Reposted with permission from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
After a long and riveting week in court for raw dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger, the jury returned a verdict of three “not guilty” counts and one count “guilty” for violation of a holding order.
The Wisconsin Department of Agricultural Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) targeted Hershberger for supplying a private buying club with fresh milk and other farm products.
Hershberger and supporters are happy with the three counts of not guilty and feel that this sets a precedent for other farmers who seek to feed their communities through private direct trade. Following the verdict, which came at 1:30 Saturday morning, May 25, Hershberger told supporters:
“I am extremely grateful to the almighty God that I have been acquitted from the first 3 criminal counts that were filed against me: operating a retail food establishment without a license, operating without a milk producer’s license and operating without a dairy plant license.
I am very proud of the people in Sauk County who served on the jury for sending the message to the state and DATCP that it is absolute nonsense and a complete waste of tax dollars to interfere with peaceful peoples’ natural right to peacefully assemble to procure the foods of their choice from the producer of their choice.
The 4th count, violating the holding order, which I was found guilty of, carries a penalty of 1 year in jail and up to $10,000 fine and to pay the state the value of all the products moved that were under the holding order. The maximum penalty is still a small price to pay compared to the price of a guilty conscience because of letting good food spoil while families with small children are in need of it. I consider it a great honor to suffer for the cause of the truth and the good of my community.”
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, of which Hershberger is a member, retained attorneys Glenn Reynolds and Elizabeth Rich to represent him at trial. Rich called the verdict "a victory for the food rights movement."
Many of Vernon's supporters and food freedom activists came to Baraboo to participate in events organized by the Farm Food Freedom Coalition throughout the week of the trial.
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and artisan food producers while protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods. Those concerned can support the FTCLDF, a U.S. based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, by joining or donating online at www.farmtoconsumer.org or by calling 703-208-FARM (3276).
Farm Food Freedom Coalition wants to ensure that America's treasures, our independent farms and ranches, are able to thrive. We aim to preserve our agricultural heritage and the future availability of traditional, farm fresh foods. Americans want and deserve the freedom to choose natural, unprocessed foods for generations to come. Visit our website: farmfoodfreedom.org.
For additional background on the case: WI Case: Vernon Hershberger or VernonHershberger.com
Click here for additional information on raw milk.
Click here to read a previous press release about this case.