Michael Schmidt’s raw milk trial testimony from January 28, 2009

I was born in Germany in 1954. Both my parents came from rural background. My grandparents lost our farm in Eastern Germany during the war to the Russians and had to flee.

I grew up in rural Germany, worked on farms all my life. After High school I started my formal training and studies in Agriculture. In 1978 I received my masters in Agriculture. My master thesis was the bio-dynamic farm concept, the earliest form of organic agriculture. This degree allowed me to start teaching young farmers in all aspects of agriculture. Since that time I have individually trained practically over 100 young farmers in the art of farming.

I developed the cow share concept already in Germany in 1980 for the purpose of reconnecting the consumer with the producer with the mutual understanding that a cooperation would be the only way how individuals can in fact ensure their safety of food and a safe milk supply. On our bio-dynamic farm in Germany I established one of the first organic micro dairies.

In Germany it is not illegal to drink and sell raw milk. You can in fact buy raw milk in the supermarket. During the 10 years of working as a dairy farmer in Germany I never encountered any sickness of our customers as a result of raw milk consumption.

1983 when I arrived in Canada I worked within the quota system. This quota system regulates the entire dairy industry and is under the monopoly of the milk marketing board. They make the absolute dictorial decisions. I realized after 10 years that those who do not live on the farm had no choice and were forced to buy only heat-treated milk.

I received an ever-growing call by those with food allergies especially those with lactose intolerance who apparently were unable to drink or consume unpasteurized milk. I also was approached by those who began to question the food safety of mainstream large-scale food production.

Young parents especially with great concerns for the well being of their children kept knocking on our door and requested raw milk but I was not allowed under my contractual agreements with the milk marketing board to act outside these contracts.

As a result I revived the concept I had implemented in Germany of the cooperation between those who wanted and needed the raw milk and other foods for their own well-being under a private contractual agreement.

I cancelled my contractual agreement with the Milk Marketing Board and slowly developed this renewed concept of sharing the burden and sharing the wealth.

In 1992 we on the farm and those who wanted the raw milk who did not live on the farm, established successfully the lease-a cow program. This program left the cows in the farms ownership but leased the cows to those who wanted raw milk. The processing and pick up of the dairy product happened at lot 39 concession 2 in the former township of Glenelg.

For two years we provided raw milk to the leaseholders. They paid us for the lease, the work and the costs proportional to the use, similar to the concept of lease a car based on the kilometer usage. During these two years there was no illness reported from the consumption of the raw milk provided.

February 17, 1994 Susie McLeod from the Grey Bruce Health Unit, after coming to the premise on lot 39 conc 2 Glenelg township for an inspection issued an order.

This order, identified already as exhibit 1 tab A was issued to me in my capacity as operator of the premise on lot 39 conc.2 due to her believe that at this said premise a health hazard existed.

I appealed the decision in front of the health appeal board. The health appeal board consists of a non arms length panel appointed by the ministry of health. In its decision the board in my opinion ignored any first hand testimony on behalf of the cow lease holders and medical doctor testifying on my behalf. The board denied in its decision the overbroad expansion of the order, but sided with the Grey Bruce Health Unit that raw milk was a health hazard.

I also was investigated by OMAFRA. Similar to my experience with the MNR undercover agents took great lengths to prove, what I was publicly saying all along.

I offered inspections of the premises by official inspectors, which through proper inspection determined that I did not comply with the milk act and charged me accordingly. We had a major raid were hundred pounds of butter and hundreds of liters of milk and many rounds of cheese were destroyed in front of my children, who always grew up on these products.

One of my workers was abducted and threatened by unknown people, our farm was broken into, milk equipment intentionally destroyed and cows poisoned.

With this mental pressure and physical threats I realized that my family was more important. My lawyer at that time sided without my knowledge with the Crown and arranged a deal on my behalf to settle the situation in court.

In September the same week before the trial my farm insurance cancelled without warning I had no protection in case of fire or accident, arson, or otherwise. Therefore I was vastly vulnerable with 5 children.

In these circumstances I entered the court and pleaded guilty without a choice but to accept the deal between the Crown and my lawyer. I paid a fine of $3,500 dollars and received a two year probation.

I lost my farm at Lot 38, 39 and, 40 on conc 2 to my lawyer at that time. The cheese plant was converted into his law office, which I thought was cheesy.

As a result of these proceedings we lost in total 500 acres of the original 600 acres. Almost all machinery, almost all of the cows we lost as well.

Nearly bankrupt, I reviewed what was left and studied the legal framework and the complications we encountered.

