Michael Schmidt has decided to appeal his conviction for violating Ontario’s dairy laws to the Canadian Supreme Court. In doing so, he may well have begun another chapter, “The New 20-Year Raw Milk War Against Michael Schmidt.” 

In Europe, they fought a 100-Year War beginning in the 1300s, and a 30-Year War beginning in the 1600s, and a number of others before and after.  The world is beginning to take notice of North America’s milk wars–I was asked by a large magazine in India to chronicle the Schmidt case. The result is an article in the current issue of IndiaLegal, “Whose Milk Is It, Anyway?” The article is pitched to readers this way: “Farmers in North America are fighting big food firms for their right to sell directly to the consumer. One of them, Michael Schmidt, may finally win his case after 20 years. This is a sign of global conflict that India will soon witness.” (Because the magazine is distributed mostly in print form, the online version is only available as a PDF; you’ll find the article about Schmidt on page 74. Others about political scandals, torture accusations, and cricket irregularities may catch your attention as well. )

In India, and many other parts of the world, the struggle of Schmidt, and other farmers in North America, is incomprehensible. In India, farmers still take their cows or buffalo around to towns and cities, and provide fresh milk on the spot to customers. Customers then decide for themselves if they want to boil the milk or not—self pasteurize. 

Indeed, one study indicates that India is the largest dairy producing country in the world, and that something approaching half its milk is distributed raw, by small farms. “Consumers often regard raw milk and traditional products obtained from reliable vendors as of better quality than formally processed dairy products,” says the study. 


The notion of people buying their milk and other foods directly from farmers is respected, as it has been for centuries.  The milk available in supermarkets is mostly pasteurized. 

My favorite part of the Schmidt IndiaLegal story is this quote from him about all that has transpired during the 20 years Ontario has been prosecuting him,:“We have had five premiers in Ontario, ten minsters of agriculture, three popes, three presidents in the U.S., and 260,000 deaths from smoking in Ontario alone. Oh, and zero deaths from raw milk. I have not counted the days in court, the amount of court papers and the money spent on defending our right for food of our choice.”

The next phase of the war over food choice seems to be shifting to the legislatures and the courts. Schmidt has led the way. 


Another case, in the U.S., is going to a high court as well—the Food Sovereignty case of farmer Dan Brown will be heard by the Maine Supreme Court on May 13 in Portand, Maine (more info here). Brown was forbidden via an injunction sought by the Department of Agriculture from selling raw milk and other foods from his two-cow dairy, despite the fact that his town, Blue Hill, has a Food Sovereignty ordinance allowing private food sales between producers and individuals. It was a decision that put his farm out of business. His appeal is being handled by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.