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Vancouver's Raw Milk Community

Posted Jan 25 2011 10:54pm

 This is reposted from my blog www.helladelicious.com.

We live in a small apartment overlooking a couple main roads, right next to two gas stations in Vancouver BC. When we moved here one of the first things I did was to try to find a farm that would supply us with raw milk. Living in an apartment in a city without a place to grow your own food or have any access to a farm is a very precarious situation. We are fortunate to have a long sunny balcony where I grow herbs and a wonderful friend is letting us garden in her backyard this year, but food secure is something we are far from being.

Please join us for Vancouver BC’s screening of Milk War

Fortunately, we discovered a local cowshare whose goal is to bring the country to the city and help people like us. We got on the waiting list right away and after about a year we finally received word we could join. That was the day that not only did we begin to feel slightly more secure in our access to real food, but we became members of a whole new family. It is exciting to belong to a group of people who commit themselves to good, wholesome food, and it has been really wonderful getting to know this community. It is amazing how this nourishing, natural food source brings together people from the left, the right and the middle of the road. I have met people from all over the world through our cowshare, and for us, being a part of this welcoming community is just as important as having access to real food.

If all you know is mainstream media’s take on local cowshares, you may be led to believe that people who drink raw milk are ignorant, sneaky people who think changing a label is going to make a health issue go away. This has to be about as far from reality as possible. Most of the people in our cowshare are highly intelligent, critical thinkers who are putting themselves out on a limb to support a holistic community of people, cows, goats, cats, micro-organisms and more. They are willing to set aside various political differences to come together to support a very basic right. The freedom to put in our mouths whatever we choose, while at the same time providing a loving and comfortable environment for our cows and goats who also deserve a respectful, decent life.

The time, money, effort and dedication of the people involved in the cowshare movement across North America and the rest of the world is remarkable. These are real people. You can look into their eyes and see honesty and integrity as well as a certain wholesomeness that I believe comes from the wonderful healthy micro-organisms that are growing in their gut. I am a chef so I have looked into the eyes of many hungry people, and I swear you can clearly see confused, insatiable and highly paranoid greed in the eyes of a person controlled by pathogenic micro-organisms like candida. Just try taking away from that person their favorite highly refined complex carbohydrate and you will know exactly what I am talking about. Wars are generally encouraged and begun by people who are controlled by these soul destroying parasitic micro-organisms.

In order to know what water is
you have to be thirsty
In order to know what bread is
you have to be hungry
In order to know what love is
you have to drink milk

- An old saying given to us by Michael Schmidt at a cowshare townhall meeting.

I spent a bit of time with the family who put themselves on the line to provide this real food to those of us who live in the city and cannot have our own cow or goat in our little apartment or backyard. They are not raking in millions of dollars like the factory farm corporations are. Industrial dairies make money off of treating cows as a commodity, breeding them for larger and larger udders, manipulating genes and antibiotics to get more watered down milk from smaller and smaller amounts of feed. Their staff are often poor migrant workers with no health care or any kind of basic rights. Cow and human alike are treated as objects to exploit. The local people who provide care for our cows are in the same financial boat most of us are in, they work long hours to support their families. They are dedicated to providing good food for us, their own children and a pleasant environment for our animals.

The history of our local cowshare, Our Cows, reads like something right out of Little House on the Prairie–a family of 4 girls and one boy, they unintentionally started this cowshare with just one cow that produced more milk than they could drink themselves. Indeed, these people are our modern day pioneers and someday will be the heroes our children’s children tell stories about. It is a strange twist that they are pioneering the old fashioned traditional foods our forefathers took for granted. The forces they are up against are not only the same natural challenges our ancestors faced, but the incredibly rich, powerful, illogical and ruthless corporations backed by government, who are so threatened by this one small dairy that cares for about 30 cows owned by 450 urban households.

