Carmen Creek Dairy: The Local Raw Milk Sensation

By Duncan A. Kennedy

If you have been to one of the local farmers’ markets in the Truckee-Tahoe or Eastern Plumas County areas, you may have seen a booth selling wool products and advertising a “raw milk share.” If so, you’ve run across thee only local source of raw milk anywhere in the area, Calpine-based Carmen Creek Dairy. To learn more about this novelty product, The Mountain Messenger visited the dairy recently and here’s what we found out.

Carmen Creek Dairy is the brainchild of Callie Harvey, a 25-year-old rancher and shepherd whose family has been in the Basque-prominent sheep business for five generations. Harvey has lived in Calpine much of her life and, as a child, was fascinated by the dairy profession. After two years at the University of Alabama, Harvey decided the nine-to-five life was not for her and returned to her roots, working back at Harvey Farms where her parents, Don and Anna, run a wedding venue, a forestry business and, their best-known venture, Anna’s Got Wool, a supplier of lamb and wool products. Harvey finally got a chance to launch her side venture during the pandemic, and the rest is history.

Harvey has two dairy cows – Brownie (age two) and Butterscotch (age four-and-a-half). The cows are Holstein-Jersey crosses providing the milk production quantity you’d see from a Jersey and the cream content of a Holstein. Her business produces raw milk sold through a milk share model to customers across the region. Carmen Creek Dairy’s raw milk share is now almost full; “buying in” makes you a partial owner of the cow. Thus, you can pay for the milk legally without intervention from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Harvey is currently working on obtaining a market milk permit, the paper allowing her to sell her milk via grocery stores. But, legalities are keeping this a work in progress.

Raw milk has a few health advantages not seen in pasteurized milk, principally from not having heat applied to denature proteins, vitamins, and minerals. While pasteurization is logical for large commercial dairies, given their large batch sizes, potentially unsanitary conditions, and the vast transportation distances, for a small, very local operation, Harvey says investing in the expensive equipment needed is unnecessary.

As this product was previously unavailable in the area, Harvey felt this was a logical demand for her to try to meet. Thanks to her efforts, locals bought into her share and now have the raw milk they need to make cheeses, butter, and ice cream for their families.

“You don’t milk cows for money; you do it because you love it,” says Harvey, noting her entry into the dairy business has been very rocky and rather costly. With no large animal veterinarians in the area specializing in dairy cattle, she has played much of her career as a dairy woman by ear and suffered at times as a result. For example, not knowing dairy cows cannot excrete excess calcium, she supplied her previous cow, Buttercup, with calcium-rich food over a winter. As a result, the cow developed milk fever and died. “I don’t have decades of knowledge on the subject or readily-available resources if my cows have a problem,” said Harvey, “so I’m really hanging on the edge sometimes.”

Harvey sells at four regional markets during the on-season – the Truckee Certified Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays, the Tahoe City Farmers’ Market on Thursdays, Romano’s Farmers’ Market in Beckwourth on Fridays, and the Blairsden Community Market on Saturdays. When the market season ends in October, Harvey continues to schedule pickups for her milk share in those locations and at the farm until her cows stop lactating in February. “It’s a busy life,” Harvey says, “But it’s one I love.”

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