1. I will rebuild what we lost

2. I will again approach the government and the Milk marketing board to propose a joined research project to study jointly the safety of raw milk, which I did. I presented written and oral proposal to the milk marketing board and a written proposal to both ministries involved: OMAFRA and Health. All of them were denied. I then proceeded and announced at a press conference in Toronto that I will go ahead and that I will do the research myself. However if we would encounter another police raid I would go on a hunger strike.

3. After I painfully realized that I had lost this farm to my lawyer I also realized that therefore, ironically the order of Susie McLeod was complied with.

I developed the cow share program at lot 44 conc 3 in township of Glenelg. This time the cows were owned by the cow share people. I also looked at the definition of a milk plant and developed the new system in a way that we would not fall under the definition of a plant according to the Milk Act. We simply had an expanded milk house directly attached to the barn.

We had a bulk tank for milk cooling, a separator for cream like any other farmer, shelves, a nice dishwasher and a walk in cooler for any farm food item. Exactly how it was described by Susan Atherton and Victor Miller. My concern was not to circumvent the law. My concern was simply to work within the parameters of the statutes and acts, as they were applying to farms under contract with the DFO, or farms which sold products to the public. None of that was happening in our case.

We had a private contractual agreements with our cow share owners. We did not advertise. The cow share owners specifically wanted their milk raw. After I had announced that I will do my own research with the cooperation of my cow share owners, Dr. McQuigge with the Local Health Unit, issued a public statement announcing that they will immediately investigate the situation. Nothing happened. I had several very casual and friendly conversations with the health inspector for our region at that time, and explained him what I was doing whenever I met him on the road.

I openly talked about the cow share concept. I gave lectures at universities and chefs schools about the importance of connection between the farmer and the consumer, and used our cow sharing as an example.

I was invited and traveled to China in 1995 to help to establish a raw milk dairy on Lantau Island, off the coast of Hong Kong.

I worked together with 7 of the best chefs of Canada to produce a gourmet opera to support our farm in these difficult times.

In my capacity as a self trained conductor I presented concerts and operas in our barn now for over 12 years. During these events many people can come and see our unique farming concept. Our farm is open for our cow share owners. Our farm has several open houses for our cow share owners and friends. I thought we had finally found a concept which satisfies the legal requirements through the private contract with our cow share owners. For nearly twelve years we were able to recover slowly with the help of our cow share owners. We again bought tractors, raised enough cows, pigs and horses so that we almost had recovered in 2006. Except that we still only owned 100 acres of land.

Our lawyer who took possession of our farm was reprimanded by the law society for his actions. Our follow up lawsuit ended finally in a settlement around 2002. We never recovered there what we had lost.

The following are things we have done and are continuing to do.

Since1996 we provided the service to bring the cow share owners milk to Toronto as service.

Since 1996 our cow share owners increased from 10 to over 150 today.

We published Moos letters to keep our cow share members informed. Every cow share member knows that they receive their milk raw. Every cow share member has to have a card in case we do not remember them when they are new or if somebody else helps on the farm and does not know the members personally. No one can receive milk or milk products unless they are members.

In case somebody wants to become a new member I give them usually something to try before they have to commit but only if they are serious.

Susan Atherton was the perfect example. I totally trusted her as an honest individual. She explained to me why she needed the raw dairy. She said that she has to have surgery and she wanted to built up her immune system before the surgery. I then explained her in detail the conditions of this contract, and that she can become a member only if she travels to Durham.

I explained to Beverley Viljakainen, our good soul on the farm, who was looking after the books and the little farmstore that Susan Taylor would be coming. I explained her the circumstances in regards to her health. My primary concern was that those who really need the milk for health reasons should always have the privilege. In estimation, I agreed with her that the pro-biotic function of the milk would be of great benefit to her before the surgery. Beverley understood and acted accordingly.

The cheese Susan Taylor received was given to her to simply try out if the milk products do agree with her. I never asked for money specifically for the reason that she was not a member yet. But as to her testimony, she testified the price was written on the package. Therefore I can only assume that she believes she may have paid for it. By my clear recollection, there was no sales transaction. My conduct in giving her cheese was consistent, given similar situations.

I do believe that Susan Atherton is truly a kind human being. I do believe that she simply did not remember that we never had a cooler with glass doors contrary to her memory in our little log house or store for our members. I will attest that the fridge in the farm store has always been stainless steel. There has never been a glass door fridge displaying dairy products for sale to the public. As testified to by Susan, there was specifically a sign stating “Members Only”. Victor Miller recalled correctly that the little store had no cooler with glass doors to display milk products.

In closing I want to state the following.

