Saturday, January 9, 2010

Organizing a raw milk buying group

Everything here is based on what has worked well for our small milk group. Everyone's different - you may be able to work out a completely different, and very successful set-up. My intention is to let people in the Andover, Massachusetts area know how they can get hold of good raw milk. (I do not sell milk, nor do I pick it up for anyone except the members of my raw milk group.)

If you live in the Andover area and would like to inquire about being part of a group, email Liz at

Which farm to buy from?
A small group (2-4 households works best) agrees to buy milk at the same farm every week. Which farm? In the Andover area, the three closest are 1. Brookford Farm (, which sells in Exeter NH once a week on Thursday afternoons, 2. Connolly's Dairy on Webster Highway in Temple NH (603-924-5002), and 3. Robinson's Farm in Hardwick MA (

Can you solidly commit to driving when it's your turn?
Each household commits to driving once every 3 weeks (if 3 households are involved)or every 4 weeks (if 4 households are involved).

Does one family have the refrigerator needed?
One household has an extra refrigerator which is available whether or not anyone is home at that the garage, usually. That way, milk can be dropped off or picked up at any time. (Important, since we are all so busy, and each of us usually has a small window of time when we can drive to the pickup spot to get our milk.)

Equipment necessary
Each household owns a large cooler, which is necessary for pickup up milk. In warm weather, you'll need to put a lot of ice in it BEFORE you head out to pick up milk. (I freeze old plastic milk jugs 3/4 full of water; they go right back into the freezer after I pick up milk.) Keeping raw milk uniformly cold is one of the keys to having it stay sweet for at least a week, and having the cooler all chilled down before putting the milk in there is one secret to keeping it cold enough.

For those buying from Brookford Farm, which uses half gallon glass canning jars, each household buys a case of half gallon jars. (Rocky's sells them, or will order you a case if they don't have them in stock.) You give the farmer an empty jar (with white plastic wide-mouth lid) for each half gallon you buy (or, you can just pay him $2 for each jar).

Volunteer needed
Someone takes the duty of setting up a drive schedule and emailing it to all the families so they can check their schedules before committing. My group does this every couple of months. If, at the last minute, you cannot drive when it is your turn, you accept responsibility to find another group member to drive for you.

Payment envelopes
When you go to the pickup spot to get your milk, you leave money to pay for your milk for that week. We use envelopes, left in the refrigerator, one with each family's name on it. When I drive, I leave the milk in the fridge and go home with my own. When the others pick up their milk, they leave payment in my envelope. I get that payment next week when I come to get my milk that someone else has picked up. This system is based on trust.

Communication needed
You could do it by email or by phone or by standing order until changed, but somehow each driver needs to know exactly how many containers of milk she's expected to pick up. This is where most problems crop up, and why I personally find it works better to have a smaller size group. Communication is always challenging, and the larger the group, the more Murphy's Law takes over.