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Traditional foods for better health

July 3, 2012

Two regional organizations that focus on promoting healthier diets while building community have organized a series of workshops to provide opportunities to learn more about traditional foods. The latest session focused on raw milk and the health benefits of cultured dairy such as yogurt, kefir and butter.

Pennsylvania dairy farmer Mike Hardler fielded questions during the meeting sponsored by the Upper Delaware Chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Upper Delaware Chapter of Slow Food USA. Hardler explained the regulations, liabilities and methods of handling cow and goat milk that he employs in Pennsylvania, which differ significantly from those in New York State.

Hardler said that he is able to sell his raw milk both on the farm and at retail stores in Pennsylvania. In New York State, however, raw milk sales are limited to on-farm selling only, and these opportunities are few for consumers seeking the benefits of drinking raw milk, for which consumer demand is increasing.

The program, which started as a Slow Food/Weston A. Price class on making cultured dairy products in the home kitchen, ended up attracting farmers, conservation specialists and agricultural planners from both sides of the Delaware River. The issues of whole milk marketing (including non-homogenized milk) and developing value-added milk products such as cheese, yogurt and kefir were discussed.

“It’s certainly not for every dairy farmer” said Hardler, “you have to be a people person to direct market anything. And,without my family support and help it would be impossible.”

Jennifer Mall, of the Sullivan County Division of Planning and Environmental Management, was on hand to explain how the Tonjes Dairy Farm in Callicoon was able to add value to their milk by developing a line of cheeses and cultured dairy products that are sold at retail stores in the area, local farmers markets and Greenmarkets in New York City. More than 10 years ago, Sullivan County recognized the need for local dairy farmers to diversify and was able to design and develop a mobile cheese-making unit.

The gathering ended in the kitchen of Hills Country Inn, where the process of making kefir and yogurt on a home scale was demonstrated by Weston A. Price Upper Delaware Chapter leader Lucia Rudenberg-Wright.

The series has included sessions on nutrient-dense broths and fats, as well as working with whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes. Two workshops remain.