I promised myself I wouldn't turn this post into a tirade about the regulations of raw milk sales in this country and why consumers should be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to purchase it. (For that, I humbly point you to this piece I wrote last year for Goodeater.org, and to this article, recently published in the Washington Times, about an FDA sting operation that went down when a Pennsylvania Amish farm was caught selling its raw milk across state lines.)
Instead, I'd just like to give a shout-out to Mermaid Farm, Martha's Vineyard's terrific—and only—raw milk dairy. The 36-acre plot, owned by Allen Healy and Caitlin Jones, sits at West Tisbury-Chilmark border along the stretch of Middle Road across from the Brookside oxen farm. It's not the typical postcard-perfect property that you often see on the Vineyard—the kind with sweeping fields and perfectly rolled hay bales. The ground is bumpy and feels a bit cluttered with old tractors, a few greenhouses where Jones nurtures her famous tomatoes, and tall, patchy grass. It's unglamorous, unrefined, and purposeful.
Healy moves his small heard of cows back and forth between his farm and a nearby field, where the ladies have more space to roam and graze. I always figure that it's this variety in the cows' diet—plus the time of year and the lack of pasteurization—that's responsible for the subtle flavor differences in the milk from batch to batch. Sometimes the rich, nutty cream flavor is more forward; other times there's a mellow sweetness, as if a few drops of honey dripped into the bottle. I love that it never tastes exactly the same twice.
The only bit of food politics I will drop in here is that Healy has plans in the works to start a milk CSA this summer. He's keeping a binder in the barn next to the self-serve fridge where customers can fill out a spreadsheet with their contact info and how much milk they might expect to drink in a week. For a supposedly hazardous product, there were an awful lot of signatures.