We do not sell raw milk to the public. We provide a boarding service for our cow share owners which includes feeding, cleaning and housing of the cows. Our service includes also bottling and cooling as well as milk separating and cheese making. Whatever is required from the cow share owners. The cow share owners have access to Health records of the cows. We also provide access to the milk test results. We keep from every production 2 milk samples frozen for four weeks for back up testing. We never had any reported illness due to the milk provided. We have an annual inspection of our entire dairy operation by an independent dairy inspector. We have frequent tests of cow manure for pathogens done by our licensed Vet. No human pathogens have ever been found. We have done baseline testing of our milk for pathogens in an independent lab. None were found.

We have monthly tests with the Dairy Herd Improvement organization for somatic cell count and quality of milk with great results.

We have our herd tested regularly under supervision of our Licensed Veterinarian.

We keep an updated membership list with phone numbers and e-mail. This way we easily communicate an track members. This list was confiscated by the MNR, which tied our hands for a certain period of time.

Many young families specifically joined because of the health benefits gained for their children, and the adverse effects of pasteurized milk.

We all at the farm feel our personal responsibility to make sure we have a clean and healthy product. In our barn your honor you could eat from the floor. That is usually what I tell my apprentices so that they truly learn to sweep with consciousness.

I felt I needed to provide you, your honor, with the opportunity to witness that with or without oath I am honest and truthful. I wanted to provide the opportunity to paint a full picture to help the court to come to a better understanding of the issue. I also want to say that I have experienced during this trial, kind and caring individuals behind all these MNR capacities and that I am thankful for that.

I indeed did not feel that this entire issue was personally adversarial, but merely legally adversarial.

For over 14 years I promoted dialogue with those who regulate and enforce. I am ready for cross-examination to help clarify any questions about the testimony I have given.

7 Comments

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7 responses to “Michael Schmidt’s raw milk trial testimony from January 28, 2009

  1. Shirley Ann

    Thank-you Michael.
    You have done and are doing truly meaningful work, that nourishes heart, mind and body….and the earth.
    Respectfully,
    Shirley Ann

  2. Raw Milk: Opinion of an old Aggie

    SCURVEY

    Fifty nine years ago. Professor (dusty) Keegan opened his first lecture to an

    OAC Freshman class with …

    “The time is coming when agricultural policy will be plotted by Bay Street and

    Queens Park, I expect there are sons of Bay Streeters in this class. Yeah! You’re

    here without the required farm experience cause you’ve been pounding sidewalk

    most of your lives. {pause} Ahem …. the only thing you ever raised was your hat!”

    I’d have forgotten this provocative remark had it not been for the raw milk

    issues that excite us today. Some of us milk-fed Aggies from the counties laughed

    at Keegan’s outburst, a few city-borns fretted, but for most of the class, it seemed

    to go over their heads. We who understood came from mixed farms – family farms

    with milk herds , the like of which supplied milk to weanling pigs, vealing calves,

    to cheese factories or butter-making creameries. Even back then, mixed (family )

    farms of this kind were becoming economically marginal, especially juxa

    -positioned with pure dairy farms. They were birthed and raised by the Ontario

    milk marketing boards , willing adolescents of the governments of Ontario for over

    half a century. There are hundreds of Canadian farmers outside the price-fixing

    monopoly because they can’t afford a huge buy-in contract to obtain a quota or

    meet a slew of regulations that reek of contrivance and guile. In large part, the

    demise of the family farm can be put at the door of the

    lack of a free market in the entire milk industry. I believe the hidden nut in

    Keegan’s outburst rested on that premise.

    The trial of Michael Schmidt should result in the legalized sales of natural milk and

    products there of with no caveat, whatsoever, as to location. Of course all cow

    herds should be government vetted, but for natural milk: it’s the customer who

    inspects.

    John D Lee
    Victoria, BC.

  3. Michael,
    What an inspiration you are. Your testimony and history of accomplishments are unique. Something tells me you will go on and do greater things. Thank you for your shining example of compassion.
    Augie
    Publisher, Journal of Whole Food and Nutrition
    http://wholefoodusa.wordpress.com

  4. Pingback: Schmidt’s Dazzling Raw Milk Trial Testimony « Journal of Whole Food and Nutrition

  5. Mayda Bagh.

    Michael Scmidt,being an innovative knowledgeable
    person should be allowed to provide raw milk specially to the poeple who cannot tolerate and are also allergic to the pasteurized milk. It is a great service to the population and human kind can only benefit since no harm or illness has been occurred up to date and each person should be capable of deciding and making informed choices for themselves.

  6. Christina

    All of your work is deeply appreciated. Keep fighting, and we will continue to back you all the way.

  7. sara

    sadly the sale of raw milk is illegal in HK. Are you aware of any cow shares existing in HK so we can get raw milk?

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