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A tale of two food crimes

Michael Schmidt

(NaturalNews) Michael Schmidt is an Ontario, Canada, farmer who, for 21 years, has peacefully run his farm and provided his community with fresh, nourishing food. However, one of his farming operations runs contrary to federal and provincial law. Specifically, Schmidt produces raw dairy products for a group of families who want these foods and go to great lengths to obtain them.

In fact, these families have actually purchased the farm from Schmidt and his wife, Elisa, in an attempt to avoid violating the law. Absurdly, Canadian law outlaws raw milk distribution. It is legal for farmers to drink raw milk from their own animals, but not to distribute it. Schmidt claims that it is his natural right to peacefully farm and to provide clean, wholesome food to his community, so he continues to milk the cows and make the products available to the community of farm owners. Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and other Canadian agencies, both federal and local, continue to harass him for this peaceful act.

Escalating Harassment

Schmidt continues to challenge the government on its authority to criminalize him and his community over milk. This past summer, the government escalated its harassment of him and the farm owners, by planting surveillance cameras on the road by the property to spy on anyone entering or leaving the farm. Schmidt discovered the cameras and publicly questioned who put them there and why. A concerned neighbor removed the cameras, leading to theft charges against Schmidt.

When he reported to the police station for identification, authorities demanded that he submit to fingerprinting – a procedure not required for the type of offense he was charged with. When he refused, he was jailed overnight, before being forcibly fingerprinted in the morning and set free. Meanwhile, around this time the MNRF and a multi-agency task force conducted multiple raids on his farm and delivery vehicle.

Michael Schmidt Speaking at Raw Milk Freedom Rally

Community Members Stop Raid on the Farm

During one farm raid, farm owners, concerned neighbors and community members blocked the driveway and prevented the government from removing thousands of dollars' worth of food and farm equipment. The government then said that the peaceful activists were promoting "anti-government" sentiment. Five people present at that raid have been charged by the West Grey Police for "obstructing police."

CFIA Kills Healthy Sheep to Make a Point

Because of his ongoing experience with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Schmidt knows that their policies are outdated. Almost four years ago when a fellow farmer – shepherdess Montana Jones – faced the wrath of the CFIA over an alleged case of scrapie in her healthy sheep, Schmidt suggested that the CFIA find a better way to handle the case rather than eradicating the entire flock of healthy sheep. Instead, the CFIA chose to put a kill order on the majority of the flock. On the morning of the day the kill was to take place, an ad hoc group called the Farmers' Peace Corps surreptitiously rescued the healthy sheep and took them secretly into protective custody, until, they said, a better solution could be found.

Montana Jones and one of her Shropshire sheep

On June 13, 2012, Michael Schmidt celebrated his 58th birthday by making a public statement (part 1 and part 2) regarding the actions of the individuals who called themselves the Farmers' Peace Corps. As a result, he was charged – three years ago – on December 6, 2012, with being part of a conspiracy to violate CFIA orders and multiple additional charges.

Multiple Charges, Courts, Jails and Injustice

Charges, court cases, attorney's fees and time away from the farm have marked the past three years for Schmidt and his family. As Schmidt and Montana Jones, who was also charged, weave their way through and around the charges, they are faced with unending legal expenses.

Thankfully, the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) is helping support their legal fees. To date, the CCF has spent more than $125,000 defending Schmidt and Jones against the CFIA charges. It is estimated that another $150,000 will be needed to represent these food freedom fighters through to the end of their trial.

Finding Justice

Many of us stand in solidarity with farmers like Michael who risk everything to save animals and to expose the tyranny and destruction of government regulations. But what does it take? For the farmers charged in the cases, it often means losing their farms and livelihoods or facing years of court action, crippling fines and possibly jail time. These stark prospects can result in deep depression, anxiety and a loss of one's sense of security. The victimized farmers lose faith in their government and sometimes in their community.

These cases take a deep toll on the farmers, but also on all of us who lose the ability to patronize viable holistic farms. For non-farmers, it takes focus to support our farmers and to help keep them out of jail. It takes knowing what is happening in the case and taking action. It takes funding the court costs and attorney fees. It takes a deeper understanding of the process and helping them through it. Being there at court for them, showing support, and letting them know that they are not alone.

Montana Jones, Karen Selick of Canadian Constitution
Foundation, Michael Schmidt

What we can do

Donate to their legal expenses. All donations at this link go to the Canadian Constitution Foundation in support of Michael and Montana's legal fees.

Follow the cases on the Facebook groups page.

Liz Reitzig is co-founder of the Farm Food Freedom Coalition, a non-profit focusing on food availability and access in the US. As an entrepreneur, Reitzig runs a local GMO-free food buying club serving the greater Washington, DC area.

Reitzig has spent nearly a decade working on the politics of food access in support of small farmers and those who wish to obtain food directly from them. Her work on several key cases and her proactive approach to policy and activism have helped shape national and state level food and farming policies.

About the author:
Kimberly Hartke, Hartkeisonline.com

Kimberly Hartke blogs about health and wellness.

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