Milk Wars: The latest battlefront in food freedom

from For centuries, the image of the family farmer has been as iconic a piece of Americana as baseball and apple pie. Rugged and independent, the farmer still represents in the minds of many those true ideals of American individualism that the country was based on, with Thomas Jefferson’s ideal of the “yeoman farmer” providing for him the ideal citizen for the fledgling American republic. Even now, after the virtual extinction of the family farm model in the corporate agri-business paradigm, long after the American population shifted from predominately rural and agrarian to predominately urban and corporate, there is still the ideal of the farmer, dedicated to a life of hard, honest work, growing the food upon which we all rely.

What an indictment of modern day America, then, that it sits by while a federal agency appoints itself over the remaining few organic family farmers, presuming to come between these farmers and their customers, telling people what they can and cannot eat, and even raiding farms that dare to resist with guns drawn. Although the recent Rawesome Foods raids have garnered national and even international attention for their senseless violence and the in-your-face nature of the armed FDA operation, these raids were by no means the first such raids conducted by the FDA in the name of keeping the world safe from raw milk.

In 2006, police officers and agricultural officials involved in a “sting operation” arrested Gary and Dawn Oaks of Double O Farms on suspicion of selling raw milk. Some of the shareholders in the Oaks’ cow-share program were physically restrained at the scene, kept from retrieving the milk from their own cows, and repeatedly told to shut up and stay out of the way while officers browbeat Gary, who was later sent to hospital.

In 2008, six Pennsylvania state troopers and a Pennsylvania DoA official trespassed onto the farm of Mark Nolt, a Wenger Mennonite dairyman, confiscating over $20,000 worth of his products and equipment and forcibly arresting Mr. Nolt for selling raw milk without a license. In 2010, Bloomington raw milk consumer Rae Lynn Sandvig had her home raided by police and was threatened with prosecution by the Minnesota DoA for acting as a distribution point for raw milk from a local farmer. Many other such incidents continue to take place across the United States, often in localities, like California, where the sale of raw milk is perfectly legal.

Related: Raw milk advocate seized by armed bounty hunters in unmarked vehicles with no plates*

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