Local dairies aim to keep milk healthier

The milk sold at MOON Co-op Grocery was the topic of the first of these weekly column 10 years ago. To begin my 11th year of columns, I am revisiting the subject of local milk.

Milk consumption is plummeting in the United States, down by one-third since MOON Co-op opened a decade ago. Yet availability of local milk continues to be one of the principal reasons that MOON Co-op Grocery plays a special role in our community.

MOON stocks milk from three small family owned Ohio dairies: Hartzler Family Dairy, Snowville Creamery and Indian Creek Creamery. The three family dairies also supply MOON Co-op with other dairy products, including butter, cheese, and yogurt.

Hartzler is the oldest of the three local dairies, encompassing four generations of the family. Harold and Patricia Hartzler started farming in the 1950s outside Wooster, Ohio.

The Hartzlers established the dairy and built a milk processing plant in Wooster in 1990. Harold died in 2011, and two of the sons John and Joe Hartzler are now the owners.

Warren and Vivian Taylor started Snowville Creamey in Meigs County in 2007. They bottle milk from several neighboring farms that agree to follow eco-friendly practices.

Ray and Colleen Jackson and their four children started farming in Logan County in 1991. They established Indian Creek Creamery and started bottling milk in 2019.

The details vary, but the stories of the Hartzlers, Taylors and Jacksons are very similar. In all three cases, the families recognized that the future for a small family owned dairy farm was perilous. They either had to exit dairy farming or make major changes.

All three decided to focus on raising healthier cows. The cows would graze in fields where chemicals, herbicides and pesticides were no longer used. Antibiotics and hormones would no longer be injected into the cows to increase output.

None of the three homogenize their milk. So pour off the cream or shake the container before drinking.

The three dairies use different packaging. Hartzler uses glass bottles that carry refundable deposits, Snowville uses renewable paper, and Indian Creek uses recycled plastic.

The Hartzlers prefer glass bottles because they are less porous than plastic, they keep the milk colder longer, and they can be returned to the farm and reused. Snowville folks prefer plastic-coated paperboard packages because they feel that the milk is better protected by absence of exposure to light.

Snowville and Indian Creek both raise A2/A2 cows. The A2/A2 designation means that the cow has the A2 genetic factor on both sides of the family tree. The assertion is that milk from an A2/A2 cow is more nutrient-rich and less likely to cause stomach discomfort in humans.

Hartzler retains more nutrients by pasteurizing milk at 145 degrees for 30 minutes, whereas most milk is pasteurized at 170 degrees for a few seconds. Thus, the three dairies all provide milk that is more nutritious than mass-produced milk, but in different ways.

Local milk is available at MOON Co-op, Oxford’s consumer-owned full-service grocery, featuring natural, local, organic, sustainable, and Earth-friendly products. The store, located at 516 S. Locust St. in Oxford, is open to the public every day. See it online at mooncoop.coop.

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