The author, naturopath, and food rights activist Ron Schmid died unexpectedly last Thursday evening. He was 71, and died in his sleep at his farm in Connecticut, apparently of heart failure.
Schmid was best known in the food community for his landmark 2003 book, The Untold Story of Milk. He covered in depth the difficult history of raw milk in the U.S., arguing that even though raw milk was responsible for many illnesses during the 1800s and early 1900s, it was also unfairly savaged by the emerging pasteurized milk industry to eliminate raw milk as a competitive threat. I interviewed Schmid and quoted from his book in my 2009 book, The Raw Milk Revolution.
Schmid also was a highly respected naturopath for many years, who was sought out by patients from around the country. On the Facebook page of a supplement business he founded, Dr. Ron’s Ultra-Pure, one woman wrote: “Great man, very wise and committed to his patients. He cured me of cancer 28 years ago. He taught me how to eat and I have not been to any doctor since, being completely healthy. Very sad news.”
Two years ago, Schmid became embroiled in a huge controversy over so-called fermented cod liver oil, a product produced by a Nebraska company, Green Pasture. In a posting on the site of Dr. Ron’s, Schmid claimed the product had weakened his heart to the extent that he had become a candidate for a heart transplant in 2012, and that going off the product led to his “miraculous recovery.” He said in part: “In the six years I took fermented cod liver oil, I went from running ten miles a day to being barely able to walk across the room. My cardiologist, a world renowned physician at Yale-New Haven Hospital named Mark Marieb, was at first skeptical of my theory that cod liver oil had caused my heart problems. But as he has followed what he calls my ‘miraculous recovery’ from advanced heart failure (the usual prognosis is death within three to six months, and when first admitted at Yale-New Haven, I was seen by the Heart Transplant Team), he has gradually accepted that the cause of my heart failure was excessive amounts of cod liver oil.”
Dave Wetzel, owner of Green Pasture, told me at the time that Schmid’s accusation was “false” because the company’s cod liver oil was safe.
Schmid’s illness, along with a report by nutritionist Kaayla Daniel questioning the safety of the Green Pasture product, led to a major falling out between Schmid and the Weston A. Price Foundation. When Schmid refused to retract his accusations against Green Pasture two years ago, WAPF founder Sally Fallon Morell barred him from exhibiting on behalf of Dr. Ron’s at the organization’s annual meeting that November.
The falling out spread and became a source of much bitterness in the food rights community. At one point, Fallon Morell railed against Schmid, Daniel, and me as “The Three Amigos”. I got to know Schmid well during that period, and he frequently expressed pride in the term, though he was saddened by the falling out with Fallon Morell, who had written the preface to The Untold Story of Milk and became co-author of an updated and revised version of the book.
The three of us helped launch a new organization, Hunt Gather Grow, as an alternative food information community. It held a launch session in the late fall of 2015, and has been organizing potential additional events since then. I’ll just say that personally, it was an honor to work with him. He was smart, sensitive, assertive, and had a great sense of humor.
Schmid supported a number of food rights causes, including most recently that of Canadian farmer Michael Schmidt, who told me he always felt “deep gratitude” toward Ron Schmid. “He will be sorely missed.”
While Schmid seemed to recover significantly from his 2012 experience, he never got back to his previous level of health, and in the last few months complained of declining health. One member of his family said, “He was told by the doctors in 2012 that he had three to six months to live, and he should get his affairs in order. He lived five more years, so that was gratifying.” According to representatives of his family, there won’t be an autopsy or funeral, and his body will be cremated. A memorial service will be held at the family farm in Watertown, CT, on Wednesday, August 2, starting at 4 PM EDT. Inquiries about the service can be made to 860-945-7444.