How does a herd share work?
A heard share is a way that people like you can have access to fresh, raw milk even if you don't have the land or time to keep and raise goats yourself. In Virginia, it is currently illegal to sell raw milk, but legal to drink raw milk from your own animals. There's a controversy over drinking milk in its natural condition but regardless, there are always going to be people that are willing to go out of their way to both produce and consume raw milk. By buying a share of a dairy herd, you are a part owner of an animal and therefor entitled to a portion of its milk. Even if you prefer your milk pasteurized, you may still want to get milk through a herd share program. Our milk will be fresher and probably much more nutritious than store-bought milk, and your money will be going to support actual farmers in the local economy.
In a herd share, you enter into a relationship with a dairy herd and the farmers, and in turn you receive a consistent supply of milk that money literally can't buy. One of the great benefits of this arrangement is the accountability and feedback from consumer to farmer. If you don't like something about our farm, you can let us know. Remember, you're a part owner of the herd. We, the farmers, hold ourselves to a high ethical and hygienic standard since we know we'll be looking you in the eye as we hand you your milk. This relational exchange of money and services is truly a win-win. We the farmers have some financial security because our income isn't dictated by weekly sales fluctuations and you, the herd share owners, have security knowing that your farmer is under pressure to provide the highest quality milk possible.
At Gobble-Berry, a herd share involves 3 payments: A one-time purchase of the share, a monthly boarding fee, and a monthly delivery fee, if applicable. One share entitles you to a half gallon of milk per week, though it is possible to purchase multiple shares.
1. The cost of a share is $50. This buys you about 1/7 of a goat. This requires a signed contract, and is due before receiving any milk.
2. The monthly boarding fee is $30 per share. This covers land usage, fence maintenance, feed, handling, milking, and milk bottling. Monthly boarding fees will be sent as an invoice on the first day of the month via Square, or if you prefer, cash or check can be mailed to the address below or left in a drop off location specifically communicated to you personally.
3. Monthly delivery fees can be arranged on a case by case basis. If you pick up at our farm, there is no fee. If you pick up at one of our farmer's markets, the fee is $5 per month. If you can't conveniently pick up from these places, we will do our best to work with you. This fee essentially pays your farmer for the time and vehicle space to transport milk. If you and ten other share owners live in the same neighborhood, it might make sense for us to deliver straight to your neighborhood. You also have the option of getting your milk as 1 gallon every other week if you want to reduce the amount you drive. If you own multiple shares, the delivery fee stays the same. So if you pick up from a farmer's market, you will pay a $5 fee per month whether you get a 1/2 gallon or 3 gallons per week.
*A note on the legalities of herd share arrangements: Because we can't sell you milk, our arrangement is carefully worded so that you and anyone else that reads this sees that the transaction is actually herd ownership and boarding fees rather than just a loophole way of buying milk. Although we absolutely commit to providing you a half-gallon of milk per week per share, we can't legally promise that because legally we are selling you a fraction of a goat, not its milk.
Picking up, Milk containers, and Missing a pick-up:
Every share owner will have a scheduled day of the week to pick up milk. If you pick up at a farmer's market, then obviously that's your scheduled day of the week. If you pick up from our farm, we will talk with you and schedule a day every week that it'll be ready in our farm refrigerator. This doesn't mean you have to pick up that day, but that's when the milk will be most fresh.
Share owners are required to provide their own jars, clearly labeled with their name, and are required to return them clean. We recommend wide-mouth mason jars, which are easy to wash, but ultimately it's your choice. We will have half-gallon mason jars on hand which you can buy from us at cost or you can provide your own. We recommend glass because it's reusable and keeps the milk flavor freshest. You'll need at least two jars for a single herd share. When you pick up your milk, you'll return last week's jar to us.
If you don't do a good job washing your jar or if you forget to bring last week's jar with you to return, we'll bottle it in one of our jars but PLEASE don't create a big hassle for us. We aren't going to spend time scrubbing nasty old milk residue out of your jars and we don't have an infinite number of replacement jars we can lend out. That being said, we've been herd share members of other farms in the past and know how easy it is to forget the jar so we will extend plenty of grace to you, too.
If you pick up at a pick-up location like a farmers' market, but miss a week, we will bring your jar back to our farm fridge and hold it for a week, during which time you're welcome to come to the farm and pick it up. After a week, we don't consider it fresh enough to give to you so we won't bring week-old milk to a pick-up location. If you know you're going to miss a week and call at least a day in advance, we won't bottle you any milk that week but will instead bring you double the following week. If you pick up from our farm and your jar sits in our fridge for a full week, we will replace the old milk with fresh milk on your scheduled pick up day. We absolutely don't offer any refunds for your failure to pick up your milk.
Broken jars and spilled milk...It's okay to cry over spilled milk. This stuff is precious! If we break your jar in handling, we will replace it at our cost. If you break and spill your jar, we can't replace that milk for you. This is one advantage of bottling in plastic. Also, although wide mouth mason jars are easy to clean, there are much sturdier glass containers such as beer growlers, and reusable milk jars. Our family uses reusable milk jars and they're easy enough to clean with a decent bottle brush.
Proper milk handling:
When stored correctly, raw goat milk maintains excellent flavor for at least a week. There are three main things you have to do to maintain the longest life and best flavor of your mlk. Keep it refrigerated. Store it only in clean containers that don't impart funky flavors. (Glass is best). Reduce the amount of air contact in storage. Milk can pick up off-flavors pretty easily through the air. If you go through your milk slowly, consider pouring half of it into a smaller container that leaves very little air at the top. This really only matters if you're storing it for more than a week, though. If you don't want to drink your milk raw, there are pretty simple ways to pasteurize it at home. We do not offer pasteurizing services.
Possible milk shortage
In the event of a milk shortage due to an enexpected death or terrible climate conditions, you, the share owner, may experience a decrease in the quantity of milk you receive for a short time. We, your farmers, will do our absolute best to ensure consistent milk for you throughout the year and don't foresee shortages being an issue.
Closing your share
If you decide to close your share,let us know and we will stop charging boarding and delivery fees and will stop delivering your milk. However, because you still own a share of a goat, you have the option of resuming membership in the herd at a later date. If you want to start receiving milk again, you will start paying the monthly fees but won't be required to pay the initial $50 since you already own the share. Alternatively, you can sell that share to a friend who wants to be an owner. That way, you get your money back and we won't charge them the initial fee. Gobble-Berry makes no guarantee that we will buy back shares.
If you get behind on your monthly payments, we will stop delivering milk until your account is up to date. If you miss two months in a row and make no communication to explain your circumstances, we will consider your account closed and will take back ownership of your share in exchange for the missed boarding fee payments.
But look, we are farmers, not a corporation. So don't hesitate to talk, explain, ask for options, suggest something new, etc. We truly want you to get the best possible milk in the world and will do our best to work with you!
In order to purchase a herd share, please print the 'Herd Share Ownership Agreement with Gobble-Berry, LLC.' on the following page. You must fill in all applicable blank spaces on the agreement form and either mail it in or give it to us in person. We will make a copy of your signed agreement, sign both copies ourselves, and send one of the copies to you. Payment for your herd share can be made via Square at the end of this document, or can be made through cash or check.
If you wish to mail your contract and payment, please send this to Gobble-Berry Farmstead, 1820 Nichols Rd., Powhatan, VA 23139, and make checks payable to Elisha Somerville.