Megan Ogilvie’s story in today’s Toronto Star is the best in-depth coverage we’ve seen yet of Michael Schmidt’s legal victory in a case that addresses fundamental food freedoms every Canadian should care about. Here’s an excerpt:
“The cows will still give their milk and their owners will still savour frothy mouthfuls straight from the farm. But now, the infamous cow-share program of Durham, Ont., is legal in the eyes of the law.
In a surprise move, a Newmarket court ruled Thursday that dairy farmer Michael Schmidt can continue his raw milk cooperative and that his venture does not break laws against selling unpasteurized milk.
Government officials had little to say about the decision Thursday. But dairy experts say the ruling will spur more cow-share programs to form and encourage the underground co-ops already operating in Ontario to surface. And, they say, it will likely force the government to change its laws to allow the sale and distribution of raw milk.
Food activists, chefs, proponents of the local and slow food movements and those who scorn excessive government regulations see the ruling as a victory. But few were more thrilled than Schmidt’s dedicated contingent of some 200 cow-share members.
“This is beyond our wildest hopes,” said Judith McGill, who has been a cow-share member at Schmidt’s Glencolton Farms for four years. “We are now out and we will build.”
Toronto chef and restaurateur Jamie Kennedy was one of the more than 100 people waiting outside the courthouse who greeted news of the ruling with cheers, hugs and happy hand shakes.
“This is a wonderful first step because it recognizes that raw milk is in our society, that there are people who freely choose to engage and feed their families this product,” Kennedy told the Star Thursday evening from his Gilead Café and Bistro. The next step, he said, is to fight to make raw milk available to anyone who wants it in Ontario. He hopes one day to be able to serve foods made from raw milk in his restaurants.
Art Hill, professor and chair of the University of Guelph’s Department of Food Science, said the ruling, which provides a legal way for Ontarians to consume raw milk and for farmers to sell their farm-fresh product, will likely prompt changes in the dairy industry.
“This ruling signals that it is time to create a system where the sale of raw milk is legalized, but controlled,” said Hill. “We have to work now at finding ways to make raw milk available as safely as we can.”
Hill noted the sale of raw milk is not uncommon in other jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom. About half of U.S. states have legislation that allows consumers access to raw milk.
Justice of the Peace Paul Kowarsky ruled Schmidt’s cow-share program is exempt from legislation set out in Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Milk Act. He found Schmidt not guilty on 19 charges under the two acts. The verdict came one year after Schmidt’s trial began….”