From Megan Burke, in The Recorder and Times:
KEMPTVILLE — Janine Widmer wants to continue legally consuming raw milk because pasteurized milk makes her physically sick.
“I’m originally from Switzerland. Over there you can go and buy your milk directly from the farm,” said Widmer.
“It’s up to the individual to choose. I want to have a choice. Whoever wants to drink pasteurized milk, that’s fine.”
This is why Widmer arrived with her children Wednesday morning to stand outside the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Kemptville office – to support a Durham-area farmer who faces renewed charges for distributing unpasteurized milk.
Nearly 50 people, ranging from toddler to adult, stood with Widmer to rally around local raw milk producer Jacqueline Conklin, who organized the protest.
Conklin operates a cow-share program on the County Road 21 Conavista Farms she owns with her husband John that is based on a model established by Durham’s Michael Schmidt.
“We just want to call attention to the fact there’s a lot of people who want raw milk,” Conklin, who was sporting a milk moustache and t-shirt that read “Mooove away from my raw milk,” told The Recorder and Times.
“It’s important that the politicians and bureaucrats know there is a demand for raw milk.”
This holds true for another protester who is having a hard time finding someone to provide the service for her since she moved to the Ottawa region.
“It limits the health choices we can make for our family. I looked around, there aren’t many people who can provide raw milk,” said Melodie Hamelin, mother of three.
“Raw milk comes directly from nature. If you stay close to nature you can’t go wrong.”
The only option Hamelin can see for her family if raw milk is no longer available for sale would be to purchase their own cow, which would remain legal to drink, but Hamelin said it wouldn’t be possible for her to house a cow in the city.
“We’re looking into goats but it’s a big commitment. I need someone to provide this (cow-share) service. It’s a great thing,” Hamelin said.
Conklin believes there are only three or four raw milk producers in the Ottawa Valley, including herself.
“We want recognition of the cow-share program, where consumers can know where their food is coming from and make that choice,” Conklin said.
The cow-share program through Conklin is used by both people in the country and urban dwellers and costs about $300 for six years plus a fee per litre of milk for boarding and care of the animals.
Schmidt, the Durham-area farmer facing charges for distributing unpasteurized milk, was originally acquitted of 19 charges under the Health Protection and Promotion Act in January, 2010 by Justice of the Peace Paul Kowarsky, after the judge ruled that citizens making informed decisions should have the right to choose what they eat and drink.
But a recent ruling by the Ontario Court of Justice overturned the acquittal on 15 charges, throwing the raw-milk industry into a state of uncertainty.
“We think that until such time the legislatures and the courts has the time to debate the raw milk issue that they should not plan any raids on any cow-shares,” Conklin said of what she’d like to tell the ministry.
Raids like these, she said, are not a fear at all to her farm but still remain a possibility.
Conklin spoke to the group of supporters, all wearing a white band around their arms for the protest with some holding signs they made. She spoke of the freedom to choose and the need to focus on the fact that it is not illegal to drink raw milk.
Standing in front of a large banner that read “Every G8 Country Sells Raw Milk Except Canada,” Conklin shared some statistics to help her cause, including how government health officials cite the low probability of possible contamination with pathogenic bacteria as justification.
“In an analysis of US Center for Disease Control data, Dr. Ted Beals notes that there is an average of only 42 cases of illness per year attributed to raw milk in the US, compared to an estimated 48 million food borne illness from all causes,” Conklin read to the crowd….”