OCA lost one of our own this week. Mike Durschmid was a great friend, a courageous and compassionate activist with a great sense of humor.
In a recent, but what turned out to be his last conversation with OCA’s Ronnie Cummins, Mike talked about getting better. He was anxious to jump back into his activist work, to help fight the good fight.
It wasn’t meant to be. Mike passed away on June 2.
Mike’s journey with OCA began in 1992, when he volunteered as the Chicago coordinator of the Beyond Beef/McDonald’s Campaign. The national campaign pressured McDonalds to add more vegetarian options to its menu, and to source healthier, more humanely and sustainably raised and produced products and ingredients. McDonald’s eventually made some of those changes.
Mike was Illinois state spokesperson for the Pure Food Campaign from 1993-97, leading the campaign against Monsanto’s controversial Bovine Growth Hormone and the genetically engineered Flavr Savr tomato. Mike traveled across the country, leading milk dump protests and participating in press conferences with Ronnie, Howard Lyman and others, to keep BGH from ever gaining major acceptance in the U.S. or abroad. After protests and public resistance, the Flavr Savr was taken off the market.
Mike coordinated the successful (SOS) Save Organic Standards campaign in Chicago in 1998, a national campaign to keep the USDA from allowing GMOs, irradiated food and sewage sludge to be included under the organic label.
Mike served as a special events coordinator and staff assistant for the Organic Consumers Association between 1998 and 2017, working on campaigns against genetically engineered foods, pesticides and factory farms, and promoting organic, local and regenerative alternatives.
He worked just as hard for other causes he cared about, too, especially animal rights groups.
Mike’s last campaign with OCA was the Dirty Dairy Campaign, an ongoing pressure campaign to get Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream brand to go organic.
Mike was the real deal. He lived his values, every single day. And he lived up to the standards he demanded of corporations.
No matter the campaign, no matter the injustice he was fighting, Mike brought to the battle his own brand of fierce conviction, relentless determination and refreshing humor.
According to Ronnie, "I can't even remember the number of times Mike was arrested for acting on his convictions. When I asked him once, at a meeting in Chicago, how many times he'd been thrown in jail for protesting, he hesitated for a moment. Then, with his characteristic smile he said. 'about 50 times I think."
Whether it was fighting leukemia, or trying to change the world, Mike never gave up.
We are heartbroken. And grateful to have known and worked with him.