Hobby turns into business for small family farm

Meegan M. Reid/ The Kitsap Sun via AP Vicky McGarrity watching as Melody and Spot make their way onto the milking stands at the Hansville Creamery in Hansville, Wash., on April 5.

Demand grows for milk that hasn't been pasteurized

HANSVILLE, Wash. (AP) -- A family run Hansville farm has become Kitsap County's only producer of raw grade-A goat's milk.

The Hansville Creamery -- run by Vicky and John McGarrity, with help from their daughters Lindsey, 16, and Talaena, 27 -- recently began selling raw goat milk at several locations around the county.

It caps off a three-year journey for the McGarritys, who didn't set out to become full-time dairy farmers.

"It's one of those stories that kind of started on accident," John said.

The couple had a few goats for personal use and took to liking the milk. Vicky is allergic to cow's milk, prompting the switch.

They discovered a small but growing market for raw milk, which proponents believe is more nutritional than pasteurized milks. Vicky left her job and the two completed an agriculture course through Washington State University.

They prepared their farm to meet the state's standards, and in September got their license to sell raw milk. They are selling it from their farm by appointment, and at Fresh Local in Bremerton, the Port Gamble General Store in Port Gamble and Real Foods on Bainbridge Island.

"Never in my entire life had I ever thought I'd be a dairy farmer," Vicky said.

Some of the McGarritys' customers drink the milk, while others use it to make goat cheese.

Because the milk isn't pasteurized -- a process that uses heat to kill microorganisms -- the state requires the product to undergo regular testing for cleanliness. The bottles must contain a warning label to alert people with compromised immune systems, very young children and the elderly.

"We're glad to put on the warning label," John said.

The Hansville Creamery is one of a handful of Western Washington raw milk producers listed on Jessica Howard's Web site, www.warawmilk.com .

She produces raw goat milk at her Shelton farm, Jekuthiel Farm, and said small operations like hers let consumers see the whole process of production.

"That's a big plus," she said. "You get knowledge of how your product is produced."

People have moved farther away from knowing how their food is produced, John McGarrity said, and the local food movement is stepping in to bring it closer.

The farm is definitely "micro," producing 10 to 15 gallons of milk per day. This summer, the McGarritys hope to be able to make cheese and sell their products at farmers markets as well.

"Hopefully, this will be a family business for a long time," he said.

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