By Mark Waite
There is a Nye County water district governing board, a capital improvements advisory committee, a desert tortoise habitat advisory committee, a master plan update steering committee — and soon there could be a county milk commission.
The Ponderosa Dairy in Amargosa Valley, operated by Rockview Farms, has been in existence for many years, churning out milk on a large scale with almost 10,000 cows producing more than 81,000 gallons per day. Now, a small-scale project has been proposed to produce raw milk, without pasteurization or homogenization.
But first the developers have to get Nye County to create a county milk commission, possibly the first in the state. County commissioners last week asked District Attorney Brian Kunzi to draw up an ordinance.
Brett Ottolenghi, representing the Amargosa Creamery, said, “I’d like to build a small dairy. The design, I’d like to start with 10 cows, which has been designed to handle up to 60. The idea would be to produce raw milk. There’s currently 26 states in which you can get raw milk in one form or another.”
The milk commission would be a three-member board, that will include a physician, a veterinarian and a member of the public. Ottolenghi said there are already volunteers to serve on the board.
“Essentially this commission would be in charge of implementing the ordinance, which is already laid out, and then accepting applications from people who produce raw milk,” Ottolenghi said.
Commissioner Joni Eastley had questions about the potential market, the safety of the product and any costs to the county of creating the commission.
The primary market would be in Las Vegas, but Ottolenghi said there would also be stores in Pahrump and Amargosa Valley where the raw milk would be sold. The address of his business card is Artisanal Foods in Las Vegas.
“It’s produced in a very clean and very precautious manner, which is all laid out in the ordinance, but yes there is no pasteurization or homogenization. We also had people ask about making cheese, so there could be other dairy products,” Ottolenghi said.
He was accompanied to the table by a woman who wanted to produce raw goat milk.
Nye County Commissioner Gary Hollis said he spoke to Ottolenghi about his project.
“I support raw milk, there’s a lot of people in Las Vegas and even here in Pahrump that would buy the raw milk and I support it,” Hollis said.
Kunzi said the county could build into the ordinance creating the commission a collection of fees, like inspections and testing.
“In planning for this, I assumed all costs associated with raw milk production would be passed onto the dairies,” Ottolenghi said. “We also have a letter from the Nevada Dairy Commission showing they acknowledge what we’re doing.”
But while there is a state dairy commission, county officials didn’t know of another county in Nevada with a milk commission. Eastley was puzzled then why the state legislation was even passed. Kunzi said the state statute was adopted in 1979 and amended in 2001.
Ottolenghi said the county dairy commission will report to the State Health Commission, not the State Dairy Commission.
“I think we have a really good model laid out for us in the ordinance,” he said.
Nevada Revised Statute 584.207 discusses the county milk commission, which certifies raw milk conforms to the regulations and standards adopted by the commission.
Ottolenghi said he doesn’t have land yet for the operation. The Amargosa Valley Town Board passed a resolution in support of the project.
“I don’t think it’s a secret the more we get away from natural foods, the more we get to processed foods. Americans have an increasing proportion of the population that is overweight or obese. There’s a demand out there for raw milk,” said Ed Goedhart, manager of the Ponderosa Dairy.
“I think it’s a great thing. I love the taste better, the texture, it’s much tastier and creamier,” he said.