Ever find that you have too much milk left in the fridge when you’re bringing home this week’s CSA share? Or did you run out of granola earlier this week and have a half gallon of milk just sitting there? Don’t dump that milk! Use it explore the world of fresh cheese making! Its an amazing scientific and culinary journey for people of all ages!

Homemade Ricotta Recipe

Makes about 2 cups

We’ve experimented with this recipe a couple of times, using whole and low-fat milk and also leaving out the heavy cream (because we just didn’t have any). We also made it with fresh and bottled lemon juice. The recipe seemed to be relatively the same each time; in fact, one of our tasters said the low-fat milk ricotta tasted richer than the one with whole milk and cream. This homemade ricotta has a more delicate flavor and a drier curd compared to store-bought ricotta. You may want to add some spices or extra salt to your finished product. Or serve it on crostini topped with honey and cinnamon for a dessert treat!

The ricotta draining right after its boiled and curdled.

The ricotta draining right after its boiled and curdled.


  • 1 half gallon whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Special equipment: large sieve, fine-mesh cheesecloth


Line a large sieve with a layer of heavy-duty (fine-mesh) cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.

Slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over

The final product! We mixed in fresh, chopped basil leaves and red pepper flakes to make a spread!

The final product! We mixed in fresh, chopped basil leaves and red pepper flakes to make a spread!

moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain 1 hour. After discarding the liquid, chill the ricotta, covered. Optional: mix in fresh herbs, extra salt or other spices to taste. it will keep in the refrigerator 2 days.


Do you know where your milk comes from? Even though New York State is the fourth largest dairy producing state in the country, much of the milk on our grocery store shelves comes to us via a Texas-based multinational corporation called Dean Foods.  Dean Foods is driving down the price farmers receive to care for and milk their cows, but this growing season you can purchase milk directly from family farms in the Catskills and Hudson Valley at your neighborhood Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in New York City.

Milk Not Jails is back with dairy shares at NYC CSAs this year.  This year we have full- and half-shares available to accommodate all household sizes. The deadline to buy your share is fast approaching, so order online today! We’ve added some new farms that we’re excited to tell you about.

Tim Tonjes talks about making cheese yesterday in the cheese cave on his dairy farm in Callicoon.

Tim and Mary Tonjes talk about making cheese in the cave on his dairy farm in Callicoon.

Tim Tonjes milks his cows in Sullivan County, New York’s poorest upstate county. He inherited the business from his father, who commercially milked their herd for major distributors.  But Tim didn’t like thinking of the beautiful Holstein cows on his farm as machines, and he has spent the past ten years returning the farm to sustainable practices.  He will be providing fresh, low-pasteurized and non-homogenized whole milk to our CSA.  Its single-source, meaning it doesn’t come from anywhere but his cows, who are raised from birth on his farm, never given BST growth hormone and turned out on pasture and fed forage from the farm all year long. Order your milk share from Tonjes Dairy here!

Shannon Mason and her mother, Gail Danforth, make butter inspired by their great-grandmother Martha, who won a butter award at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Shannon Mason and her mother, Gail Danforth, make butter inspired by their great-grandmother Martha, who won a butter award at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Shannon and her husband Hamilton Mason are also returning their family farm, Danforth Jersey Farm, to its legacy, inspired by Shannon’s great-grandmother’s butter award from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that still hang in their farmhouse kitchen in Schoharie County.  A 7th generation farm, Shannon’s parents and children help her tend to their herd of Jersey cows and produce butter in their on-farm processing plant, Cowbella Creamery.  Their 30 Jersey cows produce a richer milk than Holstein cows and give their single, source small-batch butter a bright shade of yellow. Order yogurt and butter shares here! 

Dairy shares also include products from Hawthorne Valley Farm and Ronnybrook Farm Dairy.  Read more about the Milk Not Jails farms. Pick and choose what fresh, local dairy products you want to pick-up this season at the CSA by ordering your share today!

Milk Not Jails is seeking 2 summer interns to join our statewide advocacy campaign dedicated to moving New York State’s economy towards agriculture and away from prisons. Summer interns will help organize fun, engaging outreach to rural and urban communities at summer parades, fairs and block parties. They will also assist with policy research, develop a Milk Not Jails toolkit for student and community groups, and support the operations of our exciting political line of dairy products! Interns will have the opportunity to support a variety of projects as well as identify one or more projects to dig more deeply into.

Milk Not Jails is a political campaign to advocate for criminal justice and agricultural policy reform that will bring positive economic growth. It is also consumer campaign to mobilize New York residents to support the dairy industry and the long-term sustainability of the rural economy. Milk Not Jailsinsists that bad criminal justice policy should not be the primary economic development plan for rural, upstate New York.

