In some states, it’s illegal to advertise that you have raw milk for sale even if selling raw milk is legal. In other states, you might not want to advertise your raw milk too widely for fear of attracting unwanted attention. Either way, there is a consumer base looking for raw milk. You just need to be creative in marketing it to them.
To Sell or Not to Sell?
The economic woes of large-scale, conventional dairies are often in the news. Money losses don’t seem to be as large of an issue for small-scale, pasture-based dairies, such as raw-milk producers. As of 2014, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance estimates that a conventional dairy faces between a $0.33 per gallon loss to $0.69 cents per gallon profit, while raw-milk producers earn $1 to $6 per gallon profit. Raw-milk producers have a wide audience that includes whole-foods proponents, cheese and soap makers, and people who want to feed raw milk to their pets and animals.
However, while profit isn’t a barrier, the legalities of selling raw milk can be. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits the sale of raw milk across state lines, but some states allow the sale of raw milk under certain conditions. Nonprofit farmer- and consumer-rights organization Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has taken on the subject of raw milk as one of its primary areas of action. In addition to providing education and legal advice on raw-milk production, it tracks raw-milk statutes across the country. Before even thinking about starting raw-milk production, research the laws in your area.
It’s important to remember that raw milk is a touchy subject that can be inflammatory if not handled with care. When trying to get the word out about your (legal) product, discretion is advised, but total silence is not necessary. In fact, Oregon raw-milk producers got a boost early in 2014 when the Oregon Department of Agriculture agreed to not enforce a ban on raw-milk advertising. Once you understand what raw-milk advertising is acceptable where you live, here are tips for getting the word out ever so gingerly.
1. Word of Mouth
Person-to-person communication is the most powerful tool in advertising the sale of raw milk. The raw-foods/whole-foods community is just that: a community. Consumers interested in this lifestyle are quick to share sources and advice—use this to your advantage. With just a few customers to start, word will spread quickly.
2. Join Organizations
Becoming a member of farming and consumer organizations on the local and national levels can go a long way in connecting you with like-minded people and possible customers. The Weston A. Price Foundation, FTCLDF, Raw Milk Institute, local cheese-making and soap-making interest groups, and your state sustainable-agriculture and whole-foods organizations are a few groups to consider joining.
3. Promote Other Products
Instead of relying exclusively on raw-milk sales, diversify your operation and sell other farm products, such as vegetables, meats and value-added foods. As customers get to know you for these items, they’ll get to know you for your raw milk, too. There are no laws against advertising other farm products, so start a website and social media accounts for your farm, but carefully avoid mentioning raw-milk availability online.
4. Talk to Your Customers
As you interact with customers at the farmers’ market or farm stand, your raw-milk offering will inevitably come up in conversation.
5. Talk to Other Raw-Milk Producers
With raw-milk demand rising and many states having limits on the number of dairy animals a raw-milk producer can keep, farmers are reaching the limits of the customers they can serve. A dairy farmer looking to support the industry as a whole will gladly refer requests to other farmers he finds reputable.
Remember, in no way should you be breaking laws to sell raw milk when it’s deemed illegal in your state. When it is legal but kept quiet, there’s nothing stopping you from building this business with the raw-milk community on your side.
Get more help running your dairy operation from HobbyFarms.com:
- 9 Items You Need to Start a Goat Dairy
- How to Raise Dairy Goats for Milk
- 7 Heritage Cattle Breeds to Raise with Your Children
- Got (Homegrown) Milk?
About the Author: Freelance writer Lisa Munniksma drinks raw milk and blogs every week about ag news and opinion for the HobbyFarms.com’s “The News Hog” and about sustainable living, agriculture and food systems around the world at www.freelancefarmerchick.com.