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Raw Milk Freedom Riders

December 12, 2011

By Thea Maria Carlson
NABDAP and BING Coordinator
Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association


Crowd at the rally

In the second of a series of events organized by the Farm Food Freedom Coalition to defy the prohibition on transporting raw milk across state lines, last Thursday, December 8th, a group of “Raw Milk Freedom Riders” brought 100 gallons of milk by caravan from Wisconsin to Chicago’s Independence Park. Upon arriving at the park, the caravan was joined by supporters wielding cow bells and cookies, braving the 30-degree weather to stand up for their food freedom.

The rally featured speeches by several well-known activists in the fight for raw milk, including Max Kane, a Wisconsin raw milk advocate who organized the Chicago event, David Gumpert, author of The Raw Milk Revolution, and Michael Schmidt, the celebrated Canadian biodynamic dairy farmer who has been battling criminal charges for selling raw milk for years.

Michael Schmidt speaking to the crowd

Michael Schmidt speaking to the crowd

Michael Schmidt brought his own megaphone, complete with siren sounds, and spoke about the difference between a breaking point and a tipping point. He asserted that the government’s strategy is to get farmers to the breaking point, with repeated raids and legal threats until they give up trying. Our challenge, he said, is to bring our culture to a tipping point before we reach the breaking point, to create a groundswell of support for food rights:

“If we understand the power of the tipping point, it doesn’t need 100 percent of the population. It doesn’t need 50 percent of the population. It only needs maximum ten percent. But even six percent will bring us faster to the tipping point, in order to wake people up. And that is what we need to understand — the power within ourselves to bring about change. And this change…has to happen with absolute inner passion, with inner conviction, and with a desire to do whatever it takes to bring about that change.”

Max Kane

Max Kane shares words from around the country

Max Kane, the Chicago organizer of the event, shared some of his favorite quotes from supporters at prior events around the country:

“We have a country and a government based on the proposition that each man, woman and child owns his or her own body. If you own your own body, who decides what food you eat?” (Michael Badnarik)

“There a lot of people who are willing to go all the way to secure their right to choose healthy foods. We are prepared to continue without government approval. We will go as far as it takes…this issue is a live free or die issue.” (A woman at the rawsome hearing in LA)

“You can take me to jail, you can do whatever you want, but my customers are going to get their food. And we need people who are willing to go to the mat for these issues.” (Joel Salatin)

David Gumpert read quotes from the FDA, showing that the agency does not consider citizens to have a fundamental right to the foods they choose or to their own bodily health. However, he said:

“We have our own doctrine, and we are going to assert that doctrine. But we are going to have to take some serious steps in order to make it happen. Showing up at events like this, bringing food across state lines, challenging them and actually engaging in civil disobedience is one thing that we can do.”

Gumpert also warned that government regulation of food access will likely expand beyond raw milk to many other foods, and that an important course of action is to make friends with sheriffs and prosecutors and educate them about what is going on so they can become allies.

Liz Reitzig followed with a call to all the mothers in the crowd, saying “we moms need to stand between our farmers and the government” and defend the people who are supplying milk to our families.

Passing out milk and cookies

Passing out milk and cookies

After the speeches, volunteers filled paper cups with raw milk and passed them out with cookies to everyone in the crowd. Michael Schmidt led a toast to all who came out in support and to the ongoing effort to secure food rights.

The raw milk toast

The raw milk toast

Then, after drinking the sweet fresh milk, we all made a circle. “This way,” said Schmidt, “we see ourselves not as a bunch of sheep, but as individuals standing side by side, holding hands.”

Raw milk supporters form a circle

Raw milk supporters form a circle

Video coverage of the event from the Food Rights Network is available here.

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