These industrial organizations will stop at nothing to demoralize, destabilize and destroy this type of community. Unfortunately for the people who are so dedicated to providing us this service, their focus is not us, the owners of the cows, but the people who house the animals for us. Now I am generally a pretty good, law abiding person, but I know the feeling of having some authority constantly looking over your shoulder just waiting for some excuse to do you harm. It puts you on edge, your adrenals are constantly working, causing a low stress level that affects not only you but your whole family. They also shoulder the added risk that one of the cowshare members might go out to eat somewhere, get food poisoned and blame it on the substance we have all been indoctrinated to instantly blame–raw milk. Unfortunately, when raw milk gets wrongfully blamed, not only can many people loose their livelihood, but the real culprit is left to do more damage to other unsuspecting people. If cows are grass-fed and healthy and proper sanitation is maintained while milking, it is rare to never that people get sick from raw milk. There is a plethora of helpful bacteria naturally in milk which prevent nasty micro-organisms from gaining a foothold.

As we all know, most local dairies have gone under or been bought up by larger farms. It is a lot of work and a huge struggle for even a small mainstream dairy to survive in our modern world. Now take this and add to it the financial pressure of having to hire a lawyer, go to court and pay insane fines. Over the last year alone our cowshare accumulated over $20,000 in legal – related fees. The Milk Industry and Health Authorities know that these sorts of financial burdens can often be the nail in the coffin for local cowshares even if they cannot legally shut them down. This is only one aspect of the strategy they employ to gain monopoly over what we eat. Our cowshare has been very lucky to have the assistance of a very good lawyer who has given us around a 50% discount, but lawyers fees are always very high. In order to raise money for these costs, we are having a screening of Milk War which brings to light some of the shady tactics the industrial organizations use to terrorise and pressure community cowshares.

The Our Cows cowshare is also very unique among North American raw milk dairies in that it bottles and chills the milk immediately twice a day. We also bottle our milk in glass jars to avoid contamination from dangerous PCBs. The raw milk I used to buy in Washington state was bottled in plastic containers, which is rather silly–with so much care taken to provide quality raw milk–putting it in plastic containers and contaminating that way is rather foolish. Not only that but the milk is delivered to various points around the city on the same day or the day after the milk is bottled! The long hours our dedicated delivery guy puts into getting us our milk, rain, snow or storm are to be respected. He is away from home from 10am to 8pm and barely gets a chance to see his wife and kids, yet whenever I go pick up my milk he is cheery, curious about my life or happily chatting with another cowshare member. He knows all of our names as well as our kids.

Last year when our cowshare came under attack by Fraser Health it forced us to come together even more as a community, and a couple of town hall meetings were held. I am a missionary kid, so I have been involved in community meetings before, but this was something quite different. The passion and commitment of everyone in the room was something really wonderful to be a part of. I came out of those meetings so thrilled and excited to have met so many like-minded and passionate people. I met a lovely lady who knows all about mushroom cultivating in your bathroom, and a friendly man just back from Poland, who home-schools his kids. I met raw foodies who are helping people to get back to living a fulfilling life, a young IT man who had just moved here with his family from England and a lovely lady from Montenegro and her beautiful mother among many others. All of us just want to be left alone to make our own choices about what we put in our bodies. We are not trying to make a statement, cause any trouble or even get in anyone’s face. But as with all people if our access to healthy food is challenged we cannot simply sit back and take it.

We are not rich people, some of us are really struggling but know that without our health we have nothing. Although our cowshares cost a lot more than it costs to buy subsidized industrial milk, or even ‘organic’ milk, we understand that these costs are high not because anyone is getting rich off of exploiting us and our families, but because large greedy industry is doing it’s best to repress access to real food. I have said this before, but I personally find it shocking that Vancouver can go around talking about being the greenest, most sustainable city by 2020, when Fraser Health is putting so much time, effort and tax payer’s dollars into shutting down one of the most sustainable dairies in the province. I personally detest hypocrisy and greenwashing which is exactly Vancouver BC is doing.

Please support local, sustainable food by coming out on February 6th, 2011 to Rio Theatre, watch Milk War with us and hear Alice Jongerden, our original Agister talk about the challenges she has faced bringing nourishing food from the farm to the city. This is a simple, enjoyable and practical way to take a stand for your right to choose what food you eat.

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