Valerie O’Connor talks to Mimi Pierson and Owen Crawford about compassionate dairy farming and supplying raw, healthy milk to locals.
Mimi Pierson was a Woofer volunteer (World wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) when she met her partner, Owen Crawford, in 2006.
At the time, the Eco village in Cloughjordan was finding it’s feet and turning early sods in the establishment of it’s shared farm in the now well-rooted project.
Finding more than a love of the land, Pierson decided to stay in Ireland and set up Crawford’s Farm with Owen — a small, diversified, organic farm on a plot of 30 acres, with a herd of just six Irish shorthorn cows, and the couple were interested, from the start in selling the milk, untreated, unpasteurised, directly to locals.
“Pasteurising denatures the milk”, says Pierson, while feeding non-GMO rations to the organic shorthorn, Lady Betsy, while the other cows, Rosy, Penny, Lulu, Pepper and Ruby, munch on the wild grasses and herbs in the hedgerows.
“Raw milk, or real milk, is a complete food and doesn’t have all the beneficial, probiotic bacteria destroyed.
"Many people who seek it out are doing so because of health problems, eczema, or an intolerance to dairy.
“Raw milk is simply filtered and chilled when it comes from the cow. Everything that’s living in the milk, all of the enzymes, all of the minerals, they’re still alive in the milk”, says Pierson.
I ask her about allergies to milk, which has become the new demon-food, after bread, and blamed for so many health problems — while boosting sales in manufactured products, like almond or rice milk.
“A lot of people who can’t tolerate pasteurised milk can tolerate raw milk, if it’s a lactose thing. Lactase is the thing that helps us to digest lactose as humans.
This occurs in milk, but is killed in pasteurisation, but in raw milk it’s still there, so humans can digest it better.
It’s easier on the gut, as it passes through the system.”
Raw milk has received much criticism, as people are continually scare-mongered into not making their own choices about what to eat.
Milk that doesn’t go to a dairy generates no revenue for big processing companies, so the small farmer has had to fight hard for the right to milk their cows and sell on the raw milk.
The hygiene standards for raw-milk production are far higher, as the milk isn’t boiled, just filtered, cooled and then bottled in a sterile environment, as laid out by department of agriculture regulations.
With demand for real milk on the increase, more small producers, like Crawford’s Farm, are sticking to their guns and giving consumers what they want.
Yes, it comes at a slightly higher price, but most of that goes directly back to the farmer, instead ofa corporation.
As a family which has been enjoying raw milk for several years.
I switched after a Raw Milk Ireland conference, where experts spoke of its powerful properties in helping conditions like acne and asthma.
So I decided to try raw milk to treat my teenage son’s severe acne.
The alternative was a recommended eight-week course of anti-biotics.
Within two weeks, my son’s skin was clear and the acne never returned. We now buy raw milk every week from Crawford’s stand in Limerick Milk Market, on Saturdays, or from the Urban Co-op, on Mulgrave Street, in Limerick city.
The proof of any pudding, milk or otherwise, is in the eating, or drinking in this case, and the milk here is beyond any you will get from a supermarket shelf.
With a mature, cultured creaminess and a sweetness that comes from the wonderfully well-watered grass, this is also the best time of the year to drink this milk.
If you make kefir or cheese, the results you get with raw milk will be far superior and tastier than with a shop version. Ditto for yogurt that’s heated to a low temperature.
In keeping with the circle of life, the other creatures on the farm get to enjoy the milk too — lucky ducks, chickens, and the laying hens and the calves in the field get a huge feed from the best of super-foods.
To see farming practice like this restores faith and reason in choosing to eat well-reared meat and eggs and properly produced, nutritious dairy products.
And where there’s milk there’s cream, and the best cream makes the best butter.
Every week, this butter, which costs more than twice the price of regular butter, sells out swiftly.
Raw butter is another taste experience. You can see the stripes of different shades of yellow rippling through the precious gold bars. With a mature flavour and just the right sprinkling of Irish sea salt, this is a perfect food.
When I ask if they supply restaurants, Mimi is quick to answer that they could never make enough and they care more about sharing the butter with nearby people who care about good food and don’t mind spending a bit more for quality.
After the cream is churned and washed, Mimi shapes the butter using wooden pats given from one grandmother, and working on a marble slab inherited from another grandmother — nourishing traditions, too.
What began as a small project to supply milk to the members of the Eco Village has expanded into a thriving small enterprise.
If you’ve ever had a notion of splitting the city and moving to the country, the handsome couple here paint a pretty picture.
Owen’s skills as a carpenter have been put to great use in the American-style shed they built, and in the charming and cosy cabin in which they live.
Crawford’s Farm has proved you can go your own way.
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