Candidates must be proactive, very well organized, detail-oriented, and capable of multi-tasking. They must possess enthusiasm about the campaign, experience with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Access), comfort conducting street outreach, and excellent writing skills. Familiarity with WordPress is a plus.

Intern Responsibilities:

  • Conduct research on the dairy industry and reach out to local dairy farmers.
  • Research and prepare briefings on a variety of issues.
  • Draft content for our website and email updates.
  • Organize events throughout New York City, upstate and western New York.
  • Respond to constituent correspondence.
  • Promote the campaign through street outreach and online social networking sites.
  • Assist with steering committee development and communication.
  • Organize fundraising events
  • Database management and administrative work.

The summer internship program will run for 10-12 weeks. Interns must be available 12-20 hours per week with availability on weekends and evenings as needed. This is an unpaid internship. We are happy to work with students to obtain credit towards coursework. Interns that are interested in working 30-40 hours per week are eligible for free housing in New York City for the duration of the internship.


Interested candidates should send a cover letter explaining interest and availability (days and times) for the position along with a resume and short writing sample (1-3 pages) to milknotjails@gmail.com.

A video still from On3’s TV segment about us.

Our mission to end mass incarceration in New York is getting press attention from different continents.  German television station On-3 produced a five minute segment about our work.  Most of the video is interviews with our founder, Lauren, and our driver, Kevin so it’s understandable to a non-German-speaking audience.  Click on over!

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

Last week a federal lawsuit against stop-and-frisk took major steps forward, and a decision by Judge Shira Scheindlin about whether the suit can proceed as a class action is soon expected.

The suit, originally filed in 2008, accuses the NYPD, Ray Kelly, Mayor Bloomberg, the city, and several individual officers of using the practice of stop-and-frisks to maintain an unconstitutional racial profiling system.

Judge Scheindlin should be applauded for refusing to cave to pressure from city and NYPD lawyers to shut down the suit, and for ruling that that testimony of Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia University professor of criminology, can be used in the case.  Fagan, after studying five years of NYPD stops, found the NYPD “made 150,000 unconstitutional or legally unjustified stops” between 2004 and 2009.

Despite the fact that possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized in 1977, the NYPD continues to use the practice of stop-and-frisk to illegally search and arrest tens of thousands of New Yorkers each year.

Over the past decade, the NYPD has arrested 400,000 people for low-level marijuana possession, most of whom are Black and Latino despite whites using at higher rates. Last year, a record 684,330 New Yorkers were stopped and frisked.  Almost all of those stopped were Black or Latino (87%), a figure that matches prior years

Milk Not Jails is continues to fight against racist criminal justice and policing practices which have torn communities apart and wasted scarce economic resources.  Join Milk Not Jails and other organizations at Foley Square in Manhattan this Sunday at 2pm for a demonstration against stop-and-frisk and illegal marijuana arrests.  Click here for more information about the event.

Update 5/16: Judge Scheindlin grants case class-action status, opens door for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers unlawfully stopped and frisked.

In March 2010, Lauren Melodia was finishing a cold winter in a rural New York prison town.  She had moved upstate with the ambitious plan of organizing residents to end the town’s economic dependence on incarceration.  It was not going well.

Founder Lauren Melodia (left) and early supporter Dara Greenwald (right) serve up some vanilla at the the ice cream social in Syracuse, New York, Milk Not Jails’ first.

“I thought my community development experience and my dedication would convince people to work with me,” Melodia says, “but I couldn’t get the town planner to work with me, because he felt my funding source – George Soros’ Open Society Foundation (OSF) – was too liberal.

Before relocating to a prison town in upstate New York, Melodia had spent four years organizing for criminal justice reform with prison families and another year organizing for community development with public housing residents.  She’d played a large role in a movement to end the high cost prison families had to pay to receive calls from their loved ones inside.  The Campaign for Telephone Justice was victorious in 2009, and while Melodia was ecstatic about the victory she felt it was just one small drop in a bucket of criminal justice reform.

Then, as now, Republicans controlled the State Senate and they voted as a block to oppose drug sentencing reform, alternatives to incarceration, and prison closures.  They feared that such reforms would cost their districts jobs and revenue.  The Campaign for Telephone Justice had tremendous difficulty getting a Republican to sponsor its bill – the only way to move anything through the Senate Crime Committee.  The strategizing to galvanize rural politicians to support the Campaign for Telephone Justice’s bill made Melodia think, “we have to figure out how to make it easier to win or demands.  The Campaign for Telephone Justice took three years.  How can we ask for more? And make changes faster?”

Melodia was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship from OSF with the plan to find new strategies to build rural support for criminal justice reform.  She started her fellowship with a bike trip through the Adirondacks, one of the country’s largest public parks that is also home to 10 prisons.  “Seeing the region at such a slow pace, one really gets a sense of its potential.  There are tons of beautiful lakes and forest.  But the rest of the Adirondacks is spotted with GMO corn fields, golf courses, and prisons.”

