As snow started to fall, a Mennonite dairy farmer arrived at the courthouse in Baraboo, Wisconsin, on March 2 for a hearing on four charges against him related to the production and distribution of milk and other foods. Vernon Hershberger operates Grazin’ Acres Farm, a small family dairy farm in Loganville, and is part of a private food club that leases his cows and receives distributions of raw milk and other foods via what he calls a members-only “food pantry” on the farm. (more…)
Raw Milk Freedom Riders Plan Workshop and Rally to Support Vernon Herschberger March 1-2 in Sauk County, Wisconsin (The Bovine, 2/21 and 2/15)
“Study Says Raw Milk Poses Risks,” Seems not to Reflect Corrected Numbers: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinelarticle (2/21) quotes a new CDC study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases. Read David Gumpert’s excellent analysis of the study here. The article also quotes a death toll, which doesn’t seem to reflect the correction the CDC made last year.
Raw Milk Rally and Court Hearing for Wisconsin Dairy Farmer Vernon Hershberger Friday, January 27 at 12:00 pm in Baraboo: Vernon Hershberger has a court appearance scheduled tomorrow, Friday, January 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm at the Baraboo Courthouse, which is located on 515 Oak Street in Baraboo. Vernon is facing criminal charges for allegedly violating state food and dairy laws, including several counts for not having the proper permits. He has contended that he was not required to have the licenses because his store was a members-only club, in which people leased farm animals and were provided dairy products from those animals. Wisconsin farmers and Hershberger’s farm club members have scheduled a Rally at 12:00 pm in front of the Baraboo Courthouse preceding the 1:00 pm court appearance. The Jefferson/Waukesha chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundationrecently published a related commentary on the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s (DATCP’s) “war on raw milk.”
“Local Food Movement Gets Verbal Support from El Dorado County Officials” (Sacramento Bee, 1/25): “The grass-roots (and grass-fed) agriculture revolution that Patty Chelseth,” whom the Food Rights Network interviewed last month, “started last summer is picking up steam. Chelseth, of My Sisters’ Farm in Shingle Springs, has launched a campaign to get a ‘Local Food and Community Self-Governance’ ordinance. Her effort got a warm reception Tuesday from the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.” (more…)
Wisconsin Farmer Vernon Herschberger Jailed and Released For Providing Unlicensed Raw Milk to Private Club Members: Herschberger appeared in court on January 11 (NBC 15, 1/11/12) on four misdemeanor charges. According toWKOW (1/10/12), “The court allowed Hershberger to go home on a $500 dollar bond, but he had to go through the jail booking process. ‘I object your honor,’ Herschberger said in court. He’s also required to abide by the law. ‘No sale of food without a food establishment license,’ said Assistant Attorney General Eric Defort. His supporters hope Hershberger continues his business as usual. Hershberger faces four criminal counts, 2.5 years in prison and more than $13,000 dollars in fines.
He’s due back in court on January 30.” A crowd Herschberger’s supporters and co-owners of the private food club to which the raw milk is distributed came out for a rally on the court steps.
Steve Ingham of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) recently told conventional agriculture publication AgriView (1/5) that raw milk is one of the most visible issues the food safety division deals with. “At present there are between five and 10 cases where we know there may be a problem. The cases are in different stages of review and information has been shared with FDA and with county district attorneys. There are other cases where we are still in the data collection process,” he said.
DATCP secretary Ben Brancel told Agriview, “The interstate movement of raw milk is an FDA issue. . . We’ve discussed this with FDA and we feel it should be the topic for a regional meeting. We enforce according to information available to us. The information we receive is shared with district attorneys because they are the ones who have to proceed with the cases. In the most recent Sauk County case, information was shared with the Department of Justice.”
Wisconsin dairy farmer and John Kinsman, whom the Food Rights Network profiled last year as a “Food & Farm Hero,”commented about the case in an article in Common Dreams (1/10/12): “This government crackdown on family farmers is absurd given the current sordid state of our food/farm system and the urgent need to relocalize agriculture for the sake of our health, as well as that of the planet. Study after study has shown that the most dangerous food is usually that which has endured the most processing and traveled the furthest. . . . If people in Wisconsin want to enjoy access to fresh local food from family farmers in the future they may need to pass similar ordinances here. Otherwise, corrupt government under the sway of corporate agribusiness will make sure they have no choice at all.” (more…)
The Food Rights Network will be on vacation from January 1 – January 13. Happy New Year, and look for the next “Raw Milk in the News” on Thursday, January 19!
“Small Farmers Fight the Good Fight”: According to the Rock River Times (12/28), “In Loganville, Wis., the saga of Mennonite farmer Vernon Hershberger has switched from defense to offense after four charges were levied this month. . . . The state charged him with a retail food violation between Aug. 6, 2009, and June 3, 2010, a raw milk producer violation between Feb. 15, 2010, and June 3, 2010, a dairy plant violation between Feb. 15, 2010, and June 3, 2010, and a ‘holding order’ violation between June 2, 2010, and July 8, 2010. Hershberger ignored the raid and went back to business as usual of supplying small amounts of organic products to members, or in his view, fellow owners.
