Proponents of traditional diets rally for raw milk and plan Wise Traditions conference

Last week, a group of mothers committed to the right to serve their children healthful food staged a rally outside the headquarters of the Food and Drug Administration near Washington, D.C. A crowd of 150 gathered to support a group of “raw milk freedom riders” who transported raw milk illegally over state lines from a farm in Pennsylvania to Silver Spring, Maryland and then drank it and distributed it. With cookies.

The main thrust of the November 1 event organized by the Farm Food Freedom Coalition was to call attention to the ban on the interstate sale of raw milk, a rule that keeps consumers from the food they feel is healthiest for themselves and their families. “In these economic times,” said organizer and mother of five Liz Reitzig, “why is the FDA spending all this money and time” on restricting our access to food?

Elizabeth Reiner (with nine-week-old Macallah) and Rhonda Ings (with 15-month-old Eric) both enjoyed raw milk during healthy pregnancies. Ings saw her respiratory health dramatically improve once she began drinking raw milk.

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms spoke at the rally of the disconnect most people have with the spiritual act of eating: the idea that our bodies literally come from the food we eat and the ground from whence that food grows or grazes. People are allowed to eat processed foods like Twinkies and soda pop, but food our ancestors have been eating for centuries is restricted and regarded as unsafe by the FDA. “We can’t have freedom without risk,” Salatin said. Salatin’s farm has been profiled in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and in the documentaries Food, Inc., Fresh and Farmageddon: The Unseen War on American Family Farms.

The government practice of raiding small family farms that provide some of the most healthful food in the country (while using the most sustainable agriculture practices) was also criticized at the rally.  Farmageddon director and mother of four Kristin Canty explained that it was her son’s allergies that inspired Canty to try raw milk over a decade ago. Medication was of no help to him when he was very young; he was sick all the time and seemed to be allergic to everything. That all changed on a diet of raw milk, and now he’s a healthy, athletic 16-year-old. When she learned about the raids on small family farms, Canty felt she had to make a film to make people aware of this waste of taxpayer expense. At last week’s rally, she questioned why the FDA would want to ban the interstate sale of something that heals people.

One rally participant told a story of trying to remove a raccoon family out of his home. He suggested to an animal professional that he close up the nest when the mother raccoon left, but the animal expert he consulted warned that the mother raccoon would tear the house apart to get to her babies. This became a mantra for the rally: “Mothers will tear the house apart” to feed their children with the best possible nutrition.

Rally organizer and co-founder of the Farm Food Freedom Coalition Liz Reitzig is mother to five children raised on raw milk.

In addition to the organizers and riders, other mothers attended to reinforce their right to choose what to feed their children. Elizabeth Reiner of Silver Spring, Maryland works as a birth assistant and is studying to become a midwife. Until she began drinking raw milk a few years ago, she hadn’t eaten dairy for over a decade. She has none of the lactose intolerance symptoms on raw milk that she used to experience, and she loved drinking raw milk through her recently healthy pregnancy with Macallah, now nine weeks old.

Although Reiner is a big believer in the health benefits of raw milk, she came out to the rally in large part as a political statement. “I have the right to decide what to eat and what my children eat,” she said. Parents should be able to choose to support sustainable farms and sustainable agricultural practices, she added.

Many of the rally organizers planned to attend this coming weekend’s Wise Traditions conference put on by the Weston A. Price Foundation. Sally Fallon, president of the Foundation told the rally crowd that we simply cannot raise another generation on “industrial foods.” An annual event, the Wise Traditions conference this year will take place in Dallas, November 11-13, with the theme of “Mythbusters.” Supporters of the rally and the work of the Foundation hope to educate themselves and the public on the benefits of a traditional diet of nutrient-dense foods including healthful saturated fats; lacto-fermented foods; properly prepared beans, grains, and nuts; animal protein; and the absence of processed foods.

At last year’s conference, the Foundation released its alternate dietary guidelines called Healthy 4 Life as an alternative to the USDA dietary guidelines, which promote low-fat and low-salt foods. This year’s conference aims to “bust myths” about low-fat and plant-based diets. Check back for a report!

Jessica Claire Haney

About Jessica Claire Haney

Jessica Claire Haney is a freelance writer, editor and tutor living in Northern Virginia. A former high school English teacher and now mother of two, Jessica writes about birth, VBACtivism, breastfeeding, Real Food nutrition, holistic health, mindful parenting, and green living on her blog, Crunchy-Chewy Mama, in her Family Today column at the Washington Times Communities, and at TheDCMoms.com, where she is Green section editor. Find her at CrunchyChewyMama.com and JessicaClaireHaney.com.