Will the Injunction Shut Down Glencolton Farms and Raw Milk?

As with all the content published on the Bovine, this article represents the views and opinion of the author, and not necessarily that of the editor, or of Michael Schmidt, or of Glencolton Farms, or of the raw milk movement generally. Editorially, our philosophy is that entertaining a diversity of perspectives helps folks to find the truth for themselves. – Ed.

By Lyndon Kirkley

We need to look to the government, not the courts, to protect Glencolton Farms.

Glencolton Farms, which has been of great value so many of us, could be fully shut down by an injunction which the Attorney General of Ontario is seeking from court. The community which supports Glencolton Farms must unite to oppose this injunction, otherwise we risk losing the access to raw milk which we have been defending since 2006.

The injunction against the farm is specific. It seeks to shut down the production and distribution facilities on the farm. It would prevent Glencolton Farms from bringing us the milk and dairy products we value.

The injunction would not prevent us from drinking raw milk, it would prevent us from having convenient access to raw milk. Even though the injunction would stop Glencolton Farms from providing us with raw milk, we would still be able to obtain it legally. The Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act does not prevent anyone from drinking raw milk from their own cow. If we went out and bought a farm and a cow we could have legal access to raw milk. There is no law in Ontario that fundamentally restricts us from obtaining raw milk.

What makes the injunction so dangerous to our cause is that it could legally shut down Glencolton Farms. The courts have ruled that our current distribution system is illegal under Ontario law. Regardless of whether we call ourselves a members of a cow-share, or a farm-share, the fact remains that we get our milk from a farm that produces, bottles, and delivers our milk. This is a system of production and distribution, and is subject to Ontario law. We modified the system, by calling it a cow share, and then a farm share, to try and circumvent the law. We have crusaded under the banner of “fundamental food rights” with the illusion that somehow these laws are unjust, and do not apply to us. But this entire time, we have been getting our milk from the same basic system of production and distribution.

The Ontario Milk Act says that it is illegal to produce and distribute raw milk. In the case of Glencolton Farms, the Ontario courts have upheld that law. And how can we expect them to do otherwise? The courts cannot bend the law in our favour. The courts are designed to uphold and interpret the law, not to change it.

Our provincial government can change the law. We need the Ontario government to change the Milk Act so that we can legally produce and distribute raw milk. We need to prove to the government raw milk is safe, if it is produced responsibly, as Glencolton Farms has been doing for years.

This is why I think it is urgent for our community, and especially those who are leading our community, to lobby the men and women who represent us in the Ontario Government.

The reasons for our desire to change the law may be complex: food rights, the value of independent agriculture, the health value of raw milk. But we must not forget that our demand is simple. All we want legal and practical access to healthy, farm-fresh raw milk.

Sources:

“R v Schmidt: Call them “Cow-Share Agreements”… But You’re Still Just Distributing Unpasteurized Milk” by Daniel Styler. Accessed from http://canliiconnects.org/en/commentaries/30637 on Feb 27.

“Raw Milk Injunctions Saught” by Don Crosby for The Sun Times, published Feb 1. Accessed From

http://www.pressreader.com/canada/the-suntimes/20160201/281492160346680/TextView

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Will the Injunction Shut Down Glencolton Farms and Raw Milk?

  1. thebovine

    To be fair, the CanLi article referenced here refers to an earlier version of the cowshare arrangement. The community around Glencolton Farms has since moved on to a Farmshare arrangement, in which consumers own a larger stake in the farm, or the herd, in the order of $2,000. The legality of this new arrangement has yet to be tested in the courts.

    Much is made about the prohibition against “distributing”, which seems to be defined so broadly that it would include the practices of many of the 83% of conventional dairy farmers who drink their own milk, and presumable “distribute” it also to their family, and perhaps their extended family.

    The intent of the farmshare arrangement is that the members will themselves be co-farmers, and just as 83% of regular dairy farmers drink the milk from their own cows without anyone batting an eye, so should these co-farmers be able to drink milk from a herd and a farm which they co-own. The logic of such arrangements has been widely recognized in many of the United States.

    It’s all about avoiding the unfair discrimination that otherwise seems to exist between farmers and city folk, when it comes to the real right of access to raw milk. Because, after all, how many municipalities would allow residents to keep a cow or a goat in their back yard?

    It’s been well documented that other jurisdictions such as many countries in Europe and many states in the US go so far as to allow legal sale of raw milk outside of cowshares. California is a particular example, in which raw milk is sold in stores like regular milk.

