Guest blog: Nate Zimdars
There is another aspect to my job, something I never had the opportunity to do in Wisconsin that makes work so unique – pasteurization. Not only am I collecting milk from the cows, I also get to pasteurize and package it!
When I served as a state officer for the Wisconsin FFA, I had the opportunity to tour several milk processing plants. The sheer amount of milk I witnessed arriving on a daily basis to be pasteurized and processed into a variety of dairy products was mind boggling, especially in comparison to what I have been working with in Senegal. On average, we pasteurize between 10-40 liters of milk. All of our work is done in two small rooms in a building called the “Laitière”. I have one coworker named Ibou. Before I arrived, it was only Ibou doing all the work.
The process is very straightforward. When the milk is received, it is placed in a 40 liter milk can and tested for the quality. Milk that is received at night is then stored in a refrigerator until the next day and combined with the milk from that morning. It is then heated to a temperature of 170 degrees.
After it has been heated, the correct amount of sugar (a half cup for every five liters) is added and the can is moved to a tank of cool water, occasionally stirring to help the milk cool down. After it has cooled, fermentation culture is added to the milk, stirred until it is well mixed, and then packaged into half or quarter liter bags. Once it is packaged, we let it sit in an incubator at room temperature for a day before placing in the freezer until it is sold. This process creates what is called lait caille – a sweetened curdled milk that looks and tastes like yogurt. From start to finish it is only 2-3 hours.
The milk is sold for the equivalent of 35 and 75 cents for the quarter liter and half liter bags respectively. Many times we will have customers visit the Laitière to buy the lait caille and occasionally raw milk. What is not sold at the Laitière is taken to markets in local villages. The profits are enough to cover expenses and pay employees with extra left over.
It is so rewarding to see the entire process of the milk coming from the cow to the consumer unfold. Sometimes when I’m sipping some of Senegal’s finest milk, I catch myself wondering if it was from a cow that I had milked.
Nate Zimdars is a member of the Fond du Lac County Farm Bureau from Ripon. He is currently working at a dairy cooperative in rural Senegal through the Young Adults in Global Mission program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). He will return to Wisconsin in July and continue working for the ELCA while milking at Zimdars Family Farm in addition to assisting on his own family’s hobby farm.