Margo Redmond

“If people let the government decide what foods they eat… their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”

— Thomas Jefferson

What is the legitimate role of public health authorities in protecting us, and when does it cross the line into controlling us?

It has crossed the line with dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger, who provides milk to his and at least 100 other families. He is set to be tried before a jury early this year for the crime of selling natural (raw) milk from his Loganville farm.

Hershberger is not peddling his product to an unsuspecting public on street corners in downtown Baraboo or trying to place it on store shelves. He is merely responding to market pressure from informed individuals who prefer natural to pasteurized milk because they consider it tasty and healthy, provided cows are kept clean and well. The fact that Hershberger’s 10 children drink his milk is reason enough for them to drink it.

They are beating down his barn door for the sweet, white frothy bovine brew that many a Wisconsin farm kid grew up on without incident of illness and that was delivered until about 1950, unpasteurized, by many Wisconsin milk men.

And, indeed, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show risk of illness from raw milk is small. We are 35,000 times more likely to get sick from foods other than raw milk, with contaminated produce leading. In 50 years no one has died from drinking raw milk, and of the 48 million people who in 2010 had even minor food-borne illness, only 50 cases involved raw milk.

Why, then, is the federal Food and Drug Administration and its counterparts, the state departments of agriculture, spending so much time and tax money suppressing limited raw milk sales to the 3 percent of the population that, knowing the small risks, want it? They say they protect public health. But a closer look shows they protect the economic interests of corporate dairies, a powerful lobby in this state.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau is an advocate of corporate farming. Two years ago I spoke with Jeff Lyons — now second in command at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection — while he was assigned to the raw milk issue at the Bureau. I asked him if the Bureau represented the interests of big and small farmers. He replied that small family farms need to become corporate farms, as that is the only realistic kind of farming today.

I could tell he considered me silly for saying I missed seeing cows grazing on Wisconsin grass. But it is practical to prefer milk from truly contented cows that graze on grass because it nourishes them and, in turn, us. I do not apologize for using animal products and even eating them, but I believe they are owed, in return, a natural, decent life.

You have free articles remaining.

Become a Member

They do not get it in a corporate dairy. There they live out three to five years of their 15-year natural life span in small spaces in huge barns, where they are given feed for which their digestive systems are not designed. There they are pumped full of hormones to make them over-produce milk and antibiotics to counteract the sickness that visits them in their confined pens. What we put in the cow goes into the milk that goes into us.

Then, when we pasteurize it, we kill most of the pro-biotics (good bacteria) that promote health (and control bad bacteria), as well as vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Most nutrients on store milk labels are synthetic additives.

No wonder raw milk demand is growing, along with suppression of it.

The Hershberger trial is bigger than Hershberger. It’s about how free we really are in a free society to do our own thing as long as it doesn’t harm our neighbor. From the other side, it’s about how much market share can be grabbed and how much food choice can be controlled under pretext of protecting public health.

Bureaucrats in regulatory agencies like DATCP make rules — without public input — that are treated like laws. Violation of these rules is not the big crime they would have us think it is. And we should exercise our freedom to overturn such regulations and refuse to enforce them even if the facts show that they have been violated.

A factor in the 1933 repeal of prohibition was the refusal of people to convict neighbors for selling or consuming alcohol. The bad law of prohibition eroded respect for the law generally.

It is an equally bad law that bans sale of raw milk after decades in which an earlier DATCP administration permitted it on a limited basis.

To defend their bad law, DATCP, under auspices of the Department of Justice, is ready to put a good man and the father of 10 children in jail.

Margo Redmond is a volunteer spokesperson for the Wisconsin Raw Milk Association and operates her own business, Write-for-Results, teaching professional writing. She can be reached by email at wfr@chorus.net.

(46) comments

mike grim

The problem with politicians is that they do not disagree. It's a tag team match with the working man always on the losing team. The politicians against the jocks and nerds and the jocks and nerds always lose because they're too busy fighting each other. Raw milk is the most important political issue today. The rest or this stuff comical by comparison.

Daniel Holzman

True, the problem is corporations like Kraft and Monsanto. They elect tea bags to write laws which quelch innovation, jail small businessmen and allow them to continue to corner the milk market. It is time for Walker to help some small Wisconsin businessmen. Free Hershberger!

Elia Armacanqui

Margo's article is very illuminating and inspiring. Many people in other countries rely on raw milk to get their vitamins and nutrients. As a matter of fact, raw milk have saved many people from dying of hunger. Moreover, many people are strong and live healthy and free of alzheimer, and other aging illnesses because they drink raw milk all their whole like. I applause Margo for such great article and Mr. Hershberger for offering such delicious and nutritions milk. Furthermore, are we living on a country that respect the freedom of choose? The problem is that corporations are so powerful and want to wipe out small milk business to control the market for their own profit. Corporations do not care of people's health. We need to fight back and have the right to chose our food. Let's support our right of freedom. Do not allow Scott Walker and their buddies constraining our freedom further. Let's continue drinking raw milk because it is healthier than a pasteurized milk.

Roger Bird

The government opposing raw milk is illegal, immoral, and unconstitutional. The government is becoming not of the people, by the people, and for the people. The government is becoming the enemy of the people.

j j

That is correct bachcole.

