Petersburg couple brings fresh goat milk to Southeast market

PETERSBURG — Fresh dairy products are a rarity in Southeast Alaska, but one family is trying to change that.

Victor Nelson and his wife, Tabitha, have been supplying raw milk from their dairy goats to people in Petersburg, reported KFSK-FM.

The couple raises chickens, pigs and goats on a few acres of land at Point Agassiz, an area across the sound from Petersburg. They’re the only family living out there year-round, surrounded by craggy peaks, cedar trees and glaciers.

“We started with two goats and just for raising quality milk that doesn’t have all that industrialized stuff in it and people kept asking us so we decided to buy a few more and a few more,” said Tabitha Nelson.

They have more than 30 now.

The Nelsons say people go crazy for the fresh milk — “We could never meet the whole demand for Petersburg,” said Tabitha — but there are limitations on how they can sell it.

In Alaska, you can only buy raw dairy products like the Nelsons’ unpasteurized goat milk through a herd share agreement, so the customers in Petersburg are partial owners of the goats.

Unpasteurized dairy products are heavily regulated because they’ve been known to carry disease-causing microorganisms like E. coli. In 2013, a campylobacter outbreak on the Kenai peninsula was linked to raw milk.

The Nelsons say they try to be as clear as possible with their customers about the risks.

“When they sign the contract they do get a sheet of everything we do,” said Tabitha Nelson. She says refrigerating the milk as soon as it leaves the goat helps kill potentially harmful bacteria.

Petersburg resident Gina Esposito says she owns a share of the milk and it’s worried about getting sick.

“The more you learn about where food comes from, the more paralyzed you feel about what you want to buy,” she said.

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