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Marching for Raw Milk?

June 7, 2010

Lifeline Farm, Montana

By Robert Karp, Executive Director, Biodynamic Association

For years I’ve been feeling that the alternative agriculture movement needs to march — not with signs and placards, but with songs and prayers.

We need small groups of us to walk the land and bear nonviolent witness to the devastation of the earth caused by industrial agriculture. Not to demonize farmers or corporations, but to let the earth feel our love and solidarity through the soles of our feet.

We need a popular movement of eco-agricultural marching and, yes, perhaps even civil disobedience to complement the work on our farms and the work in our legislatures. Something like tree sitting for the sustainable agriculture movement.

The logic of biodiversity, the flavor of local, the beauty of biodynamics, and the growth of organic simply may not be enough to tilt the scales of our society toward common sense. We may need to march.

I have felt this impulse for years, and I think the time is getting ripe for action. Little did I expect it would come through raw milk….

Let me be perfectly honest. I’ve been an advocate and community organizer around local, organic, and sustainable food and farming for almost two decades, but until the last year, I never really paid a lot of attention to the whole raw milk brouhaha.

Mind you, I knew that the tragic state of cows in large, industrial dairies. And I’ve been aware of compelling research showing the benefits of unpasteurized and unhomogenized milk. And I’ve avoided the thin glue called conventional milk whenever possible.

But the opportunity to actually drink raw milk on a regular basis had never presented itself to me, much less the experience of having that opportunity taken away by the state. There were plenty of other battles to fight in the food world, so I left this one to other people.

Then a few years ago my family moved to East Troy, Wisconsin, a stone’s throw away from Zinniker Farm, one of the oldest biodynamic farms in the country. We put our name on the waiting list and were thrilled six months later when we were told we could begin to pick up raw milk each week. We felt our lives immeasurably enriched by the addition of pure, unadulterated biodynamic milk.

At least while it lasted….

Whether you drink raw milk or not, whether you believe in its purported healing properties or not, whether you think it should be regulated or not — I would like to suggest to you that raw milk matters!

It’s become an incredible battleground where the most basic of human rights, the right to choose the kind of food we can produce and distribute and consume, has been called into question.

Of course, these rights have been steadily eroded for decades by a host of policies and economic practices that put small and mid-sized farmers at a huge disadvantage in the marketplace and that therefore limit the food choices of all but the most zealous or privileged of consumers.

But apparently, the growth of the alternative food and farming movement is simply getting too out of hand for the powers that be.

Consider all the people who are killed each day on the highways or through alcohol abuse. Why no law to ban driving or drinking? Apparently, however, the minuscule number of people who get ill from drinking raw milk is in unacceptable.

Unfortunately, this is not an issue of regulation. As Mark Zinniker said to me recently, “if we were dealing with a benign state that simply wanted to insure that raw milk farmers were distributing a safe product, there would be no problem.”

At least in Wisconsin, it’s very clear that we are not dealing with a benign interest in safeguarding human health. We are dealing rather with the desire to protect an industry and enhance the state’s control over the food system.

Fortunately, the board of the Biodynamic Association thinks this issue is important too and has completely supported getting involved in the Zinniker Farm situation and in helping set up Nourished by Nature, LLC, which we announced in the last issue of Biodynamics.

One of the key goals of our emerging strategic plan is called “Shifting the Wider Paradigm.” It calls for the Biodynamic Association to “work closely with groups and leaders in the wider world to shift conventional thinking about food and farming, to demonstrate new approaches to health and sustainability, and to increase the understanding and adoption of biodynamic and associative economic principles within the whole food system.”

Think about it. Biodynamics is not just a farming method. It’s a profound and far-reaching impulse for social and agricultural transformation. Just as the influence of the moon doesn’t stop at the ocean, so the influence of biodynamics doesn’t stop and shouldn’t stop at the farm gate. Can’t we learn to stir the pot of the larger society with the same peaceful wisdom that we use to stir our preps?

I wake up in the night now thinking of the thousands of gallons of pure, unadulterated biodynamic milk that Mark and Petra Zinniker are pouring into the earth, together with their life savings and their vocation, and I’m getting mad — and sad — as hell and wondering if it isn’t time for a march.

What do you think?

Ruby & Amber's Organic Oasis, Oregon


Ed. note: The debate continues to intensify, and Wisconsin remains an epicenter. For example, see this recent article from WKBT: “…some are wondering if the Department of Agriculture is out looking for raw milk.” Check our raw milk resources page the latest updates. Please comment here and let us know your thoughts.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. erin horan permalink
    June 8, 2010 12:19 am

    oh dear. we are all in such need of some power. the power to choose freely, the power to produce freely and the power to support freely.

    yes. lets march. east to west or west to east, hitting every supporting farm along the way. we are many and we are strong.

    keep producing sustainably farmed food and support local.

    we are here in south eastern washington. come on out and visit.

    email me for details.

    erin horan

    nourish gardens

    erinmicail@hotmail.com

  2. Mary Beth Mueller permalink
    June 28, 2010 2:53 pm

    I would march. When and where?

    My heart breaks too thinking of all that amazing milk being poured back into the ground.

    I am in central NC, but used to get milk from the Zinneker Farm when we lived close to it.

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