    Here in Ontario, sales of conventional dairy products have been declining for many years now. The following is from a 2015 article in the Globe and Mail:

    “Sales of milk fell in June by more than 3 per cent from the same month a year earlier, Statistics Canada said on Wednesday, marking the eighth consecutive monthly decline of what was once a staple of the Canadian diet. According to the federal government, per-capita consumption of milk has fallen by 18 per cent to 74 litres a year between 1995 and 2014, amid changes to the palate and makeup of Canadian society.”

    ““It’s been going down for at least 25 or 30 years,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a business professor at Ontario’s University of Guelph.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/milk-sales-continue-to-slide-as-diets-society-shift-away-from-dairy/article26117550/

    It’s time dairy farmers started giving people what they want instead of burying their heads in the sand. The DFO was initially skeptical about a separate organic milk pool and yet that has proven to be one of the few bright spots in the dairy marketplace. Raw milk could be all that and more. People are looking for healthier options these days, and for whatever reason, are turning away from conventional pasteurized homogenized dairy.

    Shutting down Michael Schmidt and Glencolton Farms will not make the raw milk marketplace go away. Raw milk is way bigger than Michael Schmidt. But driving the raw milk demand back onto the black market is not making anybody safer.

    But it will close down an opportunity for the dairy industry to learn how to do raw milk safely, from someone who’s been doing it for 25 years now.

  2. sundancer55

    What I don’t understand is why the gov’t thinks processed foods (in this case pasteurized) are better than what mother nature gave us to begin with? Sure, there’s germs and bugs and bacteria around – they’re everywhere and thank God they are because we need them in our lives. But to insist that pasteurized has a better track record than raw milk suggests to me that none of the folks in gov’t or the courts have actually studied the numbers. In the USA the numbers shown right at the CDC web site show that far more people have been sickened, etc., by pasteurized products than raw. Why doesn’t any of that seem to matter to those people, or do they just use numbers when they are convenient to reach their own POV? So it would seem.

    • Sundance55 “what government thinks” about you drinking raw milk is as irrelevant as what government thinks about you kissing your wife, twice before you leave for work! It is none of their darn business!! PERIOD end of story.

  3. Nice article, and I agree for the most part, however I disagree on one issue. The intent of the evolution of Co-operatives at Glencolton farms has not been to circumvent the law. The intent, I understand, has been to differentiate between commercial distribution and a private co-operative. The intent is to find a viable way for people who do not own a farm, to be able to drink raw milk. To drink raw milk, is as the author above stated, legal. (Ironically, the first place I was given raw milk was at the home of a farmer who had a quota. He and his family only drank raw milk. Should he be charged for distributing glasses of raw milk to visitors?)
    Unfortunately, as far as I can see from my search the Milk Act does not use the word “Commercial”. They likely have an iron clad act, which creates a monopoly for the DFO (big money). This is unfortunate, because then a distributor is anyone who distributes raw milk….even a mother, or the farmer I mentioned earlier who cheerfully gave me a glass of raw milk way back when. In this light, the co-operatives set up at Glencolton could be said to be circumventing the laws. But the laws are unjust.
    Michael Schmidt has been crusading for raw milk for about 30 years (I forget exactly) and has always been upfront with the government about his operation. The courts are not fighting with respect to health concerns, but regarding unjust and controlling technicalities. Additionally, no one (no one!) has ever become sick from the Michael’s raw milk. That is definitely a statistic to take note of. But here, I am digressing from the topic at hand.
    An overbearing act maintains a monopoly for the DFO. Can the courts change or amend the laws regarding this? No. They can only rule on someone obeying or disobeying the act. The act would have to be amended. We need the government to step up and amend the act. There needs to be a collective will to do this.
    As a final note, I find it hard to see the dissolution of Glencolton Farms. It is one of a few truly beautiful farms, where the animals live with respect, and nature is held in reverence. The farmers and the community members are invested in the life of the farm. There exists teaching, learning and beauty. To me the real crime would be to destroy such an environment.

  4. Kim

    Great points made in this article.

  5. I think I was mistaken to refer to the cow-share, and farm-share as attempts to circumvent the law. Their intent was to work within the law, not to break it. It is the courts that have decided, by the appeal to the 2010 Kowalski ruling, that the cow-share circumvents the law. Is the farm share different enough that it will protect the farm from the injunction?

    What I wanted to suggest in the article is that trying to get the farm share to work by getting a favorable court interpretation may not be as effective as changing the law. If the law is unfair (and I think it is clear that it is), we need to change it.

