Dozens of advocates of raw milk rallied outside the Hennepin County courthouse Monday to support a farmer charged with food code violations for distributing unpasteurized milk.
Alvin Schlangen, of Freeport, doesn't produce raw milk himself, but distributes it to over 100 consumers, mostly in the Twin Cities. Minnesota only allows farmers producing raw milk to sell it. Schlangen said he has not violated that rule. The consumers all belong to his private food club, an organization that leases the cows from Amish farmers; he says all he does is deliver the end product.
Schlangen's trial on four misdemeanor counts was set to begin Monday morning but was pushed back up to a day because of other cases on the calendar. Organizers said they counted 200 participants in the rally at its peak, including several mothers with children. They said it's a matter of freedom of consumer choice.
Public health officials say raw milk can harbor dangerous bacteria that cause serious diseases, including E. coli, salmonella and listeria.
Among the demonstrators was Lynn Maderich, of St. Paul, who gets her raw milk from Schlangen. Her sign read, "Minn. Dept. of Agriculture hands off our farmers!!" She said she used to believe raw milk was dangerous but changed her mind after reading up on the subject.
"I've come to think it's the most perfect food you can eat," Maderich said.