JACKSON CENTER — Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray visited Jackson Center Thursday, visiting FreshStart Farms and speaking with owner Martha Thomas.
FreshStart Farms — an all-Jersey dairy and creamery — was established in 1994. The 60-acre pasture is home to 40 cows, which produce cheese, milk and yogurt.
Thomas, who runs FreshStart Farms with the help of her sons Caleb and Zeb, gave Cordray a tour of the farm and dairy production center, even giving him the opportunity to try his hand at feeding a baby calf.
She took the chance to speak with Cordray about the details of her livelihood, and changes she would like to see within the dairy industry — especially the legalization of raw milk sales.
It is currently illegal to sell raw, or unpasteurized, milk in most states. According to the FDA, raw milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, and listeria, which are responsible for causing numerous foodborne illnesses.
However, Thomas argues that the benefits of raw milk may outweigh the risks.
“I raised my family on raw milk,” she said. “A lot of people think they have lactose intolerance, and it’s really the processing. When they homogenize it, they destroy the fat cell, so you have fragments of fat floating in the milk, then they take it to a high temperature, which denatures protein in the milk, so it’s not quite as digestible as it is when it comes out of the cow.”
Thomas made the argument to Cordray that raw milk sales should be well-regulated and legal within the state of Ohio.
Currently, the only way to legally obtain raw milk in Ohio is to go through a herdshare, which is a contractual arrangement between a farmer and an owner of livestock — the shareholder or member — through which the shareholder is able to access raw milk, meat, offal and other profits of the livestock proportionate to the shareholder’s interest in the herd.
After touring Thomas’ farm, Cordray made a stop at Lenhart Farms, where Sheriff John Lenhart gave him a tractor-driven tour of his land before gifting him some homegrown goods.
Lenhart publicly endorsed Cordray for governor in August when he appeared in a campaign ad made in response to criticism from Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
When speaking on the issue of opioid addiction and Issue 1, which will be on the ballot in November, Cordray said he is in support of anything that will help change the “status quo” in Ohio regarding the opioid crisis.
“We’re failing on the opioid crisis, and we need to move in a different direction,” he said. “If voters approve that, we’ll move in that direction; if they don’t, we need the legislature to step up and do some new things. We need to get the drugs off our streets (and) get fentanyl out of Ohio; that’s a key thing for us to do.”
In response to an article published in the Columbus Dispatch Thursday, citing Ohio House Speaker Ryan Smith as saying the candidate has made some “outlandish promises,” Cordray said the comment was “one-sided” and meant to “score political points.”
“I’ve been very careful about what I’ve proposed in this campaign,” he said. “What I have said is we’re running budget surpluses in Columbus, and we’re doing that in part with local government money from our communities; we ought to get that money back and we ought to think about what investments we can make right now, but raising taxes is not on the table for me. I’ll be working with (Republicans) and we’ll find a way to balance the budget and make the right investments for Ohio that strengthen our future.”
Cordray also said that while it’s hard to narrow down just one issue that will be top priority for him to tackle if he is elected in November, he does have a focus on economic issues that are affecting Ohioans. This includes access to affordable healthcare, improving education and training, and spreading opportunity out more evenly across the state.
“The opioid crisis is part of that, too,” he said. “It’s affecting our economy and it’s devastating families and communities, so we have to get a handle on that. We’ve got to do a number of things at once, but we’ll get started immediately and we’ll have a lot of work to do.”
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