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Harvesting Alaska: Herd-shares help people get their goat milk

By Lauren Maxwell 2:04 PM September 26, 2016
WASILLA –

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t recommend drinking raw milk, nor does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But others say raw milk has health benefits that pasteurized milk doesn’t have — and it’s popularity seems to be growing.

In Alaska, it’s illegal to sell raw milk, but there is a legal way that people who crave it can get it. It’s called a herd-share.

Herd-shares are a way for people to invest in the herd and become a part-owners. A monthly fee pays for the upkeep of the animals, but it also entitles “owners” to a share of the raw milk.

Suzy Crosby and her husband Mike Pendergrast own Cottonwood Creek Farm in Wasilla, where they run a herd-share program with their Alpine dairy goats. The couple got their first goat more than a decade ago and quickly realized they had more milk than they could handle.

“We had a goat and we had too much milk,” said Crosby. “We had a friend that called and said, ‘I hear you have a goat and we are looking for raw milk. How can I get raw milk from you?’ So we started researching how herd-share works.”

Crosby says most of her customers pay $40 for a half gallon of goat’s milk every week.

Because raw milk can carry germs that can make people sick, Crosby goes to great lengths to make sure the milk is handled properly and — in her view — safe to drink. Her goats are raised by hand, their health is checked often and their surroundings are kept clean, including the milking parlor in the basement of the couple’s home.

Most importantly, the milk is properly chilled for many hours to make sure bacteria doesn’t grow, she said.

People who are lactose intolerant and have difficulty with cow’s milk can usually tolerate goat’s milk, which adds to a list of health benefits, Crosby says. Raw goat’s milk, she said, is even better because it still contains the nutrients the heat of pasteurization destroys.

“When you look at your gallon of milk in the store it will say vitamin A and D fortified,” said Crosby. “That’s because they’ve killed off all the vitamin A and D that’s present in the milk naturally. Then they add it back synthetically. Why would you not want the real thing?”

Crosby said she has a couple dozen customers who want “the real thing,” and, occasionally, a waiting list.

KTVA′s Lauren Maxwell can be reached via email or on Twitter.

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Harvesting Alaska is a featured series exploring all the ways Alaskans live off the land — from growing and foraging to fishing and crafting.

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