Those of you who don’t live in a metropolis may not have encountered “Vice”, the magazine targeted to young people, that seems to pride itself on being deliberately edgy, with stories on sex, drugs, and other illicit pleasures. Add raw milk to that list, now that Michael Schmidt’s story is being featured there. From Julia Kennedy (daughter of Toronto chef Jamie Kennedy), in “Vice”:
“If you get busted for selling raw milk in Canada, penalties range from steep fines to time in prison. Farmer Michael Schmidt has received both.
It started with a simple experiment: Take two calves; feed one raw milk from cows raised on a small biodynamic farm, and feed the other pasteurized milk from a commercial brand. Do so for four months, then compare.
While Schmidt’s methods were not exactly scientific, the results were shocking. Hands down, the raw milk-fed calf appeared healthier in all ways: in complexion, size, poo, everything. Internally its organs were more robust, deeper in color. Even its balls were noticeably larger (photos here, if you like proof). Who doesn’t appreciate that?
The Raw Milk War has been central to Schmidt’s life since he arrived in Canada from Germany in 1983 to discover that Vorzugsmilch, as it’s called, was basically as illegal as crack. He’s been the target of extensive Health Unit surveillance since 2006, when his Glencolton farm was raided by 20 armed ministry of natural resources officers. He was charged with 16 offenses relating to the illegal distribution of raw milk, which sparked the first of his hunger strikes. Since then he’s been cleared and then re-charged with these allegations, and in the meantime accused of links to various other raw milk operations around Canada. Currently he’s awaiting trial on a charge of contempt of court relating to a Vancouver milk share operation.
His fight is not just for the plethora of health benefits offered by drinking unadulterated fresh milk from happy pasture-raised cows with big testicles on small farms, nor is it all for the culinary delights that raw milk can provide—beautiful, rich, yellow butters, lusciously heavy cream, nuanced cheeses. Most Europeans consider it sacrilege to make them any other way. For Schmidt, raw milk has become a symbol for awakening people to the dangers of losing their food freedom, calling it not a rebellion, but the beginnings of a powerful evolution of consciousness focusing on the realization that food actually matters in relation to our development as a species, physically and spiritually.
It begins with his barn. When I visited him on Glencolton farm in Durham, Ontario, one of the first things he asked me was if I noticed anything different about it. Stepping into the huge monastic structure, the air is sweet with hay, the proportions wide, the floors nearly spotless. Above the stalls of each individual cow hangs a hand-painted board bearing her German name: Helga, Frida, Lavendal, Corinna. Yes, I noticed something. It felt damn good in there.
“It’s the soul quality.” Schmidt told me as he methodically swept between the stalls. “And right now, I am brushing the barn.”
I sat with him and we talked about cows and revolution.
VICE: I’ve heard you refer to the cow as being the most concise symbol of the art of agriculture because it encompasses this harmonizing of elements—soil, grass, cow, milk—and the relationship that is required to maintain that.
Michael Schmidt: People call it a romantic approach to farming. It is just a personal relationship. I feel incredible gratitude for these animals, and there is this sacred element with that for me. You can make lots of things from the milk, but it is besides the point. It is more a symbol of nourishment, of love. It seems to manifest itself in a beautiful way for me in the cow. Cows for us are not production units, whereas in most cases people are just pumping and sucking them out.
In previous interviews you have mentioned you believe we’re on the verge of a massive change in regards to our relationship to our food. You have also spoken about the “inner quality” of food. Can you elaborate?
I think of the term, “You are what you eat.” The way I see it, the nourishing quality of food is not just expressed by what’s in there—the protein content, for example, etc. It’s something that goes far beyond that. I would almost say you could call it, in a spiritual sense, that which maybe even shapes your ability to think properly. This “inner quality” has the potential to radiate out in a different way, providing you with not only nutrition for your body, but also nutrition for your mental and spiritual way of being. Transforming the art of food and raising a greater consciousness to what food is all about. If you look at this word “holistic,” you can also say “holy.” I think in a sense, cows for me are sacred and I think that’s good….”