She met with community groups, Industrial Development Agencies, and County Chambers of Commerce in every district where there was at least one prison.  And she eventually relocated to one town, which was home to two prisons.  “If prisons were central to the economy in these communities, then I wanted to figure out the right way to start the conversation of transitioning out of the prison economy.”  As she struggled to get meetings and start conversations, Melodia was still in touch with her allies downstate.  She realized that her skills didn’t get her much traction in rural areas, but she had access to another source of power: downstate purchasing power.

The idea for Milk Not Jails was born.  When the group that would become the New York State Prisoners Justice Network announced a conference in Albany in March 2010, Melodia quickly printed up quarter-sheet fact fliers declaring “milk not jails.”

Soon after that Melodia was approached by her good friend Dara Greenwald, who was working on Spectres of Liberty, a month of events and activities looking at the history and future of abolitionism in Syracuse, New York.  Dara invited Melodia to host a Milk Not Jails ice cream social as part of Spectres of Liberty.  “Dara understood milk not jails before anyone else did.  Dara intensely studied social movements and had more passion for them – and their successes and failures and absurdity – than anyone I know.  She understood the brilliance of mobilizing people with the idea that you can change the prison system by eating more ice cream.  In political organizing you have to be smart and dare to be fun, too, and it was awesome to pull together the first ice cream social with Dara.”

Melodia also invited Marion Rodriguez, a long-time prison families organizer who lives in Syracuse, to co-organize the event.  “Marion is one of the best organizers I know, and she turned people out for the ice cream social.”  Ever since, Milk Not Jails has been putting on socials, lobbying for more farms and fewer prisons, and building its dairy distribution start-up.  Stay tuned for many more years of growth.

Milk Not Jails is now open for business!  Two dairy farms have officially signed on to support the Milk Not Jails Political Platform, and it is now our job to show them how much New York’s consumers care about criminal justice reform!  We need you and your organization’s support now!

We are currently selling Milk Not Jails dairy products in two ways. Get more information about both below and help us find a way to content to your organization or other groups in your community.  We are more than happy to come make a presentation to your group.

The first way to buy is with a club.  We are setting-up Milk Not Jails Buying Clubs throughout New York City.  A buying club is a group of people who make a regular purchase from Milk Not Jails farms.  This demonstrates to the farmers that we have the commitment and organizing power to support them while they advocate for our criminal justice demands.  If you work at a criminal justice organization, attend a college in New York City, are a member of a congregation, etc. help us organize a buying club today!

Buying clubs purchase weekly subscriptions of milk, half & half, yogurt, and/or butter at a discount by making a commitment to receive at least 20 deliveries in 2012.  Buying clubs can also make special monthly orders of cheese, ice cream, milk, half & half, yogurt, butter, and more.  These orders are delivered directly to the buying club’s location.  Our staff has years of experience working with buying clubs and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects, and we have developed a simple, online ordering system to make purchases easy.

Second, Milk Not Jails is working to sell dairy products to neighborhood institutions that serve daily or weekly group meals, such as supportive and transitional housing facilities. Do you have a loved one living in transitional housing? Do you know of a Senior Center that offers daily meals? Is there an independent coffee shop that you frequent? We want to sell Milk Not Jails products to these local businesses and organizations. Please contact us immediately if you have any suggestions.  Personal contacts always help open doors, so if you know of anyone working at a supportive housing agency or café for us to reach directly please let us know!

Contact MILK NOT JAILS with any questions or if you’d like us to make a presentation at your organization’s next meeting or event.  Contact us anytime at milknotjails@gmail.com or (917) 719-MILK (6455).

Interested in helping us get word out? Join us for a Milk Not Jails outreach training on Friday, April 20 from 2:30-4:30pm.  There you’ll get all the facts and materials to become a Milk Not Jails ambassador in your neighborhood!  RSVP at milknotjails@gmail.com.  The training will take place at 666 Broadway (at Bond Street) in Manhattan.

Milk Not Jails says New York should promote dairy farming, not incarceration, for rural jobs.

King's Candies. Picture courtesy of his website.

Robert Hillary King has been turning prison into a dairy treat in a different way.

King, a former political prisoner, makes “King’s Freelines,” a praline-esque candy, using evaporated milk and pecans.  He perfected the recipe while locked up in Louisiana’s Angola Penitentiary, and shares the “not-so-secret” recipe on his website.

King served 32 years in prison, 29 of them in solitary confinement.  He was targeted for solitary confinement and falsely convicted in 1973, likely because of his work organizing the first in-prison chapter of the Black Panther Party.  He was released when his conviction was overturned in 2001.

Since his release he has been an advocate for the two members of the “Angola Three” who are still in solitary confinement in Angola.  Collectively, the three have been locked in solitary confinement for over 100 years.  Buying King’s candy helps fund his work to ending the cruel practice of solitary confinement.

