To Your Health!: An ode to raw milk

By Richard S. Gubbe

Hard to believe Illinois is more progressive than Wisconsin when it comes to the availability of raw milk. Before pasteurization plants were born, milk from a cow came right from the cow. Farms sold milk. People could buy raw milk.

Along came the dairy lobby in the Dairy State, and raw milk sales were eliminated on any Wisconsin farm.


A bill to legalize sales was introduced in 2010, but then-Gov. Jim Doyle (D) vetoed it when it came to his desk, succumbing to a powerful dairy lobby that usually wins in Dairy Land.

Who loses? Small farms and people who like and benefit from raw milk. Farmers with children who drink raw milk report fewer illnesses. Others swear by its benefits, even to risk contamination.

They’re right to do so.

Organic milk, although processed, contains valuable CLAs that corn-fed cows lack. But drinking raw milk now is regarded as an alternative lifestyle.

In Illinois, raw milk sales are legal on the farm if the farmer complies with the following conditions:

1. No advertising the sale of raw milk.

2. Customers must bring their own individual containers. If the farmer uses his own container to bottle the milk, he is operating a “milk plant,” according to the Department of Health Regulations, and the milk must be pasteurized. The farmer can only collect the milk in the customer’s container. The farmer cannot process the milk in any way. Sales of raw cream and raw butter are illegal.

3. The farmer must produce the milk “in accordance with the Department (of Public Health) rules and regulations.” The Department does not apply these rules and regulations, including the permit requirement, to farmers with just a few cows who sell raw milk only on the farm.

What constitutes a family farm is under dispute in Wisconsin. Vernon Hershberger, who owns and operates Grazin’ Acres in Loganville, operates a totally organic farm 30 miles west of Baraboo. Vernon is a Mennonite farmer whose only variation from Amish traditions are his tractor and his freezer. Vernon supplies many people in the state with raw milk, but he does so circumventing the law by creating a co-op. If you pay a yearly “lease” fee to be part of the co-op, your money goes toward ownership of a cow. Therefore, you are part-owner of the farm, and entitled to raw milk.

A year ago, the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection took issue with that and raided Vernon’s farm. They taped his refrigerators shut and acted as if his organic grocery were a crime scene. The incident, in which Vernon was held at gunpoint in his living room in front of his young family, was captured on video and has been used in two different YouTube presentations for all the world to see.

After the raid, Vernon went back to selling raw milk and everything else good for you. The state took a lot of heat from the public. Vernon’s wife miscarried last fall, about the same time the state submitted a report for possible prosecution. No agency, state or county has followed up with charges. Hershberger doesn’t expect any and hasn’t heard from the state since the raid.

“We are not out of hot water yet,” Hershberger warns. “But for every day they let go by without doing something, it means one day closer to saying, ‘Go ahead, it’s all right what you are doing.’”

What should be a simple task, selling raw milk to his neighbors, has made Vernon famous, fame he did not seek.

At least in Illinois you can buy what you think is best for your family.

REI Health Fair Saturday, July 9

Reiki Energy International (REI) will hold its second annual REI Health Fair & Expo in Clock Tower Resort’s Wallingford Center from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, July 9.

The REI Health Fair and Expo will feature more than 65 heath-conscious exhibitors showcasing healthy services and products as well as offering symposiums about current health issues. The free fair will include local and national businesses and is designed to build awareness of healthy living opportunities in our community.

The symposiums will be in Suite 1711 throughout the day and will include the topics of “Herbs and Cooking,” “Organic Gardening,” “Reiki” and “New Supplements.”

In-kind sponsors already secured for the REI Health Fair & Expo include The Rock River Times, the four Nutrition Works health care stores in the Rock River Valley, Maverick Media and WNTA Radio, Beth Ann Weis Salon & Spa and the Clock Tower Resort. For vendor info, visit: or call (815) 398-6326.

Richard Gubbe is an award-winning journalist, public relations specialist and Reiki Master Teacher. He is a long-time Rockford resident who has taught preventive health, visualization and Reiki at Rock Valley College since 2003.

From the July 6-12, 2011, issue

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