SZ200_MILK5_dac_051107.jpgIt’s not been an easy year for Ronald Garthwaite, the owner of Claravale Farm, California’s “other” producer of raw milk, with about 50 cows and five per cent of the market after Organic Pastures.


Last June, he had to sell his Santa Cruz County farm because he was unable to get local officials to approve the permits he needed to continue in operation. He moved to San Benito County and quickly obtained all the permits and seemed to finally have found a new and welcoming home, with his partner, Collette Cassidy. (The photo upper left of Ronald and Collette is from an article about the dairy in The Pinnacle News and was taken by Daniel Cressman.)

As part of the move, he built a new dairy facility—investing on the order of $1 million. Then came the late-October surprise of AB 1735, the legislation that sets a 10-coliform-per-milliliter limit on raw milk.


What’s made AB 1735 especially shocking to Ronald is that he was submitting plans and having inspections by the California Department of Food and Agriculture during recent months. “Had they informed us of this new regulation we could have made changes to the facilities in order to have a better chance of meeting the new regulation,” he says in an email he just sent to his customers (and which he has posted in full as a comment following my previous post). “Or we may have decided not to build at all.  Or we may have decided to construct it to produce products other than raw milk. 


“The fact that they went ahead and let us sell our house and go into significant debt to build a facility that they knew they were going to shut down within a couple months of its completion indicates that they are anything but helpful.  Not only do they appear to want our dairy to fail, but they seem to want to totally destroy us personally.”


The new requirement seems to have hit Ronald even harder than Mark McAfee, since Ronald says he trusted the CDFA. “For many years now we have been telling our customers that there is no conspiracy within the CDFA to eliminate raw milk; that the state was actually very supportive of the product.  We were dead wrong.  I’m sorry for having misled you. 


“They are simply much more devious, two-faced, and sinister than I could ever have imagined.  The reasons that they state for incorporating this new regulation are so transparently false and the highly secretive method of its introduction so obviously inappropriate that I think that there can be no doubt that the CDFA is on a mission to hobble the raw milk industry in California.” 


He accuses the CDFA of having spread the rumor that Claravale Farm is in favor of the law. “In some weird-bureaucratic-alien-space logic they say that since we didn’t say anything against it we must be for it.  Of course we didn’t say anything against it because we, like everyone else, knew nothing about it.  We didn’t inform them that we were against it because they never informed us of its existence.  Let me be clear:  we are not in favor of this law.”


Like Mark McAfee, he argues that the coliform requirement has been completely misrepresented by the CDFA. “The coliform bacteria in our milk do not come from manure contamination,” Ronald writes. 


“I am so sick and tired of the CDFA telling people that our milk is contaminated with feces.  It is not true.  Our milk is not contaminated with feces. 


“They seem to think that if they say it enough people will believe it.  It doesn’t matter how many times they say it, it is not true.  I repeat:  Our milk is not contaminated with feces.  The fact that the milk in our bulk tank meets the coliform limits for sterilized (i.e. pasteurized) milk demonstrates this fact absolutely and conclusively.  At Claravale farm we have been producing high quality, clean, safe, raw milk for over 80 years.  We know how to milk cows.  I would take exception to the CDFA’s statement that most coliform bacteria come from feces, but whether they do or not, it is an irrelevant, inflammatory statement.” 

He adds, “The reason why it is so important to the CDFA that you think that there is cow manure in our milk is that they are trying to play off of the recent hysteria over produce and beef illnesses due to pathenogenic coliform.  They are trying to create a raw milk hysteria that will get people to support their bill.  In other words, they think you’re not very smart.”


He takes issue with the CDFA contention that the 10-coliform-per-milliliter standard is being applied to other states like Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and Washington, since “There are no raw milk industries in these states.”


And he accuses the CDFA of “a classic and blatantly obvious lie of omission” for failing in its fact sheet to point out that Connecticut, Idaho, and New Mexico allow 50-coliform-per-milliliter and Missouri allows 100/ml.


And like Mark, he points out that the difficulty in meeting the new standard comes in the CDFA’s intention to measure coliform after the milk is bottled, rather than when it is in the milk tank. “Coliform contamination is a surface area phenomenon. No surface is 100% cleanable. The more surface area the milk is required to come in contact with, the more coliform will be in the final product.”


He argues that even non-raw-milk consumers should be concerned. “This is only one additional step in the state’s campaign to pasteurize or sterilize everything.”


His advice to Californians: "If you want to continue to be able to get Claravale milk or any raw milk in California, you need to fight this law with everything you have."  


(I strongly recommend you read Ronald’s full letter, together with a comment from Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures, in the comment section following my previous post; there is another comment from Mark providing an overview of the California situation in the comment section of my post of two days ago. There’s no link to Claravale Farm because it doesn’t have a functioning web site.)