My project for the morning was to finish painting several of my walls in butter-golden yellow. I don't mean annatto-dyed or insipid white contemporary grocery store butter. I'm talking about pumpkin-bright butter from pasture-fed cows like that I've had from Ontario farmer Michael Schmidt's land.
Between sips of hot chocolate, I'd wipe my paint-covered hands to check online if the Schmidt verdict was in yet: I knew this would be the day he'd be acquitted or reconvicted in an Ontario courthouse on charges which suggested his long-standing practice of selling shares in his dairy herd of heirloom Canadienne cows at Glencolton Farms to persons who wanted to partake in their fresh, clean, organic lactation products was illegal.
Nothing. I surfed recklessly, finding recipes for homemade milk-paint as I waited, returning to butter my living room with a commercial low-toxin brew. Rolling paint to wall, I recalled my various escapades in search of fresh milk. Scene I The parking lot at a farmers' market, me looking surreptitiously both ways before opening a designated van's trunk to pick up my goods.
Scene II Banister-free uneven stairways down to the basement of a used clothing store to find a fridge where I'd find illicit litres of white liquid and a triangle of contraband local cheese.
Scene III My Vancouver apartment, some years back, waiting for six fellow shareholders in a pair of local cows to drop by to pick up their milk, which now filled the shelves of my fridge. Palpitations because I'd have to reprimand one or two friends for not cleaning their jars properly. No, this just wouldn't do: Neither I nor the farmer would re-wash on their behalf. We were operating a clean micro-dairy. We had to do this together.
Finally, the news reports started to dribble in, rich like the last bits of cream at the end of milking. I wept as I read Justice of the Peace Paul Kowarsky's dismissal of 19 charges laid in 2006 against Schmidt, whom I see as restoring culture into agriculture through rigorous and community-based organic farming practice.
These were tears of relief. They were also tears of respect for Schmidt, who ably defended his own case in court. They were tears whose bitter intensity surprised me, reminding me how deeply I feel about consuming and producing good-quality, nutrient-dense, compassionately raised, socially engaged local clean food here and now.
Canadian laws prohibit the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk, though consuming raw dairy is in itself quite legal. Constitutionally speaking, the effect of this legislation is to limit raw milk access to those who own their own dairying animals -- a clear inequity. As have many farmers in mandatory pasteurization jurisdictions across North America, Schmidt undertook to rectify this barrier to access by selling shares in his dairy herd.
As an ex-vegan, I know that milk is not everyone's drink of choice. As a clinical nutritionist, I counsel that dairy is not always an appropriate food. But for me, Schmidt's acquittal is not so much about milk, cheese, butter, yogurt or ice cream. It's about standing up for ourselves, our land, our bodies, our communities, our wisest traditions and our collective autonomy.
That the Canadian legal system has affirmed that those of us who wish to hand-pick our farmers may indeed continue to do so is a great success indeed.
Well, back to painting then. As it turns out, my next walls are to be chocolate brown. Go figure.
Nadine Ijaz practises and teaches nutrition and herbal medicine on Vancouver Island, where she lives with her son and two sheep.
Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/life/health/story.html?id=2480911#ixzz0jWL4Vejg