RAWMI Begins to Earn Its Spurs by Cracking the Insurance Code for Members
The toughest part of launching any new business or organization is getting those first few believers to come on board, and then talk you up to the bulk of other prospective customers or members.
Now, more than a year into its launch, the Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI) seems finally to have begun attracting those first few believers. A key to turning heads for RAWMI has been its ability to deliver product liability insurance for its safety conscious members. It's taken longer than founder Mark McAfee would have liked, but that's often the way it is with new organizations seeking to implement a new model for doing things, especially within an industry under intense government regulatory pressure.
RAWMI's first certified member is an Oregon dairy, Champoeg Creamery. Its owner Charlotte Smith, explained to its customers last week how RAWMI had already begun to make a big difference to the dairy's operations. I thought Smith's explanation was more eloquent than anything I might write, so I am publishing her letter to customers here:
Good Morning, Champoeg Creamery Milk Customers,
First, let me say how much I value and appreciate each one of you. I'm in awe that you make the commitment to drive out of your way each week or two in order to pick up your milk. I love hearing all the amazing stories of good and improved health from incorporating raw milk and all the goodies you make from it into your diet. I have customers who talk about their kid's behavior improving, autism symptoms lessening, pain & other symptoms from auto-immune disorders being relieved, eczema/asthma/allergies improving or disappearing, colitis and acid reflux disappearing... the list goes on and on.
I don't always update you on our farm happenings, and although I try to include you in the exciting ones, I usually downplay the difficult ones because I think that's being a professional. However, I want to balance that professionalism with making you aware of some of the hardship and especially the politics of raw milk so you can continue to play a part in making it available in Oregon and the US. Milking cows is hard enough work - add to that being in an industry that is attacked politically and otherwise on a regular basis, and, well, let's just say I have a great support system to keep me from giving up on the darkest of days.
As I mentioned earlier, we are the first dairy in the nation to be "Listed" by the Raw Milk Institute. [Editor's note--the listing is worth taking a look at, to see the data posted.] I hope that many dairies will follow behind us and do the same - it is a GREAT organization, founded by Mark McAfee, who is the biggest advocate for raw milk in North America, if not worldwide. I will be telling our story about the listing process (took all summer!) at the Weston Price convention in a couple weeks. Just a few of many benefits of being listed -- a group to be accountable to, a huge support network to deal with issues, and a means to provide you with the safest raw milk in the state.
The high and low this week involved receiving an email Monday morning with my product liability insurance premium - $10,000 per year. What a bombshell - premiums have been running about $1,000 per year until this year when carriers began announcing they would not be renewing current policies in Oregon. After submitting our application to many wholesalers over the last few weeks, this was the only one not declined, and just by virtue of it being $10,000 seems like they are in essence declining it.
Since I'm a part of this valuable organization, RAWMI, I immediately called Mark McAfee. He went into high speed Monday and spent most of the day emailing, conference calling with the CEO of at least one Insurance Co., working with my agent locally, had stats and explanations flying all around the country about why a dairy like ours is a much lower risk than a raw milk dairy that is not testing regularly or required to have any basic standards whatsoever. He battled for us all week. Yesterday my agent responded that he had received a quote for $750 per year and had 2 more on the way from other carriers. So I went from a cost-prohibitive $10,000 per year that doesn't make sense to even be in business to pay, to a manageable $750 that offers our farm and our customers protection.
The value of a "Listing" by the Raw Milk Institute just increased 100 fold in my mind. Because they are a 501c3 non-profit corp. they cannot ask for membership fees, so they do advise a $500 donation for the "Listing" opportunity. This $500 is intended to come from the consumers of raw milk making tax deductible donations to cover this cost. Since we are the first dairy listed we are still getting things in place and I have not made you aware of this donation. Beginning today, there will be a box in the milk pickup area for you to donate. I have 100 customers, so if everyone donated $5 each year we would reach the $500 with not much effort. After my emotionally challenging week and the immediate response of Mark to remedy the problem, this seems like the right timing to make you aware of this, and the fee is insignificant in comparison to the support we receive in return.
Champoeg Creamery will match any donations received up to $500 per year - being "Listed" is this valuable to us. There are some of you who will find the $5 a hardship and if so, please do not feel obligated in the least and you don't even need to mention it to me or explain in any way. I know we will easily reach this reasonable amount.
Thank you for your continued support and business. I am humbled by your continued dedication, loyalty, patronage and trust. Without you and your support, we would not be in business providing you with the safest milk in Oregon.