The B.C. Supreme Court has ordered a Chilliwack, B.C., farmer to stop distributing raw milk - but that hasn't stanched the flow of the illicit liquid from the Home on the Range farm.
Alice Jongerden had been caring for and milking 20 Jersey cows for 400 cow-share co-op members, but Thursday is to be her last day tending the herd. Facing a possible contempt-of-court charge, she has decided to stop distributing raw milk, after a months-long battle with health authorities.
She said the members of her co-op, whose shares entitle them to a portion of the herd's milk production, have urged her to step aside. "Now it will be up to them to decide who will milk and care for the cows," Ms. Jongerden said.
She expects that about 50 of the 400 members will step in to manage the herd and collect their milk from the cows, who produce about 75 gallons of milk daily.
Any milk not picked up will be thrown on the fields of the 25-acre farm, Ms. Jongerden said.
Despite living in East Vancouver, Paul Kamon said, "If I have to milk a cow, then that's what I'll have to do. The milk is coming. The cows have to be milked.
"We own the cows. They're our property. We're essentially caring for our animals."
But members need to come up with a plan to deal with the unstoppable daily stream of milk, said Mr. Kamon, who produces an online food and restaurant magazine.
A cow-share member for the past year, his three-year-old, six-year-old and wife drink most of the milk. They've had no health problems whatsoever, he says.
Pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter can contaminate unpasteurized milk.
Home on the Range began supplying Lower Mainland cow-share members with raw milk in May, 2007.
According to Fraser Health Authority spokesman Roy Thorpe, the farm's initial inspection was in June, 2008, after the farm was "identified" as a producer and distributor of raw milk.
The calls made to Fraser Health Authority were not complaints, Mr. Thorpe noted.
He said B.C.'s Public Health Act considers raw milk a health hazard.
In its role as regulator of the act, the Fraser Health Authority launched an action in B.C. Supreme Court to stop the distribution of what it considered a hazardous material.
In March, 2010, the health authority secured a permanent injunction that prohibited Ms. Jongerden and Home on the Range farm from distributing raw milk for human consumption. In response, Ms. Jongerden continued to distribute raw milk, but put labels on the bottles which read "Not For Human Consumption."
In July, an inspector visited Home on the Range to see if the March injunction was being followed. In late August, she was served with legal documents telling her she would have to appear in court this week and might be found in contempt of court; that hearing was put over until next month.
Mr. Thorpe said it was the belief of the inspector that while he didn't see anyone drinking milk during his July visit, the milk was being distributed for human consumption.
The latest move to have cow-share members milk, care for the cows and take their allotment of milk is a tactic the court will have to decide how to deal with in October when Ms. Jongerden returns following her successful request for an adjournment, Mr. Thorpe said.
At the court Oct. 14 date, it's likely Ontario dairy farm Michael Schmidt will be present.
Mr. Schmidt, who in January was acquitted of all 19 charges related to the distribution of raw milk and raw milk products in Ontario, said he is coming to B.C. in October to stand up for farmers and consumers.
"This is a very dicey situation. Courts have the liberty to restrict anything farmers can do," he said from his home in Durham, Ont.
Being told she can't package or distribute raw milk is a severe infringement on Ms. Jongerden's liberty as a farmer, he said.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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