I confess right up front…I am not a milk drinker, not since those primary school days of short white stubbies of cow juice basking there in the blazing sun. But those were the days of innocence over four decades ago, when compulsory school milk was best for our health (or maybe for the health of the dairy industry, who knows?). These were analog days, pre-colour TV, pre-ADHD. Now everything’s digital, but it was good to get back to the basics of the food supply chain and enjoy a sip of the sweetest milk you’ll probably find.
We writers were invited to attend the AGM of Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia at Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne…well their milk is marketed under the “Pure” brand.
Celebrating 10 years of their Co-Op, the 22 Victorian members’ farms produce 70-80% of the nation’s organic milk, and they do it strictly without chemical fertilisers, or veterinary pharmaceuticals. One member told me she finally convinced her husband to go organic when they both had medical tests to determine what chemicals were in their bodies- she had none, but his body revealed “every chemical he had ever sprayed on the farm, plus a couple of them had mutated into another form”. That was it. He relented. And over the next three years they both took their dairy farm organic – it takes that long to get certified that residual chemicals have been eradicated. Now they and the other ODFA members are passionate about their land, their herds and their certified organic milk.
We discovered the secret to the beautiful milk in a one foot square block of paddock held aloft by John Smith the next day down at Mepunga, inland from the Twelve Apostles off the Great Ocean Road. He explained that since 1993 he had been reworking the land and paddocks that were once weeds and rye grass, now contain the broad green leaves of chicory, thick plantain and whole lucerne plants not mere sprigs. What’s more John says his 215 contented jersey cows self-medicate…they know what herb to eat at what time of year, and even at certain times of day they choose the greenery with the sugars they need. John never calls a vet – “unless a cow gets a bad cut”. With both hands he clutches his ‘medicine’, a range of homeopathics, herbals and natural extracts. We tried milk straight from the morning squeeze – some took it warm, I preferred it cooler, but all agreed it was “remarkable”. Most of John’s milk goes to the nearby Timboon cheese factory run by a third-generation French cheesemaker, but his organic cheese is another story – stay tuned.
– Graeme Kemlo