the Organic Review: Put on Trial for Raw Milk; Activist Gives Details

By on June 6, 2013

by Ali Papademetriou

Just a little over 3 years ago this week, on June 2, 2010, Amish Dairy Farmer Vernon Hershberger of Wisconsin was startled to discover agents from the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) as well as county Sanitarians standing in his private store, seeking entry into his farm for inspection. Interestingly though, Hershberger had never applied for a license to publically sell his products and only sold to his “private buying club”, which is something he proclaimed to the officials after they threatened to obtain a warrant.

Shortly following the dispute, the Field Service Director from the DATCP arrived with a handful of Sherriff’s deputies and a warrant. After inspecting essentially every inch of Vernon’s facility, taking samples of all of his food, and sealing shut his food supplies, officials discovered his raw milk, demanded that the milk be disposed of, and even contaminated it with blue dye to ensure that not even the Hershberger family could use it.

From May 20, 2013 until May 24, 2013 Vernon Hershberger’s court trial took place at the Sauk County Courthouse in Baraboo, Wisconsin. After discovering about Mr. Hershberger’s incident, many food sovereignty advocates paid close attention and were committed to following his trial. SLN had the opportunity to speak with one dedicated activist: Derrick J. Freeman of Peace News Now.

Derrick traveled to Wisconsin to not only see for himself what this raw milk trial was all about but also to have the chance to sit in on the hearings and get up close and personal with what was actually being said and what was actually happening within the courtroom. “I went to Wisconsin to cover the trial of Amish Dairy Farmer Vernon Hershberger because I heard that armed agents of the state had raided his personal kitchen and stolen food that he produced himself, leaving his wife and 10 children with just a few days’ supply of food,” explained Derrick. 

He went on to detail, Such immoral actions cannot go unchecked. Silence is compliance, and so I went to Wisconsin to generate media and help raise awareness for this issue. If the government can barge into Vernon’s home and cage him for engaging in natural, healthy, human behavior, then what’s next? Anyone who cares about the future of their food supply would do anything they can to help this honorable man who stood on principle against the State like David and Goliath. Vernon did the hard work. I just played my part to tell his story.”

Freeman consistently updated readers on details from the courthouse including the jury being repeatedly ordered to leave the courtroom as well as the defense questioning, “Judge, if I call Vernon to the stand, you’re going to prevent him from providing a complete description?” With the Judge responding, “We’ll see.”

On May 24, 2013, Derrick posted on PNN that the jury had not yet returned a verdict on any of the four criminal counts that Hershberger was facing, which included “distributing milk from his “Grazin’ Acres” dairy farm without a milk producer’s license, operating a retail food establishment without a state license, operating a dairy plant without a state license, and violating a “hold order” placed on his dairy products after the state raided his farm.”

Then finally at 1:00 A.M. on Saturday May 25, 2013, final verdicts were reached. Derrick and others were thrilled to discover that Vernon Hershberger was found not guilty for three of the four counts that he was being charged with. The count that he is being charged with though could serve to hold the greatest potential punishment: Up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.00 for the holding order violation.

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  1. clarissa

    June 6, 2013 at 1:26 am

    this is outragious – I want natural foods back into my life!

  2. Teresa

    June 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Has anyone started a petition to help this guy out?

  3. Jean

    June 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    We’d all be alot healthier and better off if we went back to non-pasteurized dairy and non gmo food stuffs!

  4. Jesse Garrison

    June 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    My whole family drinks raw milk for years. Love it and it’s better for you the pasteurized milk.

    Anyone who tries to take down small farmers is the enemy. You can’t trust the FDA or the Gov to tell you what to eat. The food pyrimid was designed by the food companies themselves to push more grains and wheat. Now look at us. We are all fat and sicker then we were 50 years ago.

    Go back to food that will spoil if you don’t eat it. Canned food is horrible for you.

  5. Nancy

    June 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    If the farmer had only been growing Monsanto garbage, he probably would have gotten a slap on the wrist!

  6. Maria Sampaio

    June 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Absurdo! Até quando? Precisamos nos organizar ….

  7. Robert Brown

    June 7, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    The US Gestapo is at it again!

  8. Gerry Home

    June 7, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    He could’ve been found guilty on all 4 counts. Though, he was charged in this first place is another matter. However, a precedent has been set in that he was found not guilty in the other counts against him. I’m seeing a silver lining in this.

  9. Erik

    June 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    Absolutely offensive. We believe in real foods and the right to access real food. Thank you for posting about this!

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