Food rights activists are rallying behind raw milk farmer Vernon Hershberger. Criminal charges filed against the Baraboo, Wisconsin dairy farmer could land him behind bars for up to 30 months. The husband and father faces four separate charges stemming from providing raw dairy products to members of his Grazin’ Acres food club.
If convicted, Hershberger could also be slapped with a $10,000 fine. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, raw dairy farmers from around the country have come under attack for offering raw milk and cheese to eager consumers. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is wasting “tens of thousands” taxpayer dollars on the jury trial of the raw milk farmer. The trial begins on Monday, May 20, and is expected to last at least one week. The jurors in the food sovereignty case will reportedly hear from 70 witnesses in the raw dairy witch hunt.
DATCP is making a spectacle of Vernon Hershberger. Prior to the raw milk criminal charges, the husband and father had a squeaky clean past. The State of Wisconsin alleges that the dairy farmer defied DATCP instructions and violated state licensing regulations. The government agency destroyed 2,000 pounds of unpasteurized milk which belonged to Hershberger’s Grazin’ Acres club members. The dairy farmer’s religious beliefs prompted him to consider it a sin to waste perfectly good food.
Approximately 500 supporters drove through a March snow storm to show support for food freedom during Vernon Hershberger’s pretrial hearing. Although Wisconsin state attorneys argued that the dairy farmer’s religious beliefs were irrelevant to the criminal proceedings, the judge in the case did call a recess to research the matter further.
If Hershberger’s defense team can prove that his religious beliefs kept him from complying with the DATCP order to destroy the perfectly good and organic raw milk, the charge relating to at least that aspect of the case may be dismissed.
The debate about the health benefits versus health risks associated with raw milk and raw cheeses rages on, but fears of illness are only one obstacle standing in the way of Americans who want to consume raw dairy products. The powerful and expansive conventional dairy lobby has been accused of strong-arming state regulators to keep the possible marketplace competitor at bay. Wisconsin is the second largest milk producing state in America, second only to California.
Vernon Hershberger is not the only dairy farmer brushing up against the law over raw cheese and milk sharing. The incident involving the Morningland Dairy is one of the most egregious examples of food-related government overreach in recent history. Minnesota dairy farmer Michael Hartmann was also recently arrested for selling raw milk.
The raw milk producer’s ordeal began on June 2, 2010 when DATCP representatives raided his dairy farm. The government agents reportedly destroyed 300 gallons of raw milk when they poured blue dye into a bulk tank. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection agency claimed the milk was misbranded and adulterated.
Hershberger staunchly maintains that there was no scientific or factual basis for such a conclusion about the fresh milk. A hold order was then placed on all of the wholesome food inside coolers on Hershberger’s farm. The organic products inside the coolers belong to the farmer’s family and members of the Grazin’ Acres private buying club.
While Hershberger was spending a significant amount of money fighting for his right to share raw milk with club members, a fire broke out on the farm. The April 2013 blaze caused about $125,000 worth of damages, far above what the family’s insurance policy would cover.
The Wisconsin raw milk farmer was offered a plea bargain that would have kept him out of jail. Hershberger turned down the deal because he would have had to plead guilty to two criminal charges and swear not to sell or distribute raw dairy products without licensure ever again.
It seems as if the fix is in. Americans should have the right to consume the organic and unpasteurized version of milk. Yes, there are E. coli and salmonella risks, but the same health concerns are present in many other processed food products readily consumed across the United States. We can barely go a single week without a recall on some type of product due to salmonella or other contamination concerns.
Wisconsin Judge Patrick J. Fiedler had this to say about a separate raw milk case in 2011:
“No, plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of your choice… no right to contract with a farmer… no right to own a cow.”
Just a few weeks after making this statement which defies everything our Constitution represents, Judge Fiedler left the bench. No, the judge was not shamed out of the legal profession—he merely ditched the black robe to join a law firm which represents Monsanto. The company is one of the largest developers of GMO products in the world and created BGH, a growth hormone that is injected into dairy cows to enhance milk production.
Food freedom activists supporting Hershberger’s fight against the state are not necessarily raw milk drinkers. Folks involved in the locavore movement and organic farming fans are lining up in support of overall food sovereignty efforts. Opting out of the commercial food supply is extremely important to not just preppers, homesteading families, and those living off the grid, but to common Americans concerned about their health as well. It is baffling that the government supports the nearly unfettered use of GMOs despite the well-documented health fears while putting a boot on the throat of dairy farmers over organic dairy products.
Grazin’ Acres food club members are gathering at the Al Ringling Theater, a facility across the street from the Sauk County Courthouse, at the end of each day of the trial. The club consists of roughly 200 members. Although the primary goal of the daily gatherings appears to be supporting Vernon Hershberger, the group also wants to educate the public about raw milk.
Food rights activists participating in the gatherings include Virginia farmer and notable speaker Joel Salatin, author David Gumpert, raw milk activist and California dairy producer Mark McAfee, Cornucopia Institute founder Mark Kastel, Michael Badnarik, and Rawesome Foods attorney Ajna Sharma-Wilson, a constitutional scholar.
There is no justification for the attack on organic dairy farmers and raw milk fans going on in America today. We have the right to decide what food products go into out body and to fulfill a desire to reject processed and GMO-infused foods. Sharing food via private clubs should not require any type of government license or oversight.