The summer of organic milk

Shavuot is typically called the “Dairy Holiday” as there is a custom not to eat meat on the chag.  And as we prepare for Shavuot we have also been preparing for a major dairy influx at camp.

Throughout the off season we have been reaching out to local food producers and asking them to support our program through discounted pricing or outright donations.  Recently, we received a commitment for a large donation of dairy to our food program.  Aurora Organic Dairy, a local Colorado milk producer, has offered us a pallet of fresh organic milk.  This dairy provides private label milk for companies all over Colorado.  They typically do not work with individual organizations like Ramah, as they mainly sell milk by the pallet.  Yet Aurora Organic Dairy agreed to make this donation on one condition: we must pick up a full pallet of milk — 480 half gallon containers — at one time!

This donation created an interesting situation for us.  As a camp that uses 3-5 gallons of milk per day, and can store about 50 gallons in our fridge at a time, how can we keep this milk cold & fresh for our campers to use throughout the summer?  The folks at the dairy have assured us that if kept cold, this milk will have a shelf life of 60 days, meaning that we will not have to purchase milk again until the last week of camp (the milk is ultra-pasteurized, allowing for the extended shelf life).

We considered renting a refrigerated truck for the summer, but soon realized that the cost of the rental would be more than the amount of the donation.  We considered freezing some of the milk, but then realized that unfrozen milk would not taste as fresh, and that we could only fit another 25 gallons in our freezers.  We then considered dedicating more of our refrigerator space at camp to milk (we have three industrial sized refrigerators) but then realized this would compromise the amount of room we had for other perishable items.

We realized that we needed to find a place to store the milk, off site, in an existing facility.  And then it occurred to us!  Denver is blessed with numerous synagogues, many of whom have industrial sized kitchens.  During the summer, these kitchens are not heavily used, yet their freezers and refrigerators are still running.  Last week, I began contacting the executive directors at some of these synagogues and discovered that our hunch was correct.  Their refrigerators would be running and would be mostly empty.  So far, all the synagogues I have contacted have said they would be happy to babysit our milk!

Each week during the summer our camp driver comes to Denver to shop for supplies, pick up bagels & challah and do whatever other errands need running.  This summer, our driver will have an extra stop on his route: picking up 40-50 gallons of milk from different synagogues and shuttling it back up to camp!

All of us at Ramah Outdoor Adventure are enormously grateful to the folks at Aurora Organic Dairy for their generous donation.  Because of their generosity, all of our campers will be drinking pure organic milk, without any of the common toxins found in regular milk.  And because of the help of our local synagogues, we will have a cold place to store our milk before it comes up to camp!

Each evening while counting the omer, the days between Passover and Shavuot, we have also been counting down the days to camp.   Our kitchen opens 3 days before Shavuot, and our staff arrives three days after Shavuot.  As we approach the end of the counting of the omer, the excitement has become palpable.  Not only because another holiday is coming, but because it means that summer is finally here and we are ready to open our second season at Ramah Outdoor Adventure.

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