Advocacy organization and start-up business Milk Not Jails announced their policy agenda today.  Outlining four criminal justice and four agriculture demands, the agenda calls on the New York State government to create a new urban-rural relationship.

Ahead of New York’s budget finalization, Milk Not Jails developed a policy agenda that is budget neutral.  It will not require any net spending increases to the State’s already strained budget, and helps find savings by decreasing New York State’s needless criminal justice spending.

The agenda was formed after months of discussions with dairy farmers, prison families, formerly and currently incarcerated people, and rural residents.  At least 3,000 people received a “policy ballot” asking them to rank the issues most important to them.

Until each demand is won, Milk Not Jails will work with other advocates and organizations to ensure our state government listens to the people’s call for fewer prisons and more farms.  See the policy agenda below, and visit milknotjails.org/policy to learn more about each issue.

Milk Not Jails is a grassroots alliance working to build an economic alternative to the prison industry in New York State.  We are a dairy marketing and distribution co-operative and we are a political campaign.

Milk Not Jails demands we:

Preserve New York’s Farmland. Every three and a half days, New York State loses a farm to suburban sprawl.  As more New Yorkers buy local food the state budget should be supporting local farms, not another housing bubble.

Legalize raw milk. The New York Legislature should follow the lead of 10 other states and legalize the retail sale of raw milk and allow farmers to produce other dairy products from raw milk. By legalizing the retail sale of raw milk and raw milk products, New York State could support the efforts of small family farms to produce healthy, local products that are in demand by local consumers.

Stop Dean Foods’ Monopoly. New York’s Attorney General should launch an anti-trust investigation of Dean Foods, a Texas-based corporation that controls 70 percent of all fluid milk distributed in New England.  Promoting small-scale farming is not only just, it means more jobs.

Offer More New York Food in Our Schools. The New York Legislature should pass a law requiring schools to prioritize the purchase of locally produced food, providing nutritious food for students and market opportunities for farmers.

Close Empty Prison Beds. Due largely to recent economic crises, budget constraints, drug law reform, and falling rates of incarceration over the last ten years, thousands of beds in once filled prisons are now empty.  Closing them would save the state millions each year.

End racist marijuana arrests. In the past decade the New York City Police Department has arrested over 400,000 people on low-level marijuana charges, most of them young blacks and Latinos, despite whites using at higher rates.  The police must stop this harmful, costly, and racist practice immediately.

Pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Act. This act would allow judges to sentence domestic violence survivors who are convicted of crimes directly related to the abuse they suffered to shorter prison terms and alternative-to-incarceration programs.

Pass the SAFE Parole Act. New York’s parole system is in need of reform.  This act would ensure that parole applicants are evaluated based on their readiness instead of punished with repeated, unjustified parole denials based on sometimes decades-old events.

For more information and press inquiries, contact Jeff Deutch, organizer.

MilkNotJails@gmail.com (201)669-0770

Adam Davidson, economics journalist and Wall Street apologist, turned his attention to dairy farming in today’s New York Times.

Davidson borrows the language of the Occupy movement and he rightly points out that when financial markets allow the bundling and trading of agriculture futures, small-scale farmers suffer.  Only big farms can monitor and trade their risk.

Davidson’s milk argument sours, however, when he proclaims “[b]y the early aughts, to accommodate global trade rules and diminishing political support for agricultural subsidies, the government allowed milk prices to follow market demand.”

Dean Foods is the milk monopoly unfairly controlling prices.

Davidson is wrong about both the existence of government regulation and market demand.

Milk prices are set, not only by consumer demand, but by the harmful and illegal milk processing monopoly, Dean Foods. Dean controls 70 percent of milk in the Northeast.  Their near total market power forces dairy farmers to sell at too-low prices.

The government is not powerless against this detrimental company, however.  The Justice Department should launch an anti-trust investigation into their practices.  The government should also use the so-called Milk Marketing Order to support small-scale farmers.

Davidson implies the government doesn’t regulate milk prices.  While it’s true that Congress tried to phase out subsidies in the 1996 Farm Bill, they succeeded only in consolidating, not eliminating, dairy market regulation.

The federal Department of Agriculture tightly controls the price of milk with Milk Marketing Orders.  The orders set a minimum price that “handlers,” the middle-people of milk sales, pay the dairy producers.

It’s not surprising that Adam Davidson, a free-market cheerleader, would imply a market is open when it’s actually controlled by a conglomerate.

It is surprising he would omit the discussion of the Milk Marketing Order.  Perhaps he thinks his readers are not smart enough to understand an economic picture that does not break easily into “free market vs. regulation.”  But it is an integral part of dairy markets, and one that can be used to structure a more just food system.

Join Milk Not Jails in opposing Dean Foods and promoting small, local dairy farmers.