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Raw milk consumers want freedom to choose

What began with a single cow in her back yard has now erupted into a legal and personal headache for…

By Evan Duggan , in City , on April 9, 2010 Tags: , ,

What began with a single cow in her back yard has now erupted into a legal and personal headache for operator Alice Jongerden.

“I have nothing to hide,” said Jongerden, seated on a bale in her hayloft. “Our intent was never to be in the black market or to be under the table.”

The Fraser Valley Health Authority initiated a cease and desist order after an inspection at the Chilliwack dairy farm two years ago. The authority concluded that Jongerden was violating the provincial Public Health Act by packaging and distributing a hazardous product: raw milk.

Provincial Supreme Court Justice Gropper in March determining that the Public Health Act did not require proof of a specific health hazard.

“There is no dispute that Ms. Jongerden, doing business as Home on the Range, has breached the Public Health Act, and its regulations,” wrote the judge. “The remedy for the petitioners (Home on the Range) is to convince the government to change its legislation.”

Home on the Range “is community-supported agriculture” said Jongerden, pulling at straws of hay as she spoke. “It’s just a group of members that cooperatively come together, own these cows, pay me to take care of them, and they get the dividends (milk) from the cows.”

Jongerden continues to provide approximately 1,800 litres of raw milk to nearly 400 shareholders on a weekly basis. In order to respond to the health authority’s concerns, Home on the Range now marks its unpasteurized milk as “not for human consumption.”

Alice Jongerden believes it's her right to package and distribute raw milk from her shareholder's 21 Jersey cows.

The raw milk community

“The raw milk thing has turned into a political battle, but its only part of a larger issue,” said Sophia Baker-French, who is in charge of University of British Columbia’s , a program that coordinates student access to transparent and enduring local food systems.

Baker-French said people search out whole foods or raw milk for diverse reasons including health concerns and interest in supporting local farmers.

“When your food system is kept local you can see the consequences,” said Baker-French. “Our population can see it, feel it and change it.”

Jongerden said that people have the right to choose how their food is produced.

“On commercial dairies they (the cows) are being constantly pumped with food and (are) constantly working, so they’re producing high quantities,” said Jongerden. “We don’t push them. We just let them live their life in their environment.”

Gordon Watson, a whole foods activist and original shareholder of Home on the Range said there is a huge demand for raw milk.

“They are ,” he said. “They have come to find this stuff by themselves. That it is really important, that they seek it out.”

Watson takes exception with the health authority and the legal system interfering with his access to the food he wants.

“The milk will keep on flowing,” said Watson, explaining that he plans to appeal the latest court ruling. “I am confident that we will find a legal way.”

Consequences?

Fraser Valley Health that unpasteurized milk can be tainted with disease-causing bacteria including E-coli, salmonella and campylobacter.

Nearly 400 households in Greater Vancouver consume milk produced at Home on the Range

Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall cautioned against the continuation of the dairy’s production.

“From the public health perspective, it’s unwise,” said Kendall, explaining that it’s difficult to force adults to change their actions. “I do have a problem with that milk being provided to children who don’t have the ability to make decisions for themselves.”

Sui Ryu, Chilliwack resident and mother of three, decided to drink raw milk after visiting several local dairies.

“Sometimes eager people tell me how my parenting can be improved,” said Ryu. She acknowledged Kendall’s concern but explained that her decision to serve her family raw milk came after diligent research, and that she has a genuine desire to consume milk from “the original source.”

Jongerden said that independent food production is at risk.

The ruling “means that any farmer in his community that has a commercial dairy farm, puts milk in a jar and brings it to his house, can be charged with causing a health hazard,” said Jongerden, before heading back into the dairy parlour to help her son finish up with the evening milking.

Comments


  • This is really interesting, Evan. I had no idea the raw milk, or real milk, community is so large. Well written, too.

  • Hello Evan;

    Just to clarify, the 17 cows are actually 21, and they do not belong to Alice Jongerden. They belong to the 400 shareholders. An important distinction.

    A Happy Shareholder

  • The background sound of the milking machine really adds depth to your slide show. Nice work Evan!

  • Go Raw!! I wish there were something tangible I could do to support every family who produces raw milk for their families, and for shareholders. I had the advantage of growing up on raw milk, and I believe the advantages are numerous. I’ve never known anyone who became sick from drinking raw milk. I’d go back to it in a heartbeat, and everywhere I’ve lived always sought it, but indeed it is hard to find! Let’s support and encourage those that are able to produce it, and fight legislation that restricts it.

  • Nice article. I too grew up on raw milk and am a shareholder. I don’t know anyone that got sick from raw milk, but know some that got sick from spinach and from that Maple Leaf fiasco in the past. Please government, let me make my OWN health decisions. I would have a cow in the backyard if I was allowed. LOL

  • As an advocate for local and sustainable food suppliers, as well as a happy share member of Home on the Range, one of the issues that needs clarifying is that Canada is the only G8 country that doesn’t allow for the sale of raw milk, and raw milk products. Many states in the US also allow for raw milk sales. There are many more documented cases of illness from pasteurized milk than from raw milk. To say that there could be illness resulting from the consumption of raw milk products is misleading. There could be illness resulting from the consumption of just about anything if mishandled, just ask Maple Leaf Foods…

    Shareholders like me, in cows cared for by Home on the Range, have every right to take their milk.= after all It is private property. It is like someone coming into your garden and taking your lettuce and saying you can’t eat those, there is a possibility of E.coli infection. How far will the government go before we lose all rights to produce anything for ourselves. Eventually will private gardens be banned, and the population will be forced to buy products from big corporations as our only food resources?

  • Great article … and really powerful use of audio in the slide show – I agree with Rod, it added a lot of depth to the resentation.

    This is such an important issue, because if we can’t decide what food we put into our bodies … then a beaurocrat or worse, a politician in the pocket of (fill in the blank for “special interest corporate group”) is doing it for us.

  • Great article thanks:) It is a interesting argument spoke today to some Food Safe authorities their argument and concerns are true when dealing with the current milk practices of today’s world, unhealthy cows, and also improper handling however When there is integrity then milk will also be. For the uncertainty that may lay in peoples minds the Raw milk can be boiled. Boiling the milk yourself at home at the food safe reccomended temperatures just as one would an egg. It does not destroy the milk as pasturizing does which is a different process that is high heats for a breif period which denatures the milk. Just as people have the choice with eggs they should also have the choice with milk. Awareness and education the key and also that we have the right to make the choice when it our health and property, It should be in our hands that is the freedom we claim to ibe proud of in Canada we and if want to uphold that should walk our talk. DIffferences of living do not have to be a battle its time we start looking at how each side can be heard concerns addressed and yet freedom be intact.

  • When I was growing up on a dairy farm in the late 80s/early 90s we drank our milk straight from the barn. I didn’t particularly enjoy it (neither did my mom), but it was always safe. Even at a young age I could tell my dad was proud of his ability to produce nourishment to his family as a part of his daily chores. It was definitely easier for him than shopping for groceries.

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