I had to give it a second look.
After hours and hours of research and discussion with my sister (a registered nurse) and my husband (a staunch, all-business republican who balks at all things homeopathic and regularly uses the phrase “no hippie shit” when referring to my shopping habits) I decided that it was worth a try. Even my husband could not ignore the table of nutritional contents comparing human breast milk and RAW milk formula side by side. While Weston A. Price (and all health care professionals … even natural and homeopathic health care professionals) insist that breast feeding is and always will be optimum for babies, there is no denying that formula made at home using RAW milk is, in some cases, MORE nutritious that mother’s milk. Don’t believe me? Take a look yourself.
The bottom line for me was this: I wanted to exclusively breast feed. I wanted to be one of those Earth moms wrapped in a Mobie breast feeding in a field of wild flowers while my glistening hair waved in the fragrant spring breeze. But I am a realist. I know that babies need to eat every five seconds (even at night) and that sometimes painful or particularly labor-intensive breast feeding can be a hinderance to mommy-baby bonding. It CAN happen. And so, just in case, I bought into the herd at the farm, got the recipe and practiced making RAW milk formula. And BOY was I glad I did.
When my son Wyatt was 3 months old I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. WHAT?! I’m young and healthy and … well … HEALTY. I drink smoothies, Cross Fit and eat a Paleo Diet. What the heck is up with the Cancer? Luckily Thyroid Cancer is the best of the crappy hands a new mom can be dealt and beating it involved ONLY a very painful surgery, about 4 weeks of recovery AND a 10-day exile (no contact with anyone ESPECIALLY babies) while being treated with radioactive iodine (after which you are not allowed to breast feed AT ALL until you have your next baby, which is not recommended for a year). Yes, people, things CAN happen that can stop you from breast feeding … even if you have the best intentions and a really nice breast pump.
So, we weaned Wyatt early and he became a happy EXCEPTIONALLY healthy, formula-fed baby. The RAW milk formula caused zero digestive problems, he never suffered from colic, diaper rash, reflux, skin irritation or post-vaccine blues. He had beautiful, glowing skin, healthy eyes, perfect hearing and a by-the-book developmental trajectory. He never got sick. I mean NEVER and was a happy, energy-filled picture of perfect health. MAN we we glad we had been prepared.
The samples of regular formula the baby food companies sent me were full of things I couldn’t pronounce and had a disturbingly high amount of High Fructose Corn Syrup Solids in them. GREAT, let’s bottle feed high fructose corn syrup to our NEWBORNS. Not a chance. Even organic formulas that cost a FORTUNE have chemically derived sources of DHA (those chemicals are known to cause cancer). So if you can’t even trust the makers of expensive, organic formula who CAN you trust to make formula with YOUR baby in mind? Who do you know who would never, ever “accidentally” add something toxic, cancer causing or recall-worhy to the food you are giving to your most precious infant? Well, that’s easy. The answer is YOU. YOU are the only one who can be trusted to do that because YOU are the mother (or father) and parents are the only ones who care THAT much. No offense, but anyone who thinks the folks at Enfamil love and cherish consumer babies are diluted (despite the company’s best efforts to convince you that they REALLY do care by using expensive ad campaigns developed by focus groups and marketing pros in suits and ties). BIG baby food companies DO. NOT. CARE. They definitely don’t care as much as you do or there would not be so many baby food and formula recalls. So to all the naysayers who will point out that you are not “fit” to make your own formula at home because you are not a “professional,” I would ask to please look at the incidents of contamination and sick babies resulting from the formula coming out of my kitchen (zero) versus those coming out of the kitchens of BIG formula companies. Yeah. That’s what I thought.
I’m not going to say that RAW milk formula is always an easily defended choice. Even my pediatrician tried to talk me out of it (though she never has anything but glowing reports of Wyatt’s exceptional health and growth). She told me stories about unpasteurized dairy and warned me that the risks are not a joke. I smiled and nodded and told her I would switch to an Organic formula. OK so it’s a white lie. But here are my reasons:
Have you ever met the guy who hooks the Lucerne cows up to their mechanical milking apparatuses? Have you met the guy who treats the sick cows at their farms? Have you ever been handed a fresh gallon of milk by a smiling farmer who knows the cow that produced it by name? (yes the cows at the farm have names) Do you know the family who produces YOUR milk? Do you know that dairy farming is their personal livelihood? That their family has been doing this ONE thing for generations and that they are more interested in making life-long customers than increasing the bottom line to impress share holders? Do you know FOR A FACT that if anyone got sick from the milk at their farm that their entire livelihood and the livelihood of generations after them would be threatened and perhaps destroyed? My guess is that your answer is no. You, like a lot of people, probably buy milk from a giant refrigerator in a store with fluorescent lights that is miles and miles and miles from the bottling plant where it was put into its mass-produced, disposable container, which was miles and miles and miles from where the cows were milked (in conditions unknown by people unknown). SO … whose milk is safer? Milk, in the opinion of myself and others who drink it in the RAW, is meant to be drank the way the cow makes it. Unless the cow is sick, the milk is not sick. Trust me, Farmer Mark would know if one of his cows was sick and he would not in a million years milk a sick cow. I just know that because I know him and I know the kind of person he is. He cares. He knows me and my son by name. He wouldn’t put any of his customers at risk. Do you know that about your formula manufacturer?
In the end, RAW milk is a choice. It is one that I proudly make every week for my family. Wyatt no longer drinks formula but continues to drink at least two 8-oz servings of RAW milk every day. He has never been sick. Not even a sniffle. My 12-year-old stepson drinks it, too. He didn’t miss a single day of school last year, laughed in the face of flu season, has ZERO pre-teen acne and a visibly strong, healthy body. My husband and I use RAW milk with our cereal and I use it in all of my cooking. Our family loves it. We would never go back. In fact, we have become quite the milk snobs. If it isn’t RAW it really isn’t worth drinking to us. Why would we drink milk that has had all of the nutritional value boiled out of it only to be “fortified” with man-made replacements? (For me it has a lot to do with the fact that I can’t digest regular milk … I thought I was lactose intolerant but as it turns out I can drink raw milk with no problems whatsoever … which is common.)
In the end, my final argument is one of intelligent thought. Since when do big companies care more than family companies? Since when do mega-giant food manufacturers care more about your health than the local farmer who makes his living by the work of his hands? Since when do we trust western medicine to be 100-percent correct, 100 percent of the time? I think following a system blindly while evidence abounds to the contrary is ridiculous and when it comes to the health of my family, especially the smallest member, I am willing to raise a few eyebrows to do what is REALLY best for them. It is one of those decisions a mommy and daddy have to make … that I believe ONLY a mommy and daddy can make. What is really best for our kids and what are we willing to do to ensure that we are making the best choices possible for them? For me, that decision is always going to be RAW milk and so far, as we say up here in the mountains, the proof is in the puddin.’