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Chris Wines tends to the animals on his family’s farm in Riverhead (Credit: David Benthal)

The North Fork is known for its independently owned vineyards, breweries and distilleries, but there’s a small-batch beverage you might be overlooking: milk. 

Ty Llwyd Farm in Riverhead is the North Fork’s only producer of raw, unpasteurized milk — known for its creamier taste and added health benefits. And like other local craft beverages, it’s got a loyal, almost cult-like following. 

The name Ty Llwyd is Welsh for “brown house” and if pronouncing it is challenging (it’s Tee-Clewed), good luck Googling it without knowing the spelling, or spotting the unassuming sign while driving west on Sound Avenue, without having to turn around. But to East End raw milk aficionados, this all makes it almost like a secret club. With a healthy kick. 

Compared to pasteurized milk that’s heated upon production, raw milk from grass-fed cows is higher in healthy enzymes, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, and even reduces asthma and allergies. Plus, you’ll never find milk this fresh in a supermarket. New York State law stipulates that farmers sell raw milk within one day of bottling it (but it’ll keep in your fridge for up to two weeks), so it’s pretty much straight from the cow. Raw milk is inspected regularly for pathogens, and any unsold milk on the farm is disposed of at the end of each day. 

The quality of raw milk depends on the cow’s diet and how the milk is collected, so it’s nice to see where it’s coming from. Ty Llwyd Farm is a sixth-generation, 33-acre family-run operation founded in 1870 as a potato farm. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places a few years ago. Chris Wines and parents David and Elizabeth keep things humming, moving the cows through the milking parlor and pasture. They also raise chickens so customers can buy fresh eggs with their milk. 

Ty Llwyd shuns mass-production in favor of Welsh dairy heritage. (Credit: David Benthal)

It was Chris’ idea to add milk to the family farm, maybe because it’s in his bloodline. He comes from a long line of raw milk dairy farmers on his mother’s side in Wales, back in the day when his grandfather delivered small-batch milk to people’s homes and left it on their windowsills. Seeking his niche here in Riverhead, Chris purchased his first Jersey cow in 2009 from Mecox Dairy Farm on the South Fork. Today, he honors his Welsh dairy heritage by shunning mass-production methods and opting for grass versus corn for feed. “Grass-fed cows produce a superior quality milk, even though corn would produce more volume.” 

But Chris prefers the dairy operation size as is, saying if pressed he could name most of the cows without peeking at their ear tags. He milks Clover, Flower, Seana, Abby and the rest of the cows via machine twice a day, around 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., for a total yield of 40 gallons a day, or 80 half-gallon bottles. “This is very small, considering some dairy farms have 10,000 cows and do a million gallons a day,” he says, adding that he works the farm “363 days a year,” just skipping “when I have to go to Pennsylvania to buy something.” 

Know Your Farmer

Raw milk can’t be purchased in the grocery store. (Credit: David Benthal)

Swing by Ty Llwyd for some milk and someone in the family will personally greet you and sell you the glass-bottled milk. “It’s nice because 99 percent of dairy farmers send their milk off to be pasteurized at a plant that does millions of gallons and they never see it again,” said Chris. At Ty Llwyd, the $2.50 glass bottle deposit also gives people a reason to return, get a fresh half gallon and chat some more. The intimate size of the farm means you can also walk over and see the cows and chickens, and realize that the animals are clean and well cared for. 

And since New York’s raw milk farmers aren’t legally allowed to export their milk, customers have to visit the farm to pick it up — all adding to the experience. Just make sure you call ahead to reserve your bottle(s) in the more-crowded summer months. 

“This is the perfect example of what people love about the North Fork — access to the local food supply and the farmers who produce it,” said Jerry Cibulski of Century 21 Albertson Realty. Cibulski loves Ty Llwyd raw milk for its probiotic benefits and mixes it with chai seed and cocoa powder for a chai pudding. 

Connie Schenone, a Mattituck yoga instructor who used to run Connie’s Bake Shop, has been drinking raw milk for 20 years, recommended to her by her naturopathic doctor. “I’ve been drinking Ty Llwyd’s milk since they started dairy farming 10 years ago and love it. I scoop off the cream that rises to the top of the glass bottle and put it in my coffee. It’s incredible. I also make my own raw milk kefir.” 

So while their last name might be Wines, know that for these dairy farmers, their beverage of choice is definitely milk.

Ty Llwyd Farm is located at 5793 Sound Ave., Riverhead