Many thanks to activist mom Liz Reitzig for taking time on the eve of her departure for Chicago to answer questions from The Bovine.
How would you describe your role in the Raw Milk Freedom Riders?
My role in the Raw Milk Freedom Riders is as one of the primary organizers.
How did you and your family get started on raw milk?
My family got started on raw milk when my oldest daughter had some serious digestive issues and, after the medical community failed us, we looked at alternatives and found raw milk. After much research we tried it and my daughter healed, she is thriving along with my other children, and we have never looked back.
How long have you been drinking it?
We have been drinking raw milk for about 7 years now.
Are you part of a herdshare?
We are not a part of a herdshare. We were initially, until the state banned cow shares.
What’s your home state and what are the raw milk laws there?
I live in Maryland where raw milk is completely prohibited to sell, trade or barter in any form and cow/herd shares are outlawed.
Do you need to go to neighbouring states to get raw milk?
Yes. I currently get from Pennsylvania.
So how did the idea for the Raw Milk Freedom Riders project come about?
The idea for the Raw Milk Freedom Riders came about from a small group of committed individuals. In discussing the current regulation and how much that puts farmers, buying clubs, agents and even individuals a the mercy of a bureaucratic oligarchy, we wanted to do something to work to remove that regulation. We also realized that we wanted to be proactive in our dealings with the FDA–we didn’t just want to respond to their raids, harassment, intimidation etc. We wanted to give them something to think about. So, after many conversations, we decided on this line of action.
How did you and the other moms feel about potentially putting your liberty on the line to stand up against this law you saw as wrong? I mean the ban on interstate raw milk transport?
We all felt that it was entirely necessary! We understand how serious things have become in terms of our lack of freedoms and food freedoms in particular. It’s important that we are willing to give a little now so we do not have to sacrifice even more later.
At the last Raw Milk Freedom Riders rally at the FDA headquarters in Maryland, Michael Schmidt said there was a sizeable contingent of Homeland Security types on hand. Yet I don’t recall any mention of them in any of the news stories I read. Were they searching cars and frisking the demonstrators or just watching the show?
They were just watching the show. I guess in case anything got out of hand in front of a Federal Building. But that’s just speculation on my part…
How did you feel about the FDA conceding that they weren’t going to prosecute individuals transporting raw milk across state lines for their own use, even though presumably it is still illegal according to the law on the books?
Oh, it’s not a concession at all. They only said they did not “intend” to at this time. They didn’t change the regulation at all and they left the door wide open to continue raiding, harassing and prosecuting our farmers and buying clubs. Prosecuting, raiding and conducting undercover sting operations on our peaceful, productive farmers and the individuals who contract with them is not appropriate. Americans need to realize that their tax dollars are used to target and prosecute these individuals and we need to band together and put a stop to it!
So do I have it right that for the Chicago event next week you’re going to transport 100 gallons of milk and distribute it in a public place?
Yes. That is correct. The agents for the mothers will be transporting that milk and distributing it to the mothers who have contracted with them.
Will that be each or all together?
How many moms and how many vehicles will be taking part in the event?
These things are a bit fluid. Right now it looks like a handful of moms joined by other activists all riding in about 5 cars.
Where and when will that take place? What sort of a place is this happening? A park, a parking lot, or what?
The distribution will take place at Chicago’s Independence Park in downtown Chicago.
What kind of people are you inviting to receive the milk you will be transporting?
Several mothers or “principals” have contracted with the agents beforehand and the principles will be collecting the milk from the agents at the park. Once they have it, they will share it with others present.
I heard there were a couple of reporters who wrote stories for mainstream papers about the Maryland event. How’s the media interest in the Chicago event so far?
Media interest has been pretty good. It’s hard to tell beforehand how much interest there is, but it has definately been picked up by a few mainstream outlets.
What websites or blogs should folks be watching for the latest news reports on how it’s going.
Check the farm food freedom coalition’s facebook page. We hope to update that. As well as the twitter.
Do you know if Max Kane is still trying to alert the FDA as to your doings? Is he still getting the runaround?
Max called John Sheehan and left him a detailed message with all the pertinent information about what we are doing, when, where and why. It is very amusing. You can watch it at www.RawMilkFreedomRiders.com
What role will Michael Schmidt play in the Chicago rally?
Michael Schmidt is coming to the Chicago rally as a speaker and supporter! He is an amazing inspiration to all of us!
What other speakers will be there?
The other speakers include Max Kane, Michael Badnarik, Kathy Pirtle David Gumpert, Kathy Pirtle, John Moody, Jim Marlowe.
Here’s a news release from Kimberly Hartke about the Raw Milk Freedom Riders’ Chicago event:
Civil Disobedience for Natural Food Moms in Midwest
Mothers Plan to Risk Arrest Thursday To Provide Healthy Foods For Their Families
Chicago, IL—On Thursday, December 8, a group of mothers will risk arrest and other penalties by purchasing fresh, unprocessed milk from a small farm in Wisconsin, transporting it to Chicago’s Independence Park and distributing the milk to other mothers who need it for their families from 11:30am-2:00pm.
Why should such a seemingly innocent act risk arrest? Federal law 21 CFR § 1240.61 prohibits interstate movement and distribution of raw milk for human consumption. This U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation applies to individuals, or “agents” acting on their behalf. The mothers who purchase the milk will be acting as “agents” on behalf of other mothers who cannot make the trip.
“This is our second ‘Raw Milk Freedom Ride’,” says Liz Reitzig, an event organizer. “The Wisconsin to Chicago trip will raise the stakes over a similar November 1 event challenging the FDA’s use of force against raw milk distribution. By having moms act as agents on behalf of other individuals, we’ll show a central problem with the ban on interstate movement of raw milk,” she added.
“I am willing to risk arrest in order to obtain the foods of my choice from the producer of my choice,” says Mary Gercke, an Illinois mother of three. “It is abhorrent that Americans risk criminal penalties for getting healthy foods from small family farms or helping other families with the transportation of these foods. Americans need to wake up to the reality that their tax dollars are used to enforce draconian laws on their neighbors.”
These mothers are not overreacting to some hypothetical situation. Over the past year, the FDA and state authorities have conducted undercover sting operations on, raided and prosecuted farmers, buying clubs, and individuals who help distribute raw milk and other farm fresh foods in order to enforce the federal prohibition on transporting raw milk across state lines. Over a dozen people and businesses currently face charges, orders, and other enforcement actions; some are under federal criminal investigation and face indictment by a grand jury.
The Raw Milk Freedom Riders launched their movement with an inaugural ride on November 1, when mothers and others, determined to protect their families food supply, transported raw milk from Pennsylvania to the FDA’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and distributed the milk to crowds gathered for a protest. In response the FDA issued a statement saying it does not “intend” to take “enforcement action against an individual who purchased and transported raw milk across state lines solely for his or her own personal consumption.”
According to the Freedom Riders, FDA’s efforts to suppress raw milk distribution have resulted in increased consumer demand.
Most of the photos are from Liz’s Facebook album.