For Part 1, go here.
When we last saw our intrepid heroes, Mr. and Mrs. Scrimp were on their way to the market to meet the mysterious "Joshua," a raw milk distributor who was to weigh them in the balance and see if they were worthy of receiving his goods.
In all seriousness, though, we weren't really expecting things to be that crazy. Maybe a five minute chat about the summary of the contract, a few minutes reading it over, a signature, and we'd be on our merry way.
Well, not quite.
Because raw milk is unpopular with the ODA, you can't just go find a provider and sign up, even if all you're doing is legally buying an interest in a dairy herd. If you go talking about raw milk to farmers, the first thing that's going to happen is that you'll be viewed with suspicion.
With a little help from the friends who had directed us there in the first place, we found the place where we were to meet Joshua. We had no idea what he looked like, and I had stupidly forgotten his name, so we waited until we got someone's attention (there were three or four people working there that day).
"Er," we said. "Some friends said we could talk to someone here about raw milk?"
I think the guy may have actually physically winced. What I distinctly remember is that he immediately shushed us, looked around quickly, and then whispered, "you want Joshua."
Mr. Scrimp and I exchanged embarrassed glances, feeling like the guy whose phone rings in church because he forgot to turn the ringer off. Even though I don't actually think anybody else even noticed us, I started to feel like everybody was looking in our direction.
Someone got Joshua for us, and we repeated (in much quieter tones this time) our inquiry about milk. He, too, shushed us (even though now we were being very quiet), and, with a furtive look, told us we'd better come around in back.
Well, ok. At this point, even though we knew we weren't doing anything wrong, we were beginning to feel distinctly edgy. We made our way into the back where nobody could hear us, and explained to Joshua that our friends had sent us, that we wanted raw milk, we understood the law and the need for a farmshare agreement instead of a milk purchase, and were familiar with the risks of drinking raw milk.
He was having none of our assurances, though. What friends had sent us, he wanted to know. He took pains to explain the law, to explain how their system worked, and assure himself that we really knew what we were doing.
I, of course, felt less and less like I knew what we were doing the more questions he asked, but eventually he relaxed and apparently decided we were on the level.
We chatted a little. Joshua told us that they have to be extra-careful these days, that he has several personal friends who have been followed, investigated, arrested, and dragged into court, even when following the law. All for providing raw milk to informed people who want to drink it.
Let me interject here: raw milk isn't for everyone. I don't care what you drink. But I do firmly believe that everyone should have the choice to drink raw milk if they want, unharassed.
Joshua and Mr. Scrimp sat down to go over the contract. This took nearly 40 minutes, the first chunk of which involved a detailed questionnaire.
Did we work for state regulatory agencies? No. Did we work for the FDA? No. What would we be willing to do to maintain our right to drink raw milk?
Excuse me? We started to wonder if we were being recruited for some crazy milk militia. But no--Joshua explained that sometimes his customers get hassled just for doing business with him, and he wanted to be sure we were ok with handling that.
We were ok with handling it, but livid that it happens.
We promised never to share milk with anyone outside our immediate family, never to give it to children without parental consent, not to distribute or sell, and that we understood that we are not buying milk, but an interest in a dairy. We agreed that if we did get sick, we wouldn't sue them for it.
We paid the purchase price. The only thing left was to get the actual milk.
Our milk, we learned, comes in big plastic gallon jugs, just like grocery store milk. Every week, we drive to a house in our neighborhood, check a box next to our names, and get our milk out of a big refrigerator standing in the house's open garage. I have no idea who lives there. It's just the milk house.
We picked up our first gallon and brought it home. It's not the same color as regular milk. It's richer, and yellower. It smells, if this even makes sense, milkier. And it tastes amazing. Fresh and delicious.
So, our milk doesn't come from the store anymore. It comes from a farm, and an anonymous refrigerator.
And I'm totally happy with that.