What is this special training that is going to start in North Carolina in a couple weeks!
Not good!

david millsap

is their a new teabagger militia forming ?

david millsap

that's some strong talk barcode.

Roger Bird

strikeforce, who will aid you when they take your rights away? Who will be there for you when they come for you in the middle of the night?

david millsap

like i said, that is some strong talk barcode.
please remove your self from fox news and other wingnut rightwingworld websites. and rejoin the family of man.

Roger Bird

strikeforce, your ignorance is not my problem. Government thugs have drawn guns on Santa Monica greenie and Pennsylvania Amish over raw milk, like it was important enough to draw guns on known pacifists. Your government is out of control

Kenneth Tennant

The gov't case against Vernon Hershberger is one of many Gov't Sponsored Criminal Activities. US policy makers continue a course of being stuck-on-stupid. i.e.. 1200 Americans die each day from tobacco. The US response: waste unlimited resources going after marijuana "offenders." They poison drinking water with fluoride, a known rat poison (Google: Flouride, Douglas report), they've contaminated the whole of N. America with Monsanto's experimental GMO's frankenfoods that the FDA refuses to label so we can make Informed Choices, they put high fructose corn syrup in most items (HFCS is associated with 73 known diseases, including cancer, diabetes and obesity), They treat US disabled veterans like criminals (Google: Kenneth Tennant, Domestic Terrorism: USA vs Veterans and the First Amendment), and attack the family unit. Where is the conversation on the cause of the school shootings, prescription meds that the Dept of ED forced on the kids who became killers? They deflect to gun control

david millsap

right here is the conversation samuel. welcome to the forums.

Fred Williams

Strikeout, who the hell made you the welcome wagon for this site?

david millsap

ouch !!!!!

way to start off the new years.did you lose big at ho chunk last night ?

j j

Thinkforonce, it is Maobama ""policies"" we don't agree with, not the color of skin. Because we disagree with his policies you call us white supremist....that is racist. Let me run this by you, I know and associate with all tones just about every week. Do you! So don't be labeling us posters as white supremist/KKK because we disagree!

Daniel Holzman

Grand Lizard, you are White supremists. Look at your rhetoric. You are very clear. Like Chiizare, you and your Klan put it all on the Black man.

david millsap

i am giving tfo a battlefield promotion right now.welcome to the corp.

j j

Thinkforonce, you need to burn your bible, "Rules for Radicals".

mike grim

The problem with politicians is that they do not disagree. It's a tag team match with the working man always on the losing team. The politicians against the jocks and nerds and the jocks and nerds always lose because they're too busy fighting each other.

j j

Executive Order by Maobama could protect the raw milk producers. He won't, no money put into his pocket by the little guy. But.... the O. girls drink fresh, chemical-free raw milk along with their organic food.

Executive Order three days ago, pay raises for Joker Biden, Federal workers. Nice of him to do during our financial crises, don't you think!

Enjoy drinking raw milk. It can be done. Purchase from source. Don't tell your friends,
neighbors and relatives.

david millsap

now we know what happened to you.

Linda Tyson

@darkenskies this has been going on since long, long before Obama was President. The State of Wisconsin has a Republican governor and raw milk has been an issue in the state for a very long time. Although the FDA prohibits interstate commerce of raw milk, it has done so since long before Obama, and STATES decide their own raw milk laws. As long as corporations are people and judges and politicians are bought by corporations it matters very little who occupies the White House.

david millsap

linda,you must realize that any issue in the news will bring out darkkks complete 100 % hatred of president obama.

j j

The liberals know two words....hatred and racist. Nowhere in their vocabulary is the word "disagree".

david millsap

you call slandering obamas mom,picking on obamas daughters the way you do and belittling michelle obama "just" a disagreement ? your lies about obama are too numerous to list.

we would find you in the webster dictionary under "obsession" pal.

j j

Thank you all for the great postings that many of us agree with you. The communist dictator in the White House is going to control all facets in our lives. Wait when MaobamaCare takes hold. You haven't seen anything yet.

"Fundamentally Change America", Maobama said during 2008 campaign. Are some of you finally understanding what he meant!

david millsap

no,keep explaining to us. it's good reading material when i am on the throne.

j j

Strikealinsky is still in junior high mental attitude.

Linda Tyson

In Michigan, the DNR oversteps its boundaries and passes laws demanding the destruction of heritage-breed pigs on family farms, threatens livelihoods, and threatens arrests and fines against the farmers who raise them.

In communities across the country when people try to do something as simple as grow some vegetables on THEIR OWN PROPERTY, or celebrate their harvest with friends and family, their hard work is destroyed.

And in Wisconsin, 'The so-called Dairy State,' farmers are prosecuted and persecuted for providing wholesome food via private agreements with individuals who should have the legal right to choose for themselves what they consume.

We've had enough of toxic corporate food, and enough of government overreach telling us what we can and cannot eat. We demand the right to choose real food, and that includes fresh, clean, unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk for ourselves and our families through private agreements with farmers we know and trust.

david millsap

CSA. ever hear about it ?

anybody ever wonder why homogenization came about in the first place ?

Linda Tyson

Absolutely have heard