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Ontario farmer defies raw milk ban in BC

Michael Schmidt, a farmer and activist who grabbed headlines as the "Raw Milk Man" after fighting and winning a public campaign to sell unpasteurized milk in Ontario, has come to B.C. to stand up for a Fraser Valley dairy that is battling for the same right. He is serving raw milk outside the Fraser Health Authority offices in Chilliwack this morning to protest repeated efforts to shut down the dairy.

Schmidt took over as manager of Home on the Range dairy when Alice Jongerden resigned earlier this month, after a B.C. judge ordered Jongerden to stop milking her cows or else face charges of contempt of court.

Home on the Range is a cooperative in which members hold shares in the cows. Jongerden had hoped to sidestep a B.C. law that prohibits the distribution of unpasteurized milk by labeling the product as 'not fit for human consumption.'

"We still have the same private agreement with our share members and that private agreement states that I will take care of their cows and get their milk ready for pickup," Jongerden told the Vancouver Sun. "It's their property and what they do with their property is not up to me."

However, a judge argued that Jongerden was still breaching the Public Health Act by willingly creating a health hazard. Now, Schmidt hopes that as manager of Home on the Range, blatantly distributing raw milk in front of the authorities, Fraser Health will charge him so he can argue the merits of the case in court.

Schmidt was acquitted of all charges in Ontario earlier this year, effectively legalizing the cow-share model of distributing raw milk in that province. He told the Aldergrove Star it's not clear how the change in management at Home on the Range will impact the case.

"I am open to any dialogue to resolve the issue," Schmidt said. "But we will not back down."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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