The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

At last, I’ve found my milk

Fresh raw milk awaits in Oyler's Organic Farm's refrigeratorI like raw milk. I will die one day, I am told, but I think I would not blame the milk.

On the other hand, it could be dangerous when carried in the handlebar basket of a teenager’s bicycle. We picked up two gallons of milk every other day from a nearby dairy farm. One day, as I coasted down Norton Hill on the way home, I met a car speeding the other way, enough on my side I was forced off the pavement.

I rode onto the berm, and when I tried to get back on the pavement, it gave way, and down I went. I broke my pointing finger and tore my thumbnail. I’m pretty sure the two gallons of raw milk had little, if anything to do with the fall, though they did make the front of the bike about 16 pounds heavier coming home than going away.

Years later, I became a journalist, and wrote a story about Kenton Bailey, a seventh-generation Mainer and the last fellow in the state to deliver raw milk door-to-door – though he would not allow me to call it “raw.” The word upset some people, he said. I had to call it “unprocessed.”

One of the treats of drinking raw milk is you can taste when the cows are put in the barn for winter, and when they go to the pasture in summer. It is a subtle accent on the flavor.

Milk we buy in a grocery story has been so mixed up it’s lost all its character. A tank truck picks up milk from Farmer Jones, then Farmer Smith and Farmer Brown and the white liquid slosh-mixes on its way to the processing plant, where it is dumped in huge tanks to mix with milk from farmers McBride, McHugh and McGillicutty.

But if you could drop by Brown’s farm and pick up your milk the way it came from the cow – except colder – what a treat. It tastes just like milk – only better. And with some experience, you can dazzle your friends by recognizing the subtle differences in where and how the milk was made.

Some people think if the milk hasn’t been boiled into submission, it will kill them. I’m 67-year-old proof that is not so. As with any other food, you find a farmer you know and trust, and enjoy some fine eating and drinking.

Finally, my search for a nearby source of raw milk led me to Oyler’s Organic Farms. Bill Oyler and his family sell raw milk that does not come from Oyler’s farm, and apple cider that does.

Apple cider is a little like that “unprocessed” milk. You can taste where it came from, and if it hasn’t been made from a blend of apples, you even can tell what kinds of apples were used.

The Oylers mix several types of apples into huge bins. Then they dump the apples onto a series of conveyors that drops out any too-small fruit and passes human quality checkers who search out bad apples. The remaining pippins are chopped and squeezed, extracting the juice, which is passed through an ultraviolet, cold process, bad-bacteria-killing device on its way to being bottled.

The Oylers make about 2,000 gallons a day, two days a week.

The farm store, opened a year ago last September, also carries flour, apple sauce, pickles, gluten free spices, a variety of squash, apples for eating, greenhouse greens, and pastured, no-soy, eggs, chickens and turkeys. Some comes from other area farms, but it is all organic. It is at the family farm on Pleasant Valley Road. To get there, turn right onto Fairview Fruit Road from US 30, about five miles west of Gettysburg. Watch for Pleasant Valley Road on the left.

There are plenty of good reasons for seeking out a farm-based market. Milk and cider with flavor is only a start.


  1. I don’t think I’d actually want to be able to taste when the cows are put in the barn for the winter.. or anything else about the lives of cattle. But I applaud any quest as quirky as your search for raw milk, and really enjoyed reading about it.

    • John

      November 15, 2014 at 22:47

      Thanks, Roz. It’s not an unpleasant difference, more subtle, like the difference between Pennsylvania and New York wine (though milk doesn’t give you a buzz.)

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