VACAVILLE — Milk from the farm tastes like vanilla ice cream, says a Northern California rancher who backs a bill by state Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada to allow on-farm sales at micro-dairy farms.
Doniga Markegard, a rancher in Half Moon Bay on the San Mateo County coast, was among supporters of Yamada’s legislation who appeared at a press conference Friday at a Vacaville ranch.
“There is a huge demand in California,” Markegard said of raw milk.
“They want to know where their food comes from,” the rancher said of people who prefer milk straight from farms. “They are not content with just going to the supermarket.”
These people want to know how animals are treated and what they are fed, she said.
Yamada, D-Davis, said her bill, set for a hearing Wednesday at the Capitol in Sacramento by the Agriculture Committee, would provide California’s small family farms a way to legally share their milk.
“We just want to make sure,” the assemblywoman said, that this farm product “is able to come out of the shadows.”
A dairy farm now has to obtain a permit, build special milking rooms and pay for regular inspections to share raw milk, which has not been heat-treated by pasteurization. The assemblywoman’s bill defines home dairy farms as having no more than three cows or 15 goats and incorporates the small-scale raw milk producers into safety and sanitation standards that are the same required for Grade A raw market milk.
“We want to stress that this milk will not be a retail product,” Yamada said at the Phoenix Ranch on Midway Road.
Yamada called the legislation a simple, common-sense measure.
Markegard said at the press conference that she spoke with a local Farm Bureau representative who remembers walking down a country road to pick up a gallon of milk from a neighbor.
“This is a common story in rural in California,” said the rancher.
Pattie Chelseth, a farmer in El Dorado County, said at the press conference that three years ago the California Department of Food and Agriculture served her with a cease-and-desist order because people who paid her to take care of their cows got raw milk from the animals.
“We have the most pristine milk in the state,” she said.
The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office later resolved the matter, Chelseth said.
Yamada said even if her measure passes, grocery stores will remain where milk is usually obtained.
“Most people are still going to get their milk from conventional sources,” she said.
Yamada represents the 4th Assembly District that includes all or parts of Solano, Sonoma, Yolo, Colusa, Lake and Napa counties.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]