Court shuts down large raw milk co-op; advocate done fighting
The outcome feared by raw milk advocates on both sides of the 48th parallel is now a reality. A judge in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, issued a permanent injunction against Our Farm Our Food Co-op. Justice P.W. Sutherlandâ€™s ruling â€” which restrains any further raw milk production without licenses â€” applies to all who know of the order.
Our Farm Our Food is a co-op cow share scheme. The cows were kept at Glencolton Farm near Durham at a farm owned by raw milk advocate Michael Schmidt and his wife, Elisa Vander Hout. It involved deliveries of raw milk on a weekly basis to the 150 families who owned so-called shares of the herd.
Under the judgeâ€™s orders, any further operations by the co-op will result in criminal charges against those involved. The order could mean the end of raw milk trade in Ontario or at least drive it underground.
Schmidt, Canadaâ€™s best known raw milk crusader, was recently sentenced to serve 60 days in jail after being found guilty of obstructing a peace officer. He is allowed to serve his time on weekends only, remaining free on weekdays.
The Ontario judge heard a separate civil case in May 2017. Schmidt says he is neither a member or an owner of the co-op. He told local media that the decision about whether to comply with the judgeâ€™s decision falls on co-op members, not him.
â€œI donâ€™t have to fight for the right for raw milk for myself,â€ Schmidt said. â€œI have done that for 24 yearsâ€¦ itâ€™s up to other people. You canâ€™t have people counting on you as the guy fighting for them. If you think itâ€™s not right, you could go ahead and rock the boat.â€
Unpasteurized, raw milk is heavily regulated in Canada and the United States. It is illegal for interstate transport in the U.S. because of its health hazards. Public health officials at local, state, national and international levels consistently recommend against consuming raw milk, raw cheeses and other raw milk products. Pasteurization kills the pathogens most frequently found in raw milk, including E. coli and Salmonella.
As for himself, Schmidt says he is putting new energy into building a concert hall at Glencolton Farm.
During the trial, a permanent injunction was defined as an order that would criminalize all distribution and potentially even the consumption of raw milk.