Russian peasant grandfather became a raw dairy farmer in Manitoba after his siblings died from “bad” milk

Kimberly Hartke has recently posted a fascinating story, titled “A Tale of Two Milks”, by Stanley A. Fishman, author of “Tender Grassfed Meat”, in which he writes about his Russian grandfather, who grew up as the only surviving child of a family raised on distillery-swill milk.

"Old world" dairying was not always so bucolic as it appears in this picture. Detail from Dutch painting

“….Grandfather was 14 when they reached Canada. They lived in a small town near Winnipeg, Manitoba. Grandfather did not go to school, but taught himself to speak English by watching Vaudeville shows and listening to people talk. He had no accent. He also learned to read and write English. He spent a lot of time at the library, reading and studying. After a couple of years, his mother became pregnant. Grandfather went to work for a local dairy farmer. By the time his sister was born, Grandfather had his own small dairy farm….”

Some background:

“….Grandfather was also the most intimidating man I ever met. As a child, I was terrified of him. He never yelled, and never was violent. He was a small man, whose growth had been stunted by a lack of food in his childhood. But there was a grim intensity about him that everybody noticed. Nobody ever messed with grandfather. He never smiled; I don’t think he knew how. But there was a reason for the grimness. Grandfather was the oldest of eleven children born in Russia. He had watched each one of his ten brothers and sisters die in Russia. None of them reached the age of five.

Why the Children Died

When he was a child, my father asked Grandfather why the children died. Grandfather answered with two words; “Bad milk.”

My grandfather was born in a small town near Odessa, in Tsarist Russia. His family was very poor, and there were many times when there was not enough to eat. His father pickled all kinds of vegetables and sold them to people who were almost as poor as he was. There was a vodka distillery nearby. It made vodka from grain. The garbage left over from making the vodka was used to feed cattle at a nearby dairy. That dairy sold the cheapest milk available, the only milk grandfather’s family could afford. My great-grandparents did not know why their children got sick and died; their life was a constant struggle to find food for their family. There was nobody to tell them that unpasteurized swill milk was deadly for children….”

Read the whole story on Kimberly Hartke’s blog.


Filed under News

2 responses to “Russian peasant grandfather became a raw dairy farmer in Manitoba after his siblings died from “bad” milk

  1. nedlud

    Great story.

    I don’t think we need bureaucrats and their ‘scientist-whores’ telling us what to do.

    I think it would be best to ‘pasteurize’ them, ie., put them out in some faraway pasture and shut the gate….forever.

    Then go back to farming and milking our cows, drinking good milk and eating good things and working peacefully and, for the most part, living happily ever after.

    The wisdom and shared knowledge of the common folk is so much different from the chemically addicted haze of the scientist and the bigotry of the professional bureaucrat.

    It is like night and day.

    Satan vs. an actual loving God.

    Endless despair vs. living hope.

    Yes, indeed.

    Great story.

    • Maryann Lepp

      The reason I read this story is because we are looking for raw milk at this time and I stumbled upon this article.
      I love this story. It reminds me of my own grandfather who was also a dairy farmer.
      I inherited the gene, I guess, by becoming a dairy farmer myself. My husband and I had a hobby dairy goat farm for 20 years. We raised goats, chickens, ducks, geese, and many kittens. Having 11 goats, up to 5 milkers a day and one billy, I milked the goats twice a day. I took pride in the routine of washing/sterilizing containers, then, with care, washing the udder of the goat that was about to be milked. It was part of the bonding, it was part of the let-down of the milk in preparation for milking.
      Friends of mine would come over in the morning after milking just to see me in my milking overalls, pregnant with one of our 3 children, and have a taste of fresh goat’s milk in coffee.
      Cooling the milk quickly after milking also reduced the strong flavor of the milk. Of course, we were used to it and it didn’t bother us at all. Having tasted store bought goat’s milk though, we noticed the strong after-flavor of the milk, due to lack of freshness. The cooling also prevents unnecessary bacteria growth that can develop if the milk sits for too long without cooling. Our way of storing the milk was by freezing it in ziploc bags until it could be picked up by the cllients. Otherwise, the rest was soured and turned in Kvark, yogurt, or used in baking.
      My genius husband John invented a quick-cool system by pouring the strained milk through clean, pre-cooled pipes into sterilized and cooled jars. We didn’t have an automated system in our barn, everything was done manually….but that was the beauty of it.
      We were fortunate to raise our children with this kind of milk as both our boys were lactose-intolerant at birth. They were able to digest the goat’s milk. Interestingly now, we have 3 grandchildren and so far, no one is lactose intolerant. (don’t know if there is a link, but its interesting).
      We were also fortunate to help a young child from the city who was allergic to most foods including cow’s milk.
      Its sad what happened to the siblings of Alexander Fishman. Its also sad that there was not an investigation of the milk that they were consuming before all those children had to die.
      My hats off to Abraham Fishman for seeing beyond the circumstances of his day and following his heart. In following his heart, he has left a legacy for his children and grandchildren. That’s something to be proud of.

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