Meet Bianca, Casey, Chili, Pixie and Poppy. They are just a few of the Jersey cows in Max Blindow’s herd at Benedikt Dairy in Goffstown.
The dairy farm provides a weekly milk CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. It’s a little bit like a field trip when CSA members go to pick up their milk.
“We’re really trying to keep it at the farm. People enjoy coming to the farm,” Blindow said. “That’s the best grocery.”
There is more of an emphasis today on farm education, especially during a time when kids think that cheese or apples come from the grocery store instead of a local farm. And it’s not just for kids, it’s adults, too. Blindow shared that last year he had brought one of the calves to the Bedford Farmers Market and was surprised how many market-goers thought the brown Jersey calf was a baby deer, including the adults.
“It’s a huge educational thing for people. Children point out the picture of the cows and think it’s a horse, and don’t know what it is because it’s a brown cow, and not a black and white cow,” Blindow said. “They’re surprised that cows have to calf before they lactate.”
Currently, Blindow has 16 100-percent Jersey cows on the dairy farm, with more on the way. A new milking room was completed in November, which will allow for more efficient production and includes a faster dishwasher and cooler for the milk.
Benedikt Dairy produces about 12 gallons of milk daily, but Blindow hopes that in February that number will rise to 20 or 30 gallons a day. His ideal would be to produce 30 to 40 gallons of milk per day, but Blindow said they’re not there yet.
“Mostly I’d say over 90 percent of what we sell goes to those regular [CSA members],” Blindow said. “The cows get milked the same time every day, so we want to get as much milk out fresh as possible.”
The milk is chilled overnight and bottled the next morning for pick-up. Benedikt Dairy’s CSA members select a day they’d like to pick up their milk at the farm. When CSA members pick up their milk, it comes in chilled glass bottles, just like in the days of the milkman. The organic milk has a shelf life of about a week, Blindow said.
The other benefit of the Milk CSA is that those interested in becoming members can sign up at any time (there’s no quarterly period like with most produce-based CSA shares). Members can pick any day, but because the milk is then scheduled for pick-ups on different days, members pay in advance for a period of time for a guaranteed market for the milk (plus, milk shares are then guaranteed for the rest of that period).
“People want to know where their food comes from now,” Blindow said. “That’s where you know where you’re milk’s coming from. You know how your animals are treated.”
What is organic milk, anyway?
There are national expectations for organic labeling. The national standards specify which chemicals or medications would still be allowed for organic production as well as animal and environmental welfare standards. Blindow generally doesn’t feed his livestock grain, and if he has to use grain, it will be non-GMO grain, he said.
“With organic vegetables, you would assume your veggies aren’t sprayed with pesticides,” Blindow said. “You expect that from what the cow eats. … It’s milk from a Jersey cow that only eats grass and hay.”
With commodity milk, the milk is pooled from different farms, Blindow said. There’s a disconnect between the consumer and where that product originated, but members of Benedikt Dairy’s Milk CSA know where that bottle of milk came from and can meet the cows that produced that milk.
“People come and buy the milk because it’s better than any other milk. It has a better consistency and better flavor,” Blindow said.
Blindow takes quality control seriously, adding that they taste the milk of every individual cow. “Because we’re a small herd, we can pay attention to every individual animal,” he said.
“The flavor of the milk varies according to what the cow eats,” Blindow said. “In spring and early summer you’ll find a lot of flavors from clover flowers and fresh grass. Now, there’s a lot of hay, and we try to get hay with clover flowers in it. … We’re not trying to get the most milk out of every cow; we’re trying to get the best milk out of every cow.”
In 2012, a Stanford study claimed that there was no greater nutritional benefit to organic foods, but this year, a Washington State University study examined 400 samples of organic and conventional milk and found a different result. The findings showed that organic whole milk had significantly higher omega-3 fatty acids than its conventional counterpart.
“If it’s only grass [fed], the omega-3 will be much higher,” Blindow said.
As seen in the January 30, 2014 issue of the Hippo.