All sorts of studies and research shows that more than ever, we want to know more about our food and how it’s produced- but as a fan of ours, you knew that already.
This is the case with most pieces of the local food puzzle, except milk. We take for granted that the milk we drink comes from hard working Ontario dairy producers – we rarely stop think about it.
Without getting into too much detail on you, Ontario’s 4,100-or-so dairy farms produce about 2.5 billion litres of milk each year. It is picked up every other day from most farms. The majority of it is taken to one of 70-ish private processing plants, where it’s pooled. About 40 per cent of it is then processed into fluid milk – the stuff in the bags and cartons; while the rest is turned into other dairy products like cheese and yogurt and butter and kefir and egg nog. Oh milk, we love you.
Micro-dairies are also a thing.
In Ontario, there’s a handful of local “micro-dairies” bottling single-herd milk; but did you know that until as recently as 2012, this wasn’t something a farmer could do in the dairy business in Ontario? On-farm microdairies for fluid milk weren’t illegal under the Milk Act of 1965.
The existence of these new micro-dairies is in part due to a Dairy Farmers of Ontario initiative called Project Farmgate. It encourages farmers to pasteurize, bottle, brand and sell milk instead of shipping it to processing plants to be pooled and sold under major labels.
The initiative is pretty neat and has led to shelves at grocer’s, farm gates and specialty shops being lined with retro glass bottles with snap-on lids instead of the plastic coated paper cartons, plastic jugs and the uniquely Canadian plastic pouches that dominate in supermarkets you’re used to. Maybe you’ve seen them?
If you’re looking to explore the world of dairy farming, consider visiting a dairy farm. These farmers have opened their doors to lactose-loving visitors, turning the humble act of buying milk into a delicious day trip.
At Sheldon Creek Dairy, Bonnie and John den Haan are milking 50 Holsteins for their non-homogenized “cream top” whole milk.Meanwhile, their neighbors in Creemore, John and Marie Miller are milking 120 Jerseys at Miller’s Dairy.North of Kingston, Francis and Kathie Groenewegen are milking 30 Holsteins and Jerseys for Limestone Organic Creamery options.Last but not least, for all you milk enthusiasts, is Eby Manor, near Waterloo where their Golden Guernsey milk are available by 10am on Wednesdays.
But wait! You don’t have to drive to a rural dairy to get a taste. Many of these milks – including varietals like chocolate, strawberry and even creamsicle milk – are available at big and small grocers a like. Look for it in the dairy case.
How do you make small-herd milk better? Butter.
Read about the growth of the artisanal butter industry in Ontario here.