Five Raglan families who together run a local milk collective are literally living off the fat of the land — and loving it. “We’re drinking milk that has all the fat in it,” says Jenny Gaunt from her home deep in a valley, nestled between Wainui Road and Ngarunui Beach, where massive pumpkins sit decoratively on the deck and wwoofers — or willing workers on organic farms — potter about inside and out doing what needs to be done when you’re “trying to live with the land”. “It’s like the olden days with big lots of cream on your porridge in winter,” she adds.

Jenny’s place is what they call the depot, conveniently within easy distance of the other four converts to old-fashioned, unpasteurised milk where bottles and jars are dropped off weekly and returned on Tuesdays, with the freshest of milk at about half the price of supermarket stocks. A large blue chilly bin sits on Jenny’s deck for collection of the glass containers throughout the week and she adds slicker pads to the raw, untreated milk if it’s not picked up that day.

The collective’s been running a good 18 months now, with one of the five families rostered each week to make the trip about 19 kilometres or so inland where a longtime farmer runs a fully certified organic dairy unit. There at the farm gate, the farmer has recently installed a purpose-built vat from which the collective fills its own bottles and jars, recording and paying for it on the day. “We don’t milk from the cow,” says Whale Bay’s Carolina Meade, who’s also in the collective, “we milk from the machine.”
The system has grown by word-of-mouth over the past few years, and they say “it all works well”.

But the spin-offs, says Jenny, are more than just a milk supply that’s economical and easy to access. Tending towards being “lactose-intolerant” herself and strictly non-dairy till now — “I was a soy and oat milk girl” — she’s found she can tolerate the raw milk, feels good about drinking it and comfortable providing it for her young family.
While admitting you need to be completely hygienic with untreated milk straight from the cow, Jenny says neither has the product had the “good, lively enzymes” boiled out of it, so people’s bodies can process and deal with it better. Another plus, she adds, is that the collective “brings us together as a group”. Jenny enjoys “touching base” with Carolina and the others, and the neighbourly contact fits nicely with her lifestyle.