- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: grazing management, manure management, preventive practices, grazing - rotational
- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: marketing management
- Pest Management: sanitation
- Production Systems: holistic management
In an effort to preserve dairy farms in Massachusetts, the NOFA/Mass Raw Milk Network proposes to develop and publish a manual for raw milk producers. The manual will detail best management practices and explain clearly what farmers must do to meet the state’s regulations for the sale of unpasteurized milk to consumers. This manual will provide existing raw milk dairies with a set of guidelines they do not currently have, and will give dairies and individuals considering raw milk production a clear roadmap for how to approach the processes they will need to follow. Massachusetts’ regulations allow for the sale of raw milk to consumers, but many of these regulations are complex and some are vague. This publication will help alleviate the problems some farms and consumers have had by clarifying these issues. Raw milk sales are a proven tool to help dairy farms survive in Massachusetts. The demand for unpasteurized milk is growing, and more and more dairies are considering stepping up to meet that demand. This manual will play an integral role in the expansion of the raw milk industry in the Commonwealth.
Project objectives from proposal:
To develop the list of questions and issues that will form the outline of the manual, we will survey all of the raw milk farmers in Massachusetts by email and phone. We will ask open-ended questions (e.g.: ‘What issues are most difficult for you in raw milk production?”) and specific ones (e.g.: ‘Are you clear on what the inspectors look for when they examine your bottling process?’). This will allow us to determine what issues are of most importance to farmers, and will also help us flesh out where the biggest gaps in understanding of the regulations lie.
Based upon these conversations and our own research into the Massachusetts regulations, as well as a survey of similar resources in other states, we will develop a detailed outline of the manual. The outline will most likely follow a typical process cycle, from animal management to milking to handling to sales, and will lay out every question that the manual needs to answer for each step of the process.
We have engaged three raw milk dairies as partners in this project. These are dairies we feel exemplify excellence in raw milk production and represent a range of management practices and types of operations. We will hold site visits at each of these dairies. Each visit will allow us to follow the milking process closely, recording every step with both text and photographs, and ask questions of the farmers.
Based on the information gathered in the site visits, we will write the first draft of the manual. This draft will be sent to the three partner farmers for review, as well as to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). MDAR’s input at this stage is particularly critical, as we will want to ensure that any methods or practices that the manual represents will be acceptable under the regulations are truly acceptable to MDAR.
Based upon comments gathered during review, we will develop a second draft and again offer it for review to the partner farms and MDAR. Their comments will then be integrated into a final draft for publication.
The manual will be published and distributed to all of the current raw milk dairies in Massachusetts. Additional copies will remain with NOFA/Mass and MDAR for distribution upon request to anyone interested in launching a raw milk dairy. The manual’s availability will be advertised in MDAR and NOFA/Mass publications. It will also be available online on the NOFA/Mass website.
While this is not a quantitative research project with specific projected results, we intend to check back with MDAR approximately six months after the manuals have been distributed, and then again every six months for a period of two years, to determine whether they have noted a decrease in inspection violations. We will also be able to track the number of new farms coming online with raw milk sales following the publication of the manual, and will inquire of them as to how useful the manual was to their entering the market.
The manual will be distributed in hard copy to all of the current raw milk dairies in Massachusetts. NOFA/Mass and MDAR will keep additional copies on hand to offer to other dairies or individuals interested in starting raw milk operations. We will broadcast the publication’s availability through NOFA/Mass and MDAR email lists and newsletters, as well as with a press release to our media lists. The publication will also be available at no cost on the NOFA/Mass website.