Wearing a black-brimmed country hat, suspenders and an Amish beard, "Samuel" unloaded his contraband from an unmarked white truck on a busy block in Manhattan. He was at the tail end of a long smuggling run that had begun before dawn at his Pennsylvania farm.
As he wearily stacked brown cardboard boxes on the sidewalk, a few upscale clients in the Chelsea neighborhood lurked nearby, eyeing the new shipment hungrily.
Clearly, they couldn’t wait to get a taste.
But he wasn’t selling them anything they planned to smoke, snort or inject. Rather, he was giving them their once-a-month fix of raw milk — an unpasteurized product banned outright in 12 states and denounced by the FDA as a public health hazard, but beloved by a small but growing number of devotees who tout both its health benefits and its flavor.
Samuel is part of a shadowy community of outlaw Amish and Mennonite dairy farmers who risk fines, loss of equipment and product, and even imprisonment to transport raw milk across state lines and satisfy a burgeoning appetite for illegal raw milk in places like New York. In January, The Daily rode along on one of these smuggling runs.
Samuel’s smuggling run started in Pennsylvania's Amish country, where his family farm is located. As Amish doctrine prohibits him from operating an automobile, he paid a non-Amish person to drive.
The final destination was an unmarked converted factory on the eastern edge of Chelsea. Upstairs, the milk deals went down in an unadorned room teeming with a crowd similar to what one might find at a Michael Pollan book signing.
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