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The Raw Milk Revolution

On any given Monday morning, there's an array of abandoned glass jars full of money in the mail room at Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont. These jars belong to another, nearly extinct delivery service-milk. Raw milk, in this case. On Mondays, Sterling College senior Johanna "Jo" Burdet wakes up early and drives to school. On her way she picks up two glass jars from a neighboring student. After her first class, she walks to the mail room to collect the rest of the jars and money. The jars belong to students at Sterling who are part of a raw milk co-op started in September of 2007.

Jo loads the jars into her car and drives to one of three farms involved in the co-op. She greets her friend Violet, who runs the farm, just after a milking session. The milk is still warm and-before it separates from the cream-unified in color. Violet begins to filter the milk from a stainless steel bucket while asking Jo questions about the co-op.

Jo gives Violet background on the students and tells her about the two educational raw milk sessions she led for them. Together, they pour milk into each student's jar. Before Jo leaves she and Violet pause a minute and share a glass of milk. Jo is soon on her way back to school; if it had been a warm day, she would have put the milk in a cooler for the ride back to campus.

Why would Jo go so far out of her way just to bring raw milk to a few students with absolutely nothing in return? For her, the exercise is one step forward on the long road toward legalizing raw milk in Vermont. And why would these students pay $3 a half gallon for raw milk when they can walk to the dining room and get pasteurized milk for free? What is so important about raw milk that makes these students spend extra cash on it?

One student, Nelle, says simply, "it's healthy." She adds, "Raw milk is less processed and therefore healthier, plus it tastes better, and I know where it comes from." When I ask another student, Sarah, why she drinks raw milk, the response is similar. "I believe in its [raw milk's] benefits and that it is better than pasteurized milk. I think that pasteurization kills a lot of beneficial bacteria in milk, and I also like to support the simplest process of farm to mouth." Many surveys have been done on the topic of raw milk. Farm advocacy group Rural Vermont had an intern whose task was to collect consumer surveys on the issue. The surveys were created by Jo and distributed throughout the fall of 2007, and asked questions such as: What made you purchase raw milk? Did you look for anything in particular when choosing a farm to purchase from? How long have you been drinking it? One woman responded to the survey saying she liked milk un-pasteurized because if farmers know they're going to kill everything during pasteurization they may not care if the milk is a little dirty or has manure in it. She feels that raw milk is a cleaner alternative and says that while pasteurization may destroy bad bacteria in unclean milk it also destroys good antibodies and enzymes.

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