Know Your Farmer: The Family Cow

Edwin has 5 boys and 1 girl, they are pictured in the middle of the photo. The rest are employees and friends. One of his boys has a wife (on left!)

Fear swept over my face as I picked up a free bottle of raw milk to try from The Family CowIf I drink this, am I going to have an allergic reaction? It’s been over 7 years since I’ve dedicated myself switching from cows to almonds. I had a terrible rash outbreak years ago on my stomach which I concluded was from consuming processed cow milk hours ago or from using Clorox to clean the bathtub.  I am not sure which one to blame …

While meandering through the Farm to Table event on March 9 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh,  I couldn’t help but have a conversation with the farmer Edwin Shank, owner of The Family Cow in Chambersburg, PA.  He’s a 4th generation farm owner and all 5 boys and his 1 daughter have been growing up on raw milk and live healthy lives. All of his boys want to become farmers!

We explored the topic of raw milk — its preconceived dangers — and how the drink has made his family farm become free from what he said is “modern slavery” to the dairy truck!

Where is your farm located?
Chambersburg, PA

Fresh cheese on display at the Farm to Table event.

How many acres?
There’s one with 240 acres total owned and another 1,000 acres farmed organically, USDA-certified since 2008.  We have 15,000 chickens, 200 pigs, 1,000 turkeys and 200 cattle. We also buy things from other farmers like goat cheese, bread, kefir, sour kraut, bone broth. We try to sell items which are not mainstream and focus on the artisan bakers!

Is the milk organic?
Yes, since 2008.

How many employees?
27 employees, which includes the family too.

Is raw milk safe?
The FDA and CDC say raw milk is not good, my question to them is “Are raw tomatoes safe to eat?” The truth of the matter is the ketchup industry has manufacturing processes which can be not so clean! Meanwhile, the tomatoes grown at farms are carefully picked by gloves. You feel safe eating raw tomato slices on your hamburger, right?  Our raw milk is within the intention of selling it raw. We operate on different standards.  We have our own lab on the farm and we also stay in close contact with the RAWMI Institute, it’s a safety institute who operate on extremely high levels.  Look, we also have labels on all our milk with a 16-day date code. So you can easily see when it’s not good to continue drinking after this date. Our milk comes as 5-10 times cleaner than pasteurized milk standards.  “Is romaine lettuce safe?” (Referring to the romaine lettuce outbreak).  There is no such thing as perfectly safe.

What made you decide not to do pasteurization and how is business going for you? I’ve been reading stories about the decline of dairy farming in America. Has it affected your farm?
The truck used to go to Trickling Springs Farms but not anymore. We stopped going because they are selling their own milk.  Since we got certified in 2008 our milk sales started really growing and we haven’t been going to the milk truck anymore. We decided to “get away from the industrial system.”  When you sell milk on a truck you have no say on the price. Now, we can set our own milk price and we have it at our farmstand, UPS, and drop points. The real heroes to the business story are the moms and dads who buy directly from us. That’s the hope of all the dairy farmer today — buying directly from the farmer.

All my boys want to be farmers. Our farm is not dying because we decided to go an unconventional path and not the retail stores.

What do you enjoy the most?
I love producing foods that make a profound difference to people. It’s fun changing people’s lives.

What is challenging?
Dealing with regulators. They have a backward view of food. You see that Pepsi cooler over there? (He pointed across the table over to the fast food refreshment stands). Why is it possible to have this in a nice refrigerated cooler in the market and everything’s fine with selling high loads of sugar and all — which by the way slowly kills you — as we know from diabetes epidemic.  If it kills you slow, it’s ok to sell?  But for us we lug around these coolers on wheels and have all this backlash from regulators? Why isn’t diabetes the big bad villains?  With good wholesome foods, it is possible to have an upset stomach but at least we aren’t giving diabetes. So you either get diarrhea (from milk) or diabetes (from sugar). You choose.

What do you enjoy the most?
I love producing foods that make a profound difference to people. It’s fun changing people’s lives.

What are the prices?
As of 3/9/19:

$7.50 gallon milk

$4.25 for 1/2 gallon milk

It is all grass-fed milk and organic!

Nevertheless, my own attempt at trying raw milk was somewhat a failure.  I did get a little gassy a few hours later and I woke up the next day with minor eczema under one eye.  The good news it was not nearly as bad as the rashes on my stomach years ago. Unfortunately, I have been dealing with eczema on and off around my eyes since 2015. I am not sure if this milk was the culprit or not.  The allergy story remains a mystery…

For more information, check out the website:

When he’s not working on the farm and helping out customers, Edwin enjoys a bit of writing! Read his work on the “Fresh Thoughts” page!












Author: Kimberly Kweder

33 years old, career woman, Pittsburgh native, and loves projects that involve communications, social media, and international development.

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