“Durham’s Dairy Desperado keeps the raw milk flowing” says Globe and Mail

Here’s an excerpt from a story by Kate Hammer, reporting from Durham Ontario, for today’s Globe and Mail:

Durham's Dairy Desperado talks to electronic news gatherers outside the Ontario legislature at Queens Park following his November 17, 2009 press conference.

“Durham’s dairy desperado rode into town on horse back yesterday, a few paces behind the Olympic torch and its procession of security officials and sponsors.

Flanked by his son and an apprentice, Michael Schmidt trotted through the snow-covered community he has pulled into the eye of Canada’s raw milk debate.

It was just over three years ago that Mr. Schmidt’s farm was raided by inspectors from the Ministry of Natural Resources and he was charged with distributing and selling raw milk. A judge’s decision on those charges is due in just a few weeks.

At issue

Provincial laws in Ontario and other parts of the country prohibit the sale or distribution of milk or cream that has not been pasteurized or sterilized.

The process of heating a product to kill bacteria was developed by Louis Pasteur and has been mandatory for milk in Ontario since 1938. The heat kills dangerous bacteria including listeria, salmonella and E. coli.

Patrons of Mr. Schmidt’s Glencolton Farms and raw-milk advocates say that the pasteurization process destroys beneficial enzymes, antibodies and vitamins.

Several high-profile chefs have extolled raw milk’s wholesome flavours and some immigrant communities find the taste comforting and familiar. “It just tastes right. It reminds me of my childhood,” said Walés Alexis, a Glencolton apprentice born in Haiti.

The past

This isn’t the first time that Mr. Schmidt has been in hot water over raw milk.

“The first milk war,” as he calls it, was waged in the mid 1990s when he was charged and fined for providing raw milk to the public.

By the time the dust had settled and the lawyers were paid, Mr. Schmidt had sold off 500 of his farm’s 600 acres and was left with only three cows. Growing up on a dairy farm at the foot of the Alps in southern Germany, he says he never could have imagined the ferocious opposition from Canadian lawmakers to what is generally accepted in other parts of the world.

No one in Durham saw the second milk war coming.

Undercover agents for the ministry infiltrated Mr. Schmidt’s cow-share program, a scheme in which clients paid $300 to own a piece of a cow that aimed to avoid breaking the law, and he now faces 20 charges related to the sale of raw milk.

The present

Mr. Schmidt’s vow to fight the charges, again, ended his first marriage and he has since remarried. The court battles have also ended his hands-on role at the farm and for the past three years he has tended to lawyers and legal arguments rather than cattle.

Markus Schmidt, 23, a soft-spoken and sinewy reflection of his father, has been managing the dairy barn.

“There is such a beauty to being in the barn but, for me, it’s just not possible any longer,” the older Mr. Schmidt said.

The cow-share program has ended too, substituted instead for a farm-share program that requires that raw milk buyers invest $2,000 in the farm and pay labour costs when they collect their milk and cheeses.

A silver lining for the farm has been all the free publicity the trial has afforded. The farm has grown to include more than 80 cows and Mr. Schmidt said he gets about six requests a week for membership in his farm share program, most recently from a number of parents of children with autism.

“You have the health freaks who just want to jump on the bandwagon, but I try to identify people with a real need,” he said….”

Read Kate’s predictions for the future in the rest of this Globe story. The online edition of the Globe is taking comments on the story. Post yours!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to ““Durham’s Dairy Desperado keeps the raw milk flowing” says Globe and Mail

  1. thebovine

    The Bovine’s comment on the Globe story:

    “It’s great that we’re finally getting some coverage of Bill C-6 in the mainstream media. And this is the first news we’ve heard of its applicability to raw milk.

    But as far as I know, it’s still legal to possess and drink raw milk. Would Bill C-6 change that?

    Still, I think this is as good a time as any to urge folks to make their voice heard in Parliament.

    Do some online research of your own about Bill C-6. And then write to your Members of Parliament and Senators to express your views and concerns, if you have any. Last I heard the bill was sent back from the Senate to the House of Commons with revsions.

    Oh, and by the way, love your style, Kate. “Durham Dairy Desperado” — what a great moniker!

    For more ongoing news about Michal Schmidt and the raw milk controversy in Canada and beyond, read the Bovine blog, at https://thebovine.wordpress.com

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