Written by Caroline Abels
Vermont's Local Banquet
To understand what the LiLi pasteurizer—conceived and developed in Vermont—could mean to the dairy community of Orange County, New York, I drove to the Hudson Valley in early July and chatted with some longtime dairy farmers.
They told me—a few minutes before the ribbon-cutting ceremony that would officially inaugurate Bob-White Systems’ first on-farm pasteurizer—that there used to be 600 dairy farms in their county, just east of where New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey all meet. Now there are 43, 44, maybe 45. “You can make more money growing houses,” one farmer said.
It sounded all too familiar to this Vermont visitor. Yet the LiLi (pronounced “lily”)—a new kind of HTST (high-temperature, short-time) pasteurizer—could lead to a better day for at least two Orange County farm families, allowing them to sell non-homogenized, gently pasteurized milk to consumers who want farm-fresh milk but don’t necessarily want raw milk.
Many small producers use VAT pasteurizers, but the LiLi processes more quickly, at 2 gallons per minute, and uses heat more efficiently, resulting in a less energy-intensive process and milk that retains more of its nutritional value and flavor. Rose Hubbert (Back to the Future Farm) says it’s the closest you can get to raw milk with pasteurization. Other HTST pasteurizers are on the market, but Bob-White says its LiLi is unique because of its small scale, gentleness with the milk, relative affordability (aproximately $75,000) and the fact it is delivered pre-assembled and ready to run.
Many of Orange County’s dairy farmers had come to the O’Dell farm in Middletown that Sunday to support Rose and Lee Hubbert and their business partner, Mike O’Dell, as they launched their new venture: the sale of on-farm pasteurized milk under the brand name “Ole’ Mother Hubbert Creamline Milk.” The farmers were supportive but also curious: Would people pay roughly $1.50 more per half-gallon for this milk? Would Orange County’s first fluid milk processing venture in 40 years bring economic security to those involved? And what exactly was this LiLi pasteurizer?
Rose Hubbert was in charge of the day’s ribbon cutting and celebratory barbecue. For more than a year, she worked with Steve Judge of Bob-White Systems (based in South Royalton, Vermont) to make the O’Dell farm the first site in the country to use the new LiLi.
“It’s been a bumpy road, but we’ve gotten through it,” Rose said triumphantly through a microphone to 30 or so onlookers. Then she cut the ribbon with her family and Mike O’Dell.
Mike is the farmer in the business venture, officially called Back to the Future Farm. Just shy of his 21st birthday on the day of the ribbon cutting, he grew up dairying with his dad. Now he’ll be milking the Ole’ Mother Hubbert cows while the Hubberts handle marketing and milk sales.
Ole’ Mother Hubbert milk comes from a mixed herd of some 48 cows; Mike O’Dell owns the Holsteins and the Hubberts own the Jerseys. Processing began in early June of this year (a month before the official ribbon cutting). Over the summer, the LiLi processed 50 to 100 gallons of the herd’s milk a week; the goal is 300 gallons a day.
To view additional photos from Back to the Future Farm, visit Vermont's Local Banquet: http://localbanquet.com/stories/on-the-farm/item/planting-a-lili.