    The courts said the cow share was legal in 2010. Then, in 2011 they said it was illegal. Now, the courts may approve an injunction that would stop the farm from functioning. This trend is not favorable to our cause.

    I think that part of the reason this is happening is because the laws, that the courts are using to interpret our raw milk system, are not favorable to our cause. We need to change those laws so that they support us.

    We know raw milk is safe. We know that the benefits of raw milk extend beyond the milk itself. This milk has brought together an incredible community of people, farmers, and families. It has given us a farm that nourishes our bodies, minds, and souls. We would be loosing so much more than access to milk if this injunction is approved.

    If the courts are not working in our favour, then we need to look to the government. We need to patiently and persistently insist that our representatives in government make the milk laws fair.

    • just a reader

      Has anyone yet asked for meetings with the two people who are in charge of these laws, the Ministers of Health and Agriculture? There is an accepted process for changing laws in Canada, and it does not involve the courts or sending threatening lawyer letters. It involves steady, persistent, and polite lobbying. It involves first organizing a broad-based association of persons who believe as you do, who support the changes you want to see made. For example, to change a provincial law, the accepted method is to incorporate a provincially-based nonprofit to act as an advocacy group and speak for your constituents. Numbers matter. Meetings matter. Rallies only serve to force the government into a corner, to solidify their current position, when the media demands a statement from them. Media attention may increase public awareness of your cause, but usually has little impact on government decision-making.

      As I believe was posted in previous comments on this blog, an example of what works are the meetings which the B.C. Herdshare Association has been having with the B.C. government (five so far) about the issue of raw milk legalization in BC – this approach is truly moving the issue forward in that province (see the last BCHA newsletter for details). No lawyers, no lawyer letters, no court cases, no rallies. Only incorporating a nonprofit association with a mandate from the community via basing the organization on the results of a survey of herdshares province-wide, and then serious discussion with two Ministries about what is required for raw milk legalization and how to get there, reporting back to and getting feedback from the community as it goes. And progress is being made.

  6. just a reader

    The unfortunate fact is that the Court found enough evidence in 2011, that sales were taking place, to convict. Milk was being sold by the litre to customers who did not actually own the animals. If this practice is still continuing, then unfortunately the prosecution will again argue that members have only purchased the right to access the products which are being sold by the farm, that this is a private “buying club” and not a true herdshare.

    Is there a price per litre for the product? If so, then this will be used as evidence against ARC, because if members actually owned the animals, they wouldn’t need to buy the milk per litre. Paying per litre for milk implies that the product belongs to the farmer until the money is paid for it.

    Money needs to change hands at a different point in the operation, and not reflect type or volume of product received, but directly reflect boarding, livestock care, and hired dairy technician services. This, and operating according to Justice Tetley’s “requirements” for a “legal herdshare” would provide better legal protection against interference. There IS an alternative – my own herdshare operates this way.

    • Zeb Landon

      Dear ‘just a reader’ (March 2, 3:03)
      re. ” Money needs to change hands at a different point in the operation, and not reflect type or volume of product received, but directly reflect boarding, livestock care, and hired dairy technician services. ”

      I think it does, more or less, already, maybe not day to day, but on a yearly or long-term scale.

      I’m not rigidly defending money payment reflecting type or volume of product received, but this approach surely does have merit and fairness, since it only makes sense that the costs of “boarding, livestock care, and hired dairy technician services” should be paid for by farm share members proportionately to the benefit received.

      I mean the money requirements of running the farm are roughly being met by the income from product paid for my farm share members, and each member is paying in general proportionately, i.e., according to amount of product received.

      Now it is true that some members have also actually participated in farm work a few days per year, volunteering their labour for free or only some expenses, and for the joy of satisfying, ethical farm work. However, on the other hand, I don’t see what is the legal difference if the member instead of working him/herself on the farm, pays money which can be used to meet the support costs of others who do the farm work, and other operation costs.

      As I understand it, raw milk access from any Ontario farm is not limited only to the owners and workers who are active on the farm, but also access is available to “retired” owners who may be too old to have any part at all in operations on the farm, but want to continue to enjoy the milk products from the farm.

      In a sense, farm share owners who live in the city are no different than any retired farmer who is too old to work, who lives off the farm in a separate home and wants to continue to enjoy the farm’s produce, while he/she retains ownership of the farm, wholly or merely in part.

  7. It seems to me that what “Just a Reader” is saying is worth exploring.

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