Growing up on a ranch in Montana is a unique childhood few have the opportunity to experience. Ranch life changes people; learning how to care for animals and work hard gives one a strong code of morals and beliefs as they grow up. Personally, ranch life gave me a strong sense of what it means to be homegrown, organic and holistic.
Up the road from the house I grew up in lived a family who cared for a milk cow. Not many people understand the endeavor milk cows bring to their caretakers. They are high-maintenance animals that require much attention and care, as milking her every morning and night was required. As a result this milk cow became part of our ranch community. We all, my father mostly, pitched in to take care of the animal. When I think back to my childhood; learning how to take cream off the top of a gallon of milk, making homemade butter and having the ability to access fresh non-pasteurized milk gave me an appreciation for fresh, homegrown foods. And, in the Gallatin Valley, I do not stand alone.
Currently the sale of raw milk is illegal in Montana but that seems posed to change if lawmakers pass House Bill 574 (HB-574). If the bill passes, instead of being legally responsible for the sale of raw milk, the farmer would be required to simply label the milk as raw; informing the consumers of its origins and processes by which it was raised. Unpasteurized milk has thousands of enzymes and bacteria beneficial for human digestion. Many of these organic nutrients are lost during the pasteurization process. Raw milk has been known to reduce the development of allergies and asthma in young children. Amongst elderly people, raw milk has shown to reduce complications and issues with inflammation and arthritis.
According to Montana code, selling raw milk is a misdemeanor and could land a dairy farmer six months in jail and a fine of up to $500. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3 percent of people in the US drink raw milk, including roughly 30,000 Montanans. It is difficult to get an accurate number because the raw milk trade is considered an underground market and customers are generally unwilling to disclose their participation.
The Montana Alliance for Raw Milk (MT-ARM) is based out of Bozeman. They are a group of Montana farmers and consumers that advocate freedom for consumers to choose their own foods, including raw milk and the ability to farm their own land without government interference. Thier mission is to connect families to natural foods and nutritional education.
Many Bozemanites are onboard with passing HB-574 because, whether or not they chose to consume raw milk, they see it is an issue of freedom. Instead of barring the citizens of Montana the ability to choose which foods they consume, they should be allowed to make informed decisions on their purchases. Passing this House Bill will be a very significant stepping stone in bringing locals homegrown farmers back to the community’s homes and tables. Strong community support is needed to make these significant changes happen, and Bozeman can be a key player in aiding the creation of a better, more locally based, community.