I made it out of Indianapolis, which was quite a climb, much to my surprise, and made it to Apple Family Farm by mid-morning. Mark and Nora welcomed me in their store, which sold an impressive array of locally produced products – meat, milk, cheese from dairies including Traderspoint and the Swiss Connection, as well as honey and soaps and candies and even some books. All of their business comes out of this shop, and their raw milk cowshares.
It is illegal to sell raw milk in Indiana for human consumption, but Apple sells their milk to people who own a share of the cow, and sells raw dairy products from other farms (and this is method used at Traderspoint) exclusively to be given to pets. Every state has different regulations regarding raw milk, but farmers everywhere go to a lot of effort to provide raw milk for consumers who demand it.
Most of Apple Family Farms’ customers connect with them through the Weston A. Price Foundation, one of the country’s biggest advocates for raw milk – they even have a lobby in Washington, DC – as well as other traditional, nutritious foods. According to their website, they are “dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the human diet through education, research and activism.” Because Mark’s customer base is so small and local, there’s no need for him to have organic certification, even though he’s done everything organically since re-starting the farm 11 years ago. He raises his own hay, but hasn’t yet made it through a winter without having to buy some.
One of Mark’s customers Mike arrived – he’d heard about my visit and has recently gotten interested in making his own ice cream and sour cream – and the three of us headed out to see the farm. Mark is a third generation dairy farmer on this land, but when he grew up his father hated dairy farming so by the time he retired the dairy was no longer used. Mark returned to Indiana from Tennessee eleven years ago and restarted the farm – the milking parlor and holding tank are still original from the 1950s, when they were built for Mark’s parents as a wedding present. At the time it was revolutionary, a “pet parlor” system with raised floors for the cows to make milking easier. This it the expected system now, but was the talk of the county when it was installed decades ago.
Mark’s herd of 25-30 milking cows is mostly the Dutch Belted breed, a funny-looking cow, black with a white belt around the waist. They were first brought to the US by PT Barnum for the circus, but Mark chose them for his herd because of their genetic purity and suitability for grazing on grass.