Today Alyssa, a blogger from Minnesota, shares what went down a while back with her food buying club.
On March 9, 2011, authorities cornered their suspect's vehicle, blocking it in with 4 government vehicles; they searched it without a warrant and seized over $5,000 worth of goods. “Nice to see our tax dollars at work, keeping us safe!” Some might say, not knowing the entire story. “We need to keep our neighborhoods safe from dangerous criminals,” they might continue, imagining drugs, guns, or stolen merchandise on its way to the evidence room at the local police station.
But what would you say if I told you the suspect in question was Alvin Schlangen, an egg farmer in Minnesota? And that the goods in question included milk, eggs, and other food items?
So much for the idea of our tax dollars going toward keeping our community safe…
This is exactly what happened, though, as Alvin was delivering wholesome, nutrient-dense food to mothers and college students at a drop-site for their private food-buying club. So why did the authorities become involved, and steal food from 60 families who rely on Alvin to deliver eggs produced on his farm and foods from other farms where members have leased the animals by contract?
This is a law-abiding, private food club.
Alvin simply brings members pre-ordered food, and club membership fees pay for the transportation. Furthermore, Alvin doesn't make any money on the sale of the raw milk, nor is he paid for managing the club. He makes money off the sale of eggs from the chickens he raises on his own farm, and delivers the other products on his route while he's at it. Members are required to sign a contract which leases the animals that provide their food, which allows them to have a long-term commitment to ensure the sustainability of the farms and food supply. Because the animals are in rural areas, and most members are in the city, this system was put into place as a convenient and efficient way to connect the people with products of the animals they own. This is a wonderful way to bring farm-fresh products to consumers who are not able to grow or raise these products on their own, and it is safer and more efficient than requiring each individual family to make the often hour-long (or longer) trip to the farm each week. For those of us who require raw milk from grass-fed cows and other clean, nutrient-dense foods for health reasons, or simply prefer it to the options in the local grocery stores and co-ops, this makes sense. It should also make sense to tax-payers and anybody who requires (or has a child who requires) a special diet.
So, again, I ask: why did the authorities become involved and steal over $5,000 worth of food from these families?
Alvin is being accused of retail sale without a license, but he is not in a retail position. Per the club contract, members own the animals and therefore the products they produce. Alvin is the current volunteer manager of the Freedom Farms Co-op. In this position he makes no money for his work, or on the food he delivers to the food club members. He sells the eggs raised on his farm, and the Minnesota Constitution protects the right for him to do this without a license. This setup is no different than asking a friend to pick something up for you at the grocery store, and then reimbursing them for the cost of the food. (Yikes, I've done that before! I better keep my eye out for the Department of Agriculture next time!)
Even if you can't understand the desire or the need to acquire certain foods that are raised a certain way, surely you can understand the outrage of tax payers footing the bill of this ongoing trial. Some legal sources estimate the Minnesota Department of Agriculture lawyers have already spent more than $100K prosecuting this case, a case about milk and eggs being delivered to moms and college students who are part of a private buying club!
No good will come from a guilty verdict.
A good, honest man who is operating well within the law will lose money and/or be jailed, causing his family distress, and taxpayers will have footed the bill for it. Whether you believe in raw milk or not, there are much better uses for your money, and you should be outraged. I know I am, which is why I took the day off of work to attend the first day of Alvin's trial earlier this week (lucky me, being a small business owner – I'm the boss!) I attended to support Alvin, my friend, and to stand up for my rights. I am disappointed that the trial was delayed, and is now on hold indefinitely. I will stick with this case, and continue to support my friend and stand up for my rights. I hope you will, too.
Please help keep this story alive and spread the word!
- Posts on raw milk
- Posts on our government persecuting farmers – you'll have to scroll past this post, which will also show up there.
Alyssa Nelson, a mother of two, is a chapter leader of the Weston A. Price Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota. In her spare time she enjoys blogging about health and nutrition at http://www.arthritogirl.
***All photos copyright Alyssa Nelson, except for the one of me and my girls (it's watermarked by the photographer).