Tales From Farmville: Milk Thistle Farm

Written by

Bwog loves the farmers market. You love the farmers market. The farmers market loves Columbia. A new chapter in our grand ‘Getting to Know…’ history, we present the first installment of Tales from Farmville, the lives and loves of the Morningside farmers market. Contessa Gayles reports.

Every Sunday, Ruby, with dyed hair to match the name, works at the Milk Thistle Farm stand at the Columbia University Farmers’ market. Ruby mans the booth for 28 year old farmer, Dante Hesse, who owns the small, certified organic farm in upstate New York, Columbia County. The milk is produced by a small herd of cows, pasteurized at the low temperature of 145°F for 30 minutes, and bottled in glass.

Bwog: Why glass?

Ruby: It’s the ultimate container for milk, in terms of taste and shelf life. We charge a dollar deposit on the bottle, and when people bring the bottles back they get their dollars back. We sterilize the bottles and reuse them. It is recycling and green at its best.

Bw: Why this stand?

R: I was working for another farmer in the market. I am genetically coded to adore milk and I had stopped drinking milk, because it was an empty experience for me. Then I tasted Dante Hesse’s milk and I was like, “I’m yours!”  And I just love the milk, its perfect.

Bw: Your previous milk consumption experiences were empty…?

R:When I was a child I would drink a quart of milk at a time, because of the taste and the flavor. We used to get milk delivered in glass bottles where I lived in Brooklyn, one hundred thousand years ago. And the stuff I was buying in the supermarket; the conventional milk, even the organic milk in a carton, it just didn’t taste good. It wasn’t a pleasurable experience. So, I just stopped. And when I tasted this, I lost my milk mind!

Bw: Why the Columbia Farmer’s Market?

R:This is a neighborhood market and I get to know the people and the big student population buying. I get to…not play mother to them, but help direct them into healthier choices.

A Ruby moment: It’s cold. And something about my spark plugs, they’re not all firing in harmony for combustion here!

Tips for customers: The chocolate milk contains no additives or emulsifiers, so there are two rules; shake well and enjoy thoroughly.

Specs and prices:

Tags: , , , , ,


  1. copy editor  

    lol "pervious"

    good job lol

  2. I think  

    that their chocolate milk is delicious

  3. OUCH

    $14 / GALLON is expensive, even for organic milk.

    • Food for Thought  

      It's expensive, but on whole, Americans are pretty cheap about their food. We pay less and get less--in terms of quality and healthfulness.

      German consumers spend 10.9 percent of their disposable income on food at home, followed by Japan (13.4 percent), South Korea (13.4 percent), and France (13.6 percent) among high income countries. In comparison, the U.S. percentage is 6.1 percent.

      And in terms of farmers...Producers receive less than half of what they used to get from the food dollar. In 1950, they received 41 cents out of each dollar. Today the farmer only makes 6 cents on every dollar produce sold in the supermarket.

      • Anonymous

        So why is the same organic produce bought directly from the farmer not cheaper than the supermarket? It would seem that there is a lot of markup or overhead in the retail produce sales, and the farmer should be able to make more per dollar selling direct to customers for a cheaper price than the supermarket. No?

      • yo

        yes, but how are these percentages calculated? several of those countries have higher taxes than us

  4. how's the plain whole milk?  

    I usually get Organic Valley, which is a buck less a gallon (5). It's the best milk you can get from West Side, in my opinion. Is this stuff tastier?

  5. Get the  

    skim milk. It tastes like whole milk. It's actually incredible.

  6. Anonymous  

    not to bust this guy's chops, but this is an academic community and from my scientific education I have learned that milk is not good for humans' health

  7. pro-small farms

    Both supermarket and farmers market products are organic if they are labelled Certified Organic, but the supermarket products generally come from large industrial farms that grow in bulk and have lower production costs. Farmers market products come from small, local farms that have to pay much more to grow the same amount of food, so they have to charge more to make a profit or just break even.

  8. Pacific Ocean Native

    Pondering why humans made the switch to consuming milk from other mammals in the first place makes me want coconut ice cream. In any event, $14/gallon is indeed quite expensive for a gallon of milk. However, the first thing I will be doing Sunday is strolling by Ruby's stand to pick up a quart of chocolate milk. Bunnies and milk cartons just doesn't cut it. Glad to see the Columbia Community supporting local organic farming :)

  9. yo bwog  

    let's have a "getting to know..." this james mcshane character

  10. cows?  

    Any ideas about how they treat their cows? That's pretty important if i'm spending so much on milk....

    • friend of cows  

      I had an e-mail correspondence with Dante Hesse, the owner of the farm; about the treatment of cows at Milk Thistle. This is what he said:

      "Our cows, and all animals on our farm, are given the most comfortable and natural lives possible. The cows, during the growing season are outside on pasture day and night. The only time they come into the barn is to be milked. In the winter they must, due to weather, spend more time in the barn. But even on the coldest, snowy days they still spend some time outside getting fresh air.We strive to provide the most humane conditions possible for all the animals in our care."

      I then asked him what happened to male calves from the farm, as many dairy farms sell their male calves to third party companies to be used as veal calves, which is a fairly horrific practice. Dante confirmed that Milk Thistle does NOT sell their males to third party veal producers:

      "Yes we do indeed keep all our bull and heifer calves. The heifers (female) will be raised for milking when they are bigger. The bull calves are raised on our until they are full grown and then sold as meat by us at NYC farmers markets. We use a small butcher not far from our farm who practices humane slaughter techniques."

  11. MIIIIIILK!!!  

    I approve of this article!

  12. Milk Thistle Farm milk really does taste different from a lot of other organic milk you can buy in NY. This is probably because there are a lot of Jersey cows in the herd and Dante uses batch pasteurization rather than the ultrapasteurization technique that many other organic milk producers employ. Milk Thistle are also indeed treated very well. The milk is great year round, has even more flavor in the summer when the cows are out on pasture eating grass. If you are interested you can learn more about the farm from this video that I made, http://www.thedairyshow.com/the_dairy_show/2009/02/episode-ii-milk-and-milk-based-cocktails.html

© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.