Henry Farms delves into raw milk sales
By Rodney L. Sherman
CLARION NEWS Editor
Some people take comfort in the adage "When God closes a door, he opens a window." It might seem like a stretch to apply that philosophy to milk, but the Henry family just outside of Knox, believes it.
John and Bethany Henry and their son and his wife, Andrew and Jill Henry, recently were certified to sell raw milk from the 101-year-old dairy farm.
It's a move that might not have happened if a door had not closed.
In early March of 2018, the Henry family, along with several other area dairy farmers, were notified by Dean's Dairy that the popular dairy-products producer would no longer be buying raw milk from the Clarion and Venango counties area.
All local agreements with Dean's Dairy ended May 31, 2018.
"It turns out it was a blessing in disguise," recalls Andrew Henry. "And credit goes to God."
The Henry family reached a supply agreement with Schneider's Dairy and continued to have a market for the milk produced by their 100-head herd of cows.
About five years prior to the experience with Dean's Dairy, Andrew had visited his sister-in-law in Texas and she had offered the now 39-year-old man the opportunity to see "whatever he wanted to see" in Texas.
"I told her I wanted to see a Texas dairy farm," said Andrew. We went to visit a man named Bill Miller and he was just getting into selling his own raw milk.
"He said selling raw milk was becoming a nice niche market and it was something we should think about getting into."
It's not as easy as it sounds
Andrew kept the idea of selling raw milk to the public in the back of his mind and talked about it with his father now and then.
Also during those five years after visiting the Texas farm, milk prices paid to farmers for their raw milk fell by around 50 percent.
The Henrys decided they would look into selling raw milk.
The Henrys only sell a portion of their milk to the public. The remainder and the unsold milk designated for public sale is still sold to Schneider's Dairy.
The Henrys' dairy herd produces about 1,000 gallons of milk each day.
"Dean's would not have allowed us to sell raw milk under the contract we had with them," noted Andrew. "Schneider's allows it."
Andrew explained the sale of raw milk is tightly regulated and stringent rules are set for milk quality, facility cleanliness, water supplies, and other areas.
Also, the raw milk picked up by Schneider's is tested each time for antibiotics.
Raw milk sold to the public must be 100 percent free of any antibiotics.
What's to love about raw milk? A lot
Raw milk advocates argue raw milk is a complete, natural food containing more amino acids, antimicrobials, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids than pasteurized milk.
They also claim it's a better choice for those with lactose intolerance, asthma, autoimmune and allergic conditions.
Andrew explained all raw milk sold to the public must be designated as "A2" milk. The difference between A1 and A2 milk comes down to protein levels.
(Note: While "A2" is a designation for raw milk in the United States with a particular protein level, the name "a2" is also a trademarked name for milk sold by a company in New Zealand.)
Andrew said while some people might experience stomach problems when they consume "regular" A1 milk, they often do not experience those problems with A2 milk.
"A lot of people find it easier to digest A2 milk," said Andrew.
Proponents of raw milk claim pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.
Raw milk has more butterfat, which is rich in fatty acids that protect against disease and stimulate the immune system.
Skim milk doesn't necessarily mean it's better for you, in other words.
The Henrys have worked to breed their dairy herd to produce more A2 milk and the herd is checked often by the Henrys and inspectors to ensure the cows are healthy.
Want to try it?
The Henrys sell their raw milk from 4 to 6 p.m. at the farm at 263 McGiffin Road, off State Route 338 just outside of Knox toward Kossuth.
But it's not every day and the times are firm for a reason.
Raw milk sales at Henry Farms of Knox are Aug. 9, 12, 13, 16, 17, 20, 21, 24, 28 and 29.
The seemingly odd schedule is due to milk truck pickups at the farm
The milk pickup truck driver takes a sample of the milk set aside for public sale. That sample is tested within hours of its pull and the results are relayed back to Henry Farms via email in the early- to mid-afternoon.
The results give the Henrys the OK to sell the raw milk tested that same day.
The milk is sold at $4 per gallon. As of Aug. 5, the state-mandated minimum price for a gallon of regular pasteurized milk was $3.84. Actual local retail prices were closer to $4.25 per gallon.
Customers at Henry Farms can bring their own container but the farm is very strict concerning bottle cleanliness and reserves the right to reject the use of any container it deems unfit.
The farm will include a new plastic jug in the sale for an additional 25 cents.
Bethany Henry said the farm has quickly built up a regular customer base of about 15 families.
Coming to a store near you?
Will the Henry Farms raw milk be available in stores?
Probably not soon, but possibly in the future.
Raw milk sales are legal on the farm and in retail stores in Pennsylvania.
Raw milk for retail producers must have a permit and can only sell to stores if they have their own packaging operation with labeling and bottling machines.
"We're thinking about doing our own bottling," said Andrew. "We're actually working on obtaining a state grant to help with the costs of this project and if it all comes through we might bottle our own milk for retail sale.
A bottling machine would cost at least $10,000.
And a bottle washing machine could cost another $100,000. Bottles used for milk sales cannot be hand-washed.
So, for right now, fans of raw milk will have to visit the Henry Farms location.
For more information give Andrew a call at (814) 221-4379, or email Jill Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.