"I’ve never worked so hard for so little money!” declares Michael. “But we sleep well at night” adds wife Jill.
Michael Leras bought five acres twelve years ago, preserving one of the last remaining ranches in a sea of new subdivisions popping up in Northwest Santa Rosa. Scratching a former career as a rodeo cowboy, photographer and model, Michael began life as a farmer when he first became a father six years ago.
“We wanted to do something where we could work close to home while we raise our children” says Leras. Together the family (and farm hand Lindsay) care for more than 80 chickens, two Jersey cows, an orchard, and a vegetable plot. They create an abundance of farm fresh, organic foods - enough to sustain their own needs and to share with local community members.
“Our sons, Cruz (6 years old) and Whiley (3 years old), are in charge of the cash box for our farm stand,” explains Leras pointing to an old 1954 ford truck they’ve converted to vend produce over the years. “We love bringing people to our farm. Our customers see us putting our hearts and hands into our work to produce rich golden eggs or flavor packed berries, and they are happy to pay premium prices. They want local, seasonal food, from a farmer they can trust, and we want to make a living producing a product that nourishes all of families.”
While farming as a family, Cruz and brother Whiley get an outstanding, hands on education as well as lasting health benefits. A study (2001 Lancet) reveals that exposure to farming in early life is linked to improved health including lower asthma rates. The children’s healthy skin and full faces also reflect the signs of strong health Dr. Weston Price would predict for children raised on whole, unprocessed foods such as the farm’s raw milk.
Today, Leras puts most of his efforts into supporting his family cows’ milk production.
Animal husbandry has a huge draw for this family, who enjoy caring for the animals and handcrafting milk products like cheese, butter, and whey. Buttercup and Dasi live like “grandpa’s” family cow – they graze in an open pasture, come into a metal barn (which Michael constructed from salvaged materials) for twice daily milking, and descend from a long-standing heritage breed that produces high quality milk.
Leras and family attest that Buttercup and Dasi’s milk is fantastically delicious and nutrient rich. Unlike their conventional Holstein counterparts, these Jersey’s produce A2 milk with a high cream content. So good and rich is their Jersey milk, they feel inclined to share their creamy bounty through a cow share program.
Why Small Farm Raw Bests Conventional Milk
More Nutrition. Dr. Tom Cowan, Weston Price Foundation, Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions), Professor Keith Woodfard (author of Devil in the Milk), and a host of others offer convincing evidence that raw milk is digested more easily and contains more nutrients than processed milk. Of high concern to these health advocates are the proteins A1 and A2 beta-casein. Conventional cow breeds create A1 milk, which is under investigation for possible links to diabetes, heart disease, and even autism. Recent research seems to support what the Leras family knows from experience – food produced locally, under natural-like conditions, from healthy, heritage animals, and served in its raw form is richly nutritious.
Better for Farmers. According to Weston A. Price Foundation, raw milk sold directly to the customer garners a significant increase over conventional milk prices. In fact, a recent New York Time article demonstrates “Raw Milk Sales Could Reinvigorate U.S. Dairy Farms.” Conventional farmers often struggle to break even. However, a farmer can simplify efforts and generate substantial profits by raising cows in open pastures for raw milk. Also minimalized are greenhouse gases. The Leras family takes these profits and shop locally – demonstrating the multiplier effect (read more in Sally Fallon’s report) of how raw milk farm profits benefit the whole community.
Other local farmers with young families (e.g. Singing Frogs Farm and many Farm Trails members) support the Leras’ ideal that old-fashioned, organic, community farming is a profitable and growing niche market.
Raw Milk Providers: Cow Sharing
Cow Share. The Leras family offers community members part ownership of Dasi and Buttercup and their weekly milk production. Cow Share owners pick up their weekly share of pristine, A2, organic, raw milk (between a half gallon – gallon). The Leras believe they are one of three farms in California offering this product, and Sonoma County families are lining up to get their share of this healthy milk and a small piece of the slow-living, farm lifestyle.
Take part by tipping back your own tall glass of old-fashioned, pure milk! Ask the Leras Family or your local farmer if he has a cow share for you, or find your local raw milk retail store here.