Me, infiltrating the underbelly of the Amish Dairy Underground.

August 12, 2009 · 2 comments

I don’t think I’ve yet described our drive through the southern part of Indiana as we ventured to This City of the Northland, our new home. It went something like this:

We crossed the line from Kentucky, and entered into rolling farmland. After a turn, we found ourselves surrounded by even more farmland. All at once, however, I looked out the window and noticed that we were indeed driving through beautiful farmland. A few hours later, the city of Indianapolis rose in the distance, out of a horizon line of farmland.

So I was more than a little confused by the apparent lack of local dairy products. Or rather, there seems to be a monopoly of the local dairy scene: it’s controlled by a cow cartel called Trader’s Point Creamery. I’m sure they produce lovely, rich, creamy non-homogenized milk — consumed and enjoyed by the rich and famous of Indiana. But with seemingly no competition, they get away with highway robbery: a half-gallon of their whole milk, packaged in a quaint, thoughtfully-designed jar, will put you out anywhere from $6-$8, depending on the grocer. That’s a HALF gallon. After being spoiled by the $5 gallon I was getting from Athens Locally Grown, I couldn’t bring myself to do it — not even for a taste of Indiana cow’s milk.

Feeling desperate, I started asking questions at the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market, last Saturday. After a few blank stares, I happened upon a booth where a bearded man in a wide-brimmed hat and suspenders was selling cheese. I knew this was my guy:

Me: (Appropriating an air of nonchalant inquiry, hoping to veil my desperation) So, do you sell milk?

Bearded Man: (Sad smile, and a shake of the head, as he responded calmly and almost shyly) No, I don’t.

Me: (Eyes widening, breath quickening, and a little too hurriedly) Hmph. Know anywhere I can get some?

Bearded Man: Well, there’s Trader’s Point.

Me: (panic welling, but still subdued) Yeah, I saw their stuff. Seems a little pricey to me (translation: I’m not one of them. I don’t spend $20 a week on milk. You and I, we’re the same, we are. Work with me here.)

Bearded Man: (Eyes showing understanding; I think he’s getting the picture) Yes, it’s a little expensive.

Me: (I quite possibly might be holding pools of tears in my eyes) So, that’s all there is? (translation: I will start crying, right here in your booth, if you can’t help me. Please, show a Southern girl some pity.)

At this point, the Bearded Man pauses for the briefest instant. He glances at the man behind me in line, then glances on either side of the booth. He looks me dead in the eye, not wavering, and speaks in a low, but clear and calculated voice:

I think I know someone who can help you out.

I give him the slightest nod, but do not dare take my eyes off his for fear that this whole deal will go sour. At this point, however, I have no idea what he said. Something about unpasteurized milk being illegal in Indiana, and then moving on to phrases like, “cow-sharing” and “pick-ups.” Blah, blah, blah said the Bearded Man. He lost me, my head swimming with potential victory.

It ended up not really mattering much that I didn’t hear him. I still walked away with a name and number scrawled in Amish hand on the back of a business card. Suffice it to say that the name, while I won’t reveal it here to protect my potential supplier, is very, um, old testament. I have the name and number, and as far as I know am a phone call away from never buying milk from Whole Foods again. A phone call away from converting my family to the wonders of raw, whole, non-homogenized milk.

Now, if I could just pick up the phone.

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