When I was a toddler growing up in Sudbury, a milk man came to our house every day with a horse-drawn cart to bring milk for my family and for all the other families on the street. But now, fifty years later, you might well imagine that the milk man has gone the way of the dodo.
But you’d be wrong. The vocation of “milk man” has been making a comeback in recent years with the resurgence of interest among people wanting to drink raw milk straight from the cow. By now, just about everybody has heard of Durham farmer Michael Schmidt who’s been all over the news several times in the past couple of years for his civil disobedience of what he sees as Ontario’s antiquated and overly-restrictive milk prohibitions.
But not many people know that there was another “milk man”, quietly supplying farm fresh raw milk to southern Ontario families in 2004 and 2005*. No, this was not some farmer selling a few litres out of his bulk tank to neighbours up the road. I’m sure that kind of thing goes on all over rural Ontario and no one thinks anything of it.
Milk Man with a mission
No, this was a man with a mission, who was consciously affirming his freedom to do this and to create for himself what Buddhists would call a “right livelihood” by supplying people with an essential and missing food they needed for their health and nutrition. So he was “doing good” and at the same time asserting his rights and freedoms – a win-win situation for everybody concerned.
The milk man – we’ll call him “George” — started small with only two cows, which he owned personally and milked by hand. But as business expanded he developed a relationship with a farmer who was willing to keep him supplied. The business grew by word of mouth and demand spread like wildfire. At the peak of his operation, he was supplying 5-600 litres of raw milk per week to people in Barrie, Toronto, Kitchener and other centres across southern Ontario. And while that’s only maybe half of what Michael Schmidt is doing, it’s still substantial.
So wasn’t everybody happy? How did this wind up in court? Well, certain customers came down with illness, and while the customers didn’t complain to George, the Health unit did. When the customers sought medical help for their illness, and the doctors’ standard line of questioning revealed that raw milk had been a part of their diet, the doctors immediately jumped to the conclusion that raw milk had been the cause of the illness.
Which led to George being charged, spending time in jail and defending himself in Barrie court in the fall of 2007. About which George said “the Crown and I are in agreement that the Court manufactured a reason to dismiss charges rather than deal with the core arguments” (which George brought in the case). George even went so far as to attempt to appeal the case, to press the Court to address these arguments. However the appeal court cited, as their reason for refusing to hear the appeal, the fact that they did not have authority to grant the requested appeal. “How can you appeal your win”, they asked. At the trial, laboratory test results were produced which showed that while a strain of e-coli was present in the milk sampled, they had to look very hard to find it and could not determine it to be toxic.
The Crown’s “conspiracy theory” comes true in the Michael Schmidt raw milk case as George and Michael’s parallel universes connect at last.
It became evident to Michael Schmidt early in his own case, from Crown evidence that was disclosed to him, that the Crown was under the impression that he and the “George” referred to in the story above were working together as part of a raw milk conspiracy. However, at the time, Michael and George were not working together, and while they knew of each other, there was no further connection. But now, ironically enough, they finally are working together to further the cause of raw milk in Ontario. As part of this coordinated effort, George has been assisting Michael Schmidt by providing private legal counsel, another win-win situation.
* Note that 2004-2005 was, significantly, a period of Saturn-Neptune opposition.