Help Our Cows

I had the opportunity to have dinner with Alice Jongerden, and she told me some of how she came to be our cow’s caretaker. She originally started with just one cow because she wanted fresh milk for her kids. Unfortunately, that cow was dry and she didn’t get any milk. After a while she decided to sell the cow and get another one. This one gave too much milk. Soon she had milk coming out her ears and started sharing their cow with other people. More people started coming and asking Alice to milk their cows for them as well, soon Alice had to ask another family to help out with caring for the member’s cows. After about a year they decided to find a location for all the cows to be together. The area they moved to has a lot of mainstream dairies who felt threatened by the service Alice was providing. The cowshare Home on the Range was formed in 2007 and has grow from 3 to more than 20 cows in three years. The current waiting list is about 70 families, there is clearly a huge demand for unadulterated, quality milk in BC.

Join us for a screening of the movie Milk War this afternoon at the Rio Theatre BC.

As mentioned above, when the cowshare started out the cows were kept in a couple different areas and the logistics of getting the milking done and the transportation and whatnot were quite complicated. During many difficult periods Alice and her husband only slept a few hours a night and barely had the chance to see each other. The dairy has been through several difficult situations over the past few years. It is incredible to hear about the last tenant of the house that is now home to our farmer and Felicity, our cheerful young–I’m not sure what her title is–she joined our cowshare when Michael Schmidt took over after Alice had to step down as our agister. She has gone through Michael’s Cow College program and done an internship at Michael’s dairy in Ontario. She gave us a tour of the barn, last time we were out to see our cows, and had a good laugh when we asked her what her parents thought of the career she has chosen. She was incredibly cheerful in general–something I have noticed about most people who drink raw milk (myself not included–heh). By the way it is generally known that at least 80% of farmers drink their own milk raw, so this isn’t something to be shocked about.

Alice has currently filed a court challenge arguing the prohibition against unpasteurized milk in B.C. is a violation of her right to liberty and security of the person under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that the stiff criminal penalties are unjust. Violators can be jailed for three years and fined up to $3 million. -BC Local News

It was really great to be around so many animals again, there were several groups of calves of different ages including a couple so freshly born they were still wobbly on their legs. There also was a stall with a litter of the cutest black labrador puppies–they were so cute, we stayed for a while, getting licked and loved to pieces–before we tried to get out of the stall–one got loose and we had to chase him down. There were cats and kittens peeking out of every crack and down from every rafter–not a mouse to be seen. In another area was about 8 goats of different types, some with big floppy ears and others with very round bellies. And of course the cows, there seemed to be quite a variety, but I don’t know much about cows, so I couldn’t tell you what they were. I marked out about 5 square inches on one pretty cow and figured that was probably my share…. A couple of the cows still had their horns, which I quite liked. It doesn’t sound very pleasant to have your horns burned out–the Indian’s managed fine for millenium with cows that have horns, so it can’t be that difficult.

Donate to the Real Milk Legal Defence Fund.

We stayed for the milking and met the farmer. I thought he was from Holland, he seemed to be the image of a big healthy and capable Dutch dairyman, but it turns out he had grown up on a dairy out in Chilliwack–a member of a big Dutch family. He had previously worked in the industrial dairies and was really happy to be able to work in an environment where he would spend more time with the cows. (There is currently a court case in Washington state regarding the atrocious conditions industrial dairy workers have to deal with.) Felicity set about sanitizing all the equipment and rigging up the hose and filter for bottling the milk.

The milk is bottled in glass jars–another thing that is very unique about our dairy I really appreciate. They are careful not to use plastic that could easily leach various chemicals including bisphenol A into the fresh milk. The milk is immediately put on ice and rapidly chilled. The milking takes about an hour and a half and is done twice a day around 5 am and 4pm. We get our milk either the same day or the next day, we can pick it up at several different delivery points around the city.

Our dairy is the only one in Chilliwack that operates using this community model in order to supply us with fresh raw living milk, although the area is full of dairies. It is located in a very beautiful spot nestled just under the mountains with big fertile plains stretching out into the distance. Community berry picking, camping and various other events are held at the farm in the summer time.

Alice has five kids, only three of them were home as we had a salad and a big pot of chicken soup. The littlest was quite excited to have us around and spent a lot of time practising on the piano. I was astonished at how well she could play. I loved the environment–it reminded me of when I was a kid, growing up–a simple, unpretentious home full of kids–there was always something going on! I even had a chance to read a bed-time story to the little piano player. It is really wonderful when someone opens their home up to you in that manner, sharing a meal so you are an intimate part of their life for a while.

The commitment, determination and hard work that Alice and her family have put into our cowshare, which went from 3 to 20 cows in three years, has held the community together. The demand for raw milk is there, and if clean, committed and supported dairies aren’t able to operate the movement will be driven more and more underground. At various points in the past few years, the Jongerden’s have not known how they could go forward and continue to maintain the cowshare, but each time some member has stepped up or something has happened so we can go on. It is amazing to hear the amount of research Alice has done herself on raw milk. In fact, she made a very interesting point…. Not too far from our cowshare is an eco-village set up as a demo to showcase sustainable agriculture. There is a tank for milk that can test the milk for the bacteria content very quickly and accurately. Technology is available these days to determine exactly what is in milk, whether it is raw or pasteurized, we could be using it in different ways than we used to.

I have to confess, I myself am so disillusioned with the whole legal system, with courts and even governments that I don’t want to have anything to do with it. I would prefer to just get my own cow or goats and mind my own business. The fact of the matter is all the ducks are in a row now for the CDC, the corporations and those insane folk who really believe the only way to feel the people of the world is with factory farms and green-deserts of mono-crops. Our food laws are becoming ‘harmonized’ and the demonization of raw milk and small local farms and co-ops are being targeted.

Victory in court might effectively legalize raw milk dairies. Jason Graatl, Jongerden’s lawyer, said the province should simply regulate unpasteurized dairies, apply a regime of inspections and require warning labels. B.C.’s insistence on pasteurization is less about safety, he said, and more about extending the product shelf life and protecting “industrial” milk producers from raw milk competition. BC Local News

Although it is incredibly unfair that we have to pay these insane legal fees for what is actually a basic right, the fact remains that our cowshare’s bills are already around $25,000 and likely to be over $100,000 by the time it is all over. In many ways it look like it is now or never, and we better take a page from the Egyptian revolution and really be determined and dig in for the long haul. I don’t know what I would do without access to fresh raw milk from a farmer we trust. (Join the Real Revolution, and lets get the buzz about raw milk going this February!)

Alice will be talking more about the upcoming court case as well as what we can do to be more involved at the screening of the movie Milk War this afternoon at the Rio Theatre. Please join us. Please also be sure to help out by donating to the Real Milk Legal Defence Fund.

3 Comments

  1. Bernie says:

    Hi, nice blog about the share. Did I read right in assuming that all the members of the cow share are taking responsibility for the legal bills? That they are not just falling on Alice and her family.

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