“Buzz-buzz, ding,” 3:45 p.m. the afternoon before Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s annual Local Food Awareness Day an urgent text message popped-up on my phone. The text was from a colleague who was over at the capitol and had just heard that an amendment to make on-farm sales of raw milk illegal in Illinois had been filed and that it was being heard in committee at 8:00 a.m. the following morning!
Hearing the news I quickly sprung into action spreading the news to those who would be impacted, both farmers and consumers alike, through an action alert asking them to call their legislators and the sponsor of the amendment expressing concern and opposition. By 8:00 a.m. the following morning the sponsor of the legislation to ban raw milk, Representative Dan Burke, had received hundreds of phone calls opposing the legislation. His assistant later told me that they received more phone calls about raw milk than they had about marriage equality! Several Representatives on the applicable committee also received a high volume of phone calls leading the chairwoman, Representative Robyn Gabel, to declare that “they had clearly opened up a hornet’s nest.”
When the dust had settled; on-farm raw milk sales were still legal, the power of organized and civically engaged citizens to make change was evident, and raw milk had a couple new fans.
Here is a picture of Representative Burke and I enjoying a glass of raw milk.
Sometimes a controversy or crisis is just what it takes to raise awareness and create breakthroughs. The controversy surrounding the proposal to ban raw milk did just that, sparking considerable interest among a number of legislators who knew little to nothing about raw milk to begin with, enough interest to justify having an informal raw milk tasting party!
Here I am with a number of other legislators that sit on the committee (including the Chair of the Committee) that the raw milk ban legislation came up before all enjoying a glass of raw milk.
Everyone was surprised by how normal, and well, better-than-normal, it tasted! And no one got sick. Out of everyone who came to the unofficial tasting party Representative Burke seemed to enjoy it the most. Rest assured that it is safe to say he has no intention to move forward with legislation banning raw milk.
Thanks to Stacy Bowman from Pleasant Plains for providing the raw milk and to everyone who called their Representatives in response to our call to action; showing very concretely the power of organized and engaged citizens to make change.
By: Wes King