California herdshares under threat despite popularity of buying local food

From the San Mateo Daily Journal:

Pictures and captions from San Mateo Daily Journal

“Buying local continues to be a leading food trend in the California, and many small farmers are expanding the ways they sell produce locally. The Bay Area has a growing number of farmers’ markets and many Community Supported Agriculture programs. CSAs allow communities to invest in local farms and receive weekly produce baskets in return.

While local produce growers are flourishing in California, small dairy operations are being threatened.

Doniga Markegard is a family farmer and strong advocate for local food sources in San Mateo County. She has a program similar to a CSA but instead of produce, she sells shares in her grass-fed cattle and cows. In exchange, herd share participants get meat or raw milk from the animals. 

Markegard, whose herd share consists of a four dairy cows, has found California Department of Food and Agriculture regulators waiting at her gate.

“And for no reason,” she said. “It’s a violation of our right to grow our own food and go into private contracts with our neighbors.”

Markegard believes enforcing California’s “one-size-fits all” dairy regulations is an attack on the local food movement. She argues that if small dairy farmers are forced to comply with the same expensive equipment requirements as large-scale dairy operations, they will be forced to shut down.

Small Dairy Herd Working Group

Markegard, whose farm is near Half Moon Bay, is a part of a working group formed to resolve the issue of regulating small dairies in California. The Small Dairy Herd Working Group consists of California farmers, health inspectors and dairy representatives, and the CDFA.

Many dairy herd share operations throughout California that are without dairy licenses have received “cease and desist” letters from the CDFA. The working group was formed in response to the farmers’ outcry over the letters.

“The governor and [CDFA] secretary consider improving food access a priority and we felt the small dairy herd issue offered an opportunity to explore options, “said CDFA Veterinarian Annette Whiteford in an email to the Daily Journal.

Instead of requiring small operations to meet the same requirements as commercial dairy operations, Markegard said, farmers in the working group are drawing from herd share regulations established in other states to formulate a new system. They are drafting a three-tiered proposal; with varying levels of regulation according to the size of the dairy.

According to Markegard, the working group is looking at a Tennessee ordinance that exempts herd shares — and other similar agreements, such as 4-H, in which you board your animal on someone else’s property — from dairy licensing. The debate is over whether these types of agreements should be considered private contracts….”

5 Comments

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5 responses to “California herdshares under threat despite popularity of buying local food

  1. Busy bodies and government lovers are getting their just comeuppance.
    They begged for or allowed the abomination called a health department and now (surprise!) that it is out of control they are shocked.

    Be careful what you wish for. Government was NEVER instituted among men to police their food supply. Go back and read the founders and you will learn (as you did not in guberment schools) that the only reason for guberment is to protect your God given rights.

    I think it time to just say NO! Loudly and clearly to these thugs with titles and uniforms. Get rid of the health department as soon as you can. Insurance companies and the free market will come up with whatever will fill the gap.

  2. aed939

    The point here is the State public health authorities only have jurisdiction over commercial dairies. Commercial dairies are dairies that sell milk in a public market. Herdshare milk is never sold. If the state wishes that herdshares were regulated for sanitation or safety, it has to be voluntary. They could set up a voluntary testing program or best practices guidelines.
    Also the part about leaving the property with the milk causing it to be a dairy processing plant is completely pulled out of the air.

    • aed939 I think the point is that they have jurisdiction over no one and that it all should be voluntary.

      This is supposed to be a free country is it not?

      Give a tyrant an inch and they will take tens of thousands of miles….

  3. nedlud

    I’m looking at that picture, the one with the cow on the wet floor.and that is one of the things that really really bugs me about dairy farming today: The amount of water that is used and, wasted. This has always bugged me, along with the chemical use that is sanctioned (ie, REQUIRED) even on organic farms.

    I see this as a problem. And I don’t think ‘three tiers’ is gonna fix it.

    I think we’re running out of decent water.

    Am I missing something? ??

  4. Water is something that we treasure on our ranch. Having built 12 stock ponds on the 1000 of grasslands that are also home to diverse species, such as those of the endangered red legged frog we know how precious the resource is. Every drop of water that lands on the ranch is not just washed into the pacific, but utilized to create thousands of pounds of food not only for us, but for wildlife. Dairy done in the small scale and proper land stewardship preserves our water resource, not depletes it.

    Doniga (shown in the photograph)

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