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Straus Family Creamery/Local, Organic, Sustainable
Pros: Owner, Albert Straus, runs a brilliant dairy business, with family values
Cons: The challenge of re-programming America to grow and eat healthy foods
Best For: Mighty flavorful dairy products, produced with environmentally sound practices
When Marin Organic or Marin Agricultural Land Trust announce an upcoming tour of the Straus Family ranch, overlooking Tomales Bay and Point Reyes Peninsula, don't hesitate to sign right up. Learn about the history and current practices of this dairy operation, begun in 1941, on a ramble from field to methane digester, to milking barn.
What is a methane digester, you ask. Albert, son of dairy founder, BIll Straus, employs a system of capturing naturally occurring gas from manure, and converting it into electricity, providing more than enough power each year for the farm and his electric car. In 1994 Albert's family farm became the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi. His commitment, as president and owner, to "sustainable, environmentally sound practices in farming and food processing, and in rural community planning", is ongoing...and very successful.
Consumers depend upon the quality and freshness of all Straus Family products, which have become so popular as to have landed upon the shelves of Whole Foods markets. Milk, butter, sour cream yogurt, and Albert's passion...ice cream...it's all good!
One look at the cows, and the term, contented, makes perfect sense. These milk-producing ladies live well. The key is space, cleanliness and good nutrition. This is a closed herd, meaning no outside animals, lowering the risk of disease. No hormones or antibiotics, pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Aspirin and homeopathic remedies are used for health problems. But there aren't many, as these cows are pretty stress-free. They happily graze, except for the rainy season when the hills become dangerously slippery and subject to erosion. In fact, they have their own animal nutritionist who designs a balanced diet of grains, hay, legumes, home grown silage (naturally fermented grass) and fresh grasses. They sleep on bedding made of rice hulls and get regular pedicures to keep their hooves healthy. In my next life I want to be a Straus Family cow!
Today in America, only about 10% of dairy cows are raised with room to graze. And many farming practices which are neither good for animals, nor good for the consumer, have become routine since the advent of processed food. As the American palate becomes more appreciative of organic foods, locally grown and sustainably produced, farming innovators such as Albert Straus, will hopefully continue to inspire healthy eating habits.
Noteworthy: A declaration by House and Garden Magazine, "Simply the best butter in America"