Raw Milk Dairying—A Continental Perspective

An Opinion Editorial by Kimberly Hartke

Alice Jongerden, a British Columbia dairy farmer, provides her shareholders milk as dividends. And, now she finds herself in a heap of trouble with the Canadian government. Around 250 families are dependent on her for a staple in their daily diet.  They believe in raw milk and have invested in a farm to get it.  Michael Schmidt, a farmer in Ontario is also being prosecuted for a similar cow-boarding program.  In his case, he is facing 20 criminal counts against him.

Both cases boil down to this. Is a cow-boarding program a scam, or is it a legitimate, legal means of exercising one’s rights to consume a legal food, in places where it is illegal to sell it?

Judge Cary Boswell, who found Schmidt guilty of contempt, acknowledged that his ruling, “had nothing to do with whether or not people have the right to consume raw milk.”  Canadians have the right to consume raw milk, yet, its sale is prohibited by law.  Is it not logical for citizens to find a legal way to exercise their rights?  And, should it not be the role of government to secure those rights?

Michael Schmidt of Glencolton Farms is not the only farmer who sells his cows to shareholders.  Numerous farms in Ontario and British Columbia offer cow shares.  In the U.S., 28 states allow raw milk sales, in some form.  In the remaining states, where sales are banned, there are hundreds of cow-boarding programs.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) was founded in the U.S. in 2007 to protect rights of farmers and consumers involved in direct farm-to-consumer trade.   This September, the FTCLDF began tele-seminars to help farmers develop cow-boarding programs. Already over 50 American farmers have enrolled in the class.

According to Pete Kennedy, President of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, “These farmers are not trying to skirt the law; this trend is driven by consumers trying to exercise their rights to consume raw milk, which is legal.  Farm families have ready access to raw milk, but those who don’t have land for a cow or farming experience need to seek other means.  Cow boarding or leasing programs fill that need.”

What is behind the increased demand for raw milk?  Many American health experts endorse it, a number of whom hail from California, where retail sale of raw milk is legal.

Dr. Diana Schwarzbein, a prominent California endocrinologist recommends raw milk in her popular book, The Schwarzbein Principle.

Kevin Trudeau, touts raw milk as a healthy food in his #1 NY Times bestseller, Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About.

Californian, Aajonus Vonderplanitz, author of We Want To Live, and The Recipe for Living Without Disease, is creator of The Primal Diet, a raw food diet for those battling chronic disease.  Vonderplanitz is also President of the consumer campaign group, “Right To Choose Healthy Food,” which promotes cow-leasing programs as a legal means of exercising a citizen’s right to food freedom.

The leading proponent of raw dairy from cows raised on pasture is Sally Fallon Morell, who grew up and raised her children in California.  Her cookbook Nourishing Traditions has sold 350,000 copies.  She is also the President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, which publishes a quarterly journal, Wise Traditions for Food, Farming and the Healing Arts.  Her work as a nutrition educator is based on the pioneering research of a dentist in the 1930’s.  Weston A. Price traveled the world, studying primitive tribes and their nutrition to try and uncover the mystery of modern degenerative disease.  His research discovered the vital importance of animal fats in the human diet, and specifically, that raw milk and cheese were a significant source of nutrients for many cultures.

Add to these professional endorsements, an exploding go-green consumer trend comprised of many sympathetic causes: sustainable farming, buy local, choose organic, and slow food.   Now, layer on the popular TV cooking shows, celebrity chefs & culinary blogs, which laud natural, whole, and raw foods.  Now, you have a compelling picture of why raw milk produced by cows on green grass is here to stay.

North American consumers want their governments to help them build a vibrant new farm economy, not stand in the way.

Kimberly Hartke is the publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation westonaprice.org, a nutrition education non-profit with 400 local chapters and 11,000  members worldwide.  WAPF has 22 chapters in Canada, 8 of which are in Ontario.  Local chapter leaders are volunteers who help people in their community find sources of farm fresh, locally produced food. Kimberly and her husband Keith are live in the state of Virginia, USA and are shareholders in a cow named Aster. Visit her blog, HartkeisOnline.com.