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Pride and Joy not as troubled as it seems

Nothing ever really ties dairy to illnesses

— Allen and Cheryl Voortman are feeling harassed when they get Salmonella notices from the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

They say the department has never really been able back up its claims. They believe there is stae campaign to close them and other raw dairy marketers down.

The latest notice came recently, after a routine testing of Voortman milk Sept. 13-14. The department received the results on the 28th and informed the Voortmans and asked them to do a voluntary recall of that milk.

The Voortmans did not. They had their attorney inform the department there would not be a recall.

The Voortmans said the milk that was in question was likely all consumed by the time they would have recalled it.

“Nobody got sick,” Allen Voortman said. “If they had, we would have heard about it.”

The Voortmans said the department will do another test possibly today or tomorrow.

The Voortmans can be reached easily by their customers. There are no middle men. The milk goes directly to groups of customers.

There are at least 40 drop-offs with a large number of families each. Some milk is sold by stores Allen Voortman calls “real food” stores.

The Voortmans used to be part of the corporate milk production scene. As people started wanting real food, they did too, and they went organic.

The Voortmans have an on-farm store on Liberty Road. You can find certified organic milk, organic eggs and organic cheese (Blue, Cheddar, Montassio, Pepperjack and Gouda).

“Our meats are grass-fed certified organic. Our eggs are organic pasture,” Allen Voortman said. “We don’t use antibiotics or vaccines.”

Pride and Joy’s blue cheese took first place this year at the national cheese finals at Denver.

“Our son-in-law comes in here every Monday with a big truck. He loads up with everything and takes it over to Western Washington,” Voortman said. “We have drop-offs from Vancouver to Lynden. It takes him four days.”

The Voortmans refused to do a recall because of what happened when they volunteered one in February. Two people had reported being ill on that occasion, but the Voortmans said those illnesses were not tied back to their dairy.

The Voortmans worked with the department’s rapid response team. They had as much concern as any one. They had bigger stake than anyone.

“We sent out notes to all of our customers, saying we’d refund their money if they wanted,” Allen Voortman said. “A few stores did but not our direct customers.”

Cooperating with the

department, the Voortmans shut down their operation for three months.

The cows needed milking every day, and the milk was thrown away. Meat animals and chickens needed to be fed. This meant keeping all of the employees working.

One of the ironies of this story is that the same agency (agriculture) that tests the milk is the same one that certifies them being organic.

Voortman customers are careful with their purchases. One gallon of milk costs $10. But it comes with three inches of cream a customer can skim off the top.

“Most of our customers make their own butter,” Allen Voortman said.

One reason for what seems like a high price is that you get lower production of milk when you’re organic. Allen Voortman said his cows produce only 25-30 percent of what his cows produced before the Voortmans went organic.

Allen Voortman said his dairy does its own testing on a regular basis to make sure the milk is safe.

It has a 20-day shelf-life, he said, as long as customers keep it stored cold.

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