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Maple Bottom Farm intern wonders if market's ready for A2 milk

| Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Kaidia Pickels | For The Independent-Observer
Stepeh Smith in front of the sign for Maple Bottom Farms, where is doing a summer internship.

Stephen Smith, a summer intern working at Maple Bottom Farm, has begun to explore the market for a potential milk product, A2 milk, in local stores.

Smith, 20, is from Honesdale (Wayne County). He is a rising junior at Penn State University, where he studies animal science. He heard about this internship through the university's animal science department and was excited for the opportunity.

“I grew up on a dairy farm,” Smith said. “So I have background in the dairy aspect of working on this farm. It's an ever-changing subject, which is exciting.”

Smith began his internship at Maple Bottom Farm in Scottdale at the end of May. He will continue living and working on the farm — which is owned by Vickie and Mike Baker — throughout the summer.

“My duties include doing fieldwork like milking and feeding cows, as well as researching the marketability of A2 milk,” Smith said.

According to the farm's website, the name “A2” refers to a variation of the primary protein found in milk known as casein. Unlike A1 milk, which is a similar and more readily available variation, A2 milk does not produce a certain by-product during digestion that has opioid-like effects on the body.

“There are some health benefits that come from drinking A2 milk,” said Smith. “Most people who are lactose intolerant can drink it, as well as people who have Crohn's disease, celiac disease or are gluten-free.”

While Maple Bottom Farm already commercially sells standard milk products, Smith has been exploring the market for this product within stores in Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant while focusing on smaller local markets. He has appointments with shop owners approximately once a week whenever he's not hard at work on the farm.

“Ideally in the future, consumers would have the option of choosing the type of milk they want to buy,” Smith said. “Once people learn more about A2 milk, I think it will become more widely available. It's already big in New Zealand and Australia, so we might see that here as well.”

Smith plans to use the skills he's honing this summer in the future on his own farm. “I'm excited to learn this new skill,” he said, referring to the marketing experience he's gaining from this internship.

“In the future, I'd love to start up my family's dairy farm again, which was called Golden Sun Farm,” Smith said. “I'd like to build a creamery and sell local products in my area.”

In addition to the fieldwork and marketing, Smith has enjoyed the fun experiences he's had at his internship so far.

“In June I traveled to the National Guernsey Convention, which was the first time I'd been to Wisconsin,” he said. “I was on the senior team in their quiz bowl competition and we won our division, which was a lot of fun.”

More information about A2 milk can be found at the farm's website, another project tackled by Smith:

Kaidia Pickels is a contributing writer.