“Hershberger has a Wednesday, Jan. 11, court date at 1 p.m. The date was originally set a week earlier, but Hersberger asked for a continuance to set up a rally by food club members and by local concerned citizens to be held outside the courthouse, 515 Oak St., in the city of Baraboo, before Court Commissioner Leo Grill. . . .
“Hershberger has never laid claim to being a retailer.
“‘It just so happens that I am the one who takes care of the cows, which we all share in a lease agreement,’ Hershberger said. ‘Let’s remember that by law, to lease is to own and that is why the state is picking on me. . . .’
“The state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) took issue with the club, which has members scattered across the state, and raided Vernon’s farm. They taped his refrigerators shut and cited it as a crime scene. . . . Vernon was held at gunpoint in his living room in front of his young family . . .” (more…)
Raw Milk Hits Mainstream Media: Raw milk and raw milk activism is prominently featured in recent stories by ABC News(12/15) and Bloomberg (12/5).
Maine Dairy Farmers Sell Organic Raw Milk at Farmers’ Markets and as “Top Rung” Quality Organic Milk to Cooperatives (Boston Globe, 12/14). More about the city of Portland, Maine’s battle over whether or not to allow raw milk sales at farmers’ markets is here (Portland Examiner, 12/7).
Wisconsin Citizens Speak Out on Behalf of Raw Milk Farmer Vernon Herschberger (Rock River Times, 12/14). David Gumpert’s The Complete Patient blog also summarizes Herschberger’s case as well as Pennsylvania Amish farmer Dan Allgyers (12/9). Herschberger’s charges were announcedby the media before he received a summons. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, a local division of the national right-wing lobbying front for big agribusiness and agribusiness-related industries that works to defeat labor and environmental initiatives, the American Farm Bureau Federation, went on record opposing direct sales of raw milk.
“New Jersey Raw Milk Vote Expected Soon“ (New Jersey Herald, 12/14)
On Thursday, the Raw Milk “Freedom Riders” rode again. In November, they crossed the Pennsylvania border into Maryland in protest against federal law 21 CFR § 1240.61, which prohibits interstate commerce of raw milk for human consumption. Yesterday, a group of 17 food rights activists carried 70 gallons of raw milk over the border from Wisconsin to deliver the milk, along with batches of homemade cookies, to milk drinkers on the other side of the border.
History of a Food Right
Raw milk is milk in its unprocessed form, that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Pasteurization was introduced in the late 1800s, and the first law requiring pasteurization wasn’t passed until 1908, in Chicago. (more…)
First Local Food and Self Governance Ordinance Violated: According to Food for Maine’s Future (11/14), “On Wednesday, November 9, Dan Brown, owner of Gravelwood Farm in Blue Hill, Maine, was served notice that he is being sued by the State of Maine for selling food and milk without State licenses. Blue Hill is one of five Maine towns to have passed the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance, a local law that permits the types of sales Brown was engaged in. By filing the lawsuit, the State of Maine and Walter Whitcomb, Maine Agricultural Commissioner, are disregarding the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance passed nearly unanimously by the citizens of Blue Hill at their town meeting on April 4. . . . A rally and press conference will take place Friday at the Blue Hill Town Hall.” Food for Maine’s Future requests public support by following the Facebook page, “We Are Farmer Brown.” Ordinances and resolutions based on the original four passed in Maine towns have passed in other towns and counties across the country.
“Marketing to Kids: Collateral Damage in Big Food’s Profit Hunt”: Whistleblower Bruce Bradley, who has been called the “Wendell Potter of Big Food, Inc.,” exposes (11/14) how sweetened breakfast cereals are marketed to kids using characters that “tell a brand’s story through imagery vs. facts,” just like Joe Camel.
Young Farmers Find Huge Obstacles to Getting Started: Sunday’s New York Times (11/13) published Isolde Raftery’s article on beginning farmers’ obstacles. The article quotes Lindsey Lusher Shute, wife of Benjamin Shute of Hearty Roots Farm in Red Hook, NY. “Everyone wants young farmers to succeed — we all know that,” Shute says, “But no one was addressing this big elephant in the room, which was capital and land access.” Agriculture secretary and Monsanto buddy Tom Vilsack “appears to have championed their cause,” and “[l]ast spring, his deputy, Kathleen A. Merrigan, toured colleges and cities to encourage young people to farm,” but neither the “2008 Farm Bill. . . program for beginning farmers and ranchers, . . . [which] allotted $18 million to universities and extension programs to educate beginning farmers,” nor the PR tour have done much to address these barriers. (more…)
Positive Listeria Test in Cheddar Leads to Misinformation About Listeria: A Washington state creamery announced a voluntary recall of its raw milk cheddar yesterday after a test by the Washington State Department of Agriculture returned positive for listeria. There have been no reports of illness. The Oregonian article (11/9) about the recall called it “the same bacteria that’s caused one of the deadliest outbreaks in U.S. history,” referring to the recent listeria outbreak in cantaloupe that has killed 29 people. A similarly deadly listeria outbreak occurred in 1985, when 29 people were killed after eating fresh cheese made from pasteurized milk. Whether made from pasteurized or unpasteurized milk, hard, aged cheeses are less likely to be contaminated with listeria because of their relatively low moisture content and high acidity.