Eleven years of producing certified raw milk
The Dungeness Valley Creamery is an American family owned and operated raw milk dairy located in Sequim, Western Washington. They celebrated their 11th anniversary on the 17th of June for producing and selling certified raw milk from their registered herd of Jersey cows. Second generation farmers Ryan and Sarah McCarthey recently merged their business with fellow raw milk dairy producers Jackie's Jerseys as of 1 August 2017 after Bill and Jackie Degroots' retirement. Sarah and Ryan are now carrying on the legacy of two very hard working couples, the Degroots' and Sarah's own parents Jeff and Debbie Brown who started the certified raw milk dairy in 2006. The merger now enables the farm to provide full-time jobs for the staff of about 10. There are currently about 70 animals on the farm producing 350 gallons of raw milk per day.
Recognition of value
Last year the farm received a $250,000 Value-Added Producer Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grow their business and produce new products. The McCartheys plan to create more products, develop a marketing campaign and do more promotions. According to this article 18 other Washington businesses received a matching grant and it spans over three years as part of a $45 million initiative to help agricultural producers and small rural businesses. It is inspiring to see this kind of investment. Another raw milk farm in Eastern Washington also received a value-added grant.
Family Farm Day
Recently, on the 30th of September 2017, the farm partnered with Washington State University Clallam County Extension for a farm tour as an opportunity for the community to engage on a more personal level. An estimated 885 people turned up to explore the farm.
According to this article the annual tour is a motivator for the creamery all year long because it provides a platform to showcase what they do and how their products are produced to consumers who are becoming increasingly aware of the food they eat. The Family Farm Day showcased a number of farms and artists with a farmers market. There were also demonstrations, agrarian games, hay rides, cheese- and yogurt-
making, pony rides, a 21-and-older bar to benefitlocal land conservation hosted by the North Olympic Land Trust, live music and food.
The Family Farm Day also allow the business to showcase new growth and projects. The creamery has made some significant changes to the barn, added a new shop, a new maternity pen facility and purchased a rotary brush so cows can self groom etc.
See the video A day in the life of a raw milk dairy for a peek into a day in the life at Dungeness Valley Creamery and experience the joys and disappointments of life on the farm. Also see the video below:
Converting a commercial dairy into a small, sustainable dairy
Jeff and Debbie Brown, who were first generation farmers, saw the writing on the wall when they realised that they couldn't continue to sell at market prices and remain in the conventional dairy business. They always wanted to stay small but they realised it was necessary to go out on their own and find a more financially secure route and niche market. While they were producing for the Darigold cooperative, Jeff studied the market and recognised that the premium price for raw milk would justify the investment in new equipment and allow them to build the business. According to this article he said: "It was expensive to convert, with a lot of hoops to jump through but we wouldn't be here if we were still shipping for Darigold."
Initially they were told that raw milk was illegal but after research found that it was legal in Washington state. Their daughter Sarah returned home after completing a degree in Animal Science with an emphasis on Dairy Production Management at Washington State University, and with the desire to carry on with the family farm. They worked with Washington State University, created a plan to reduce the herd in order to get
more sustainable and to meet the challenging standards for selling raw milk. Dungeness Valley Creamery became one of the first raw milk producers in Washington state in 2006. Being small with only about 30 to 40 cows enabled them to stay local and make a living. It was a bold move.
"Sustainability is not just about the here and now. It is about having a vision for the future and taking that farm to a new direction and this is a bold move by them. Sustainability sometimes takes a lot of risk." - Robert
“As long as you ship to a um, any kind of a processor, whether it be a co-op or, or, any other type, you have no say whatsoever in the price. By doing our own, it’s a market place. We can go out there and we can create our own market, and we create our own price.” - Jeff
Follow their story in the video below and also see the following videos:
Video: Got Raw Milk?
Raw Milk Regulations in Washington State
Retail sales of raw, unpasteurised milk from cows, sheep and goats are legal in the state of Washington and a permit is required for sales on/off farm and at farmers markets. Some people market their milk through cow shares or farm shares and this is allowed as long as the producer obtains a proper license. For more in depth information about topics like laws, licenses, legal requirements, animal health, diseases, required tests, facilities, equipment, processing practises, labelling, biosecurity, recall plan, employee training, inspection, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Plan (HACCP) etc. see the Retail Raw Milk, A quick Guide for Producer-Processors and also The Truth about Raw Milk Sales Q&A.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture inspect raw milk operations at least four times per year and collect and test the retail raw milk approximately once a month. Legal test results must not exceed the standards listed below.
Bacterial Count 20,000/ml
Somatic Cell 75,000ml (cow and sheep) 100,000/ml (goat)
All retail raw milk products have to bear the following label:
“Warning: This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria. Pregnant women, children, the elderly, and persons with lowered resistance to disease have the highest risk of harm from use of this product.”
According to BC Herdhare Association there are over 100 grocery stores and 39 licensed farms selling raw milk in Washington state, however Ryan says there are now more than 50 raw milk licenses. Many Canadians from the neighbouring state British Colombia buy their raw milk in Washington state when cross-border shopping. A law created in 1988 prohibiting raw milk creates a "blackmarket" in B.C, learn more here.
It is inspiring to see how raw milk dairies thrive in other countries and how some are progressive enough to allow retail sales. ARMM continue to hope that Australia will soon see the light and create avenues for raw milk sales.
Video: Dungeness Valley Creamery
Family Farm Day offers a one-stop farm tour
Video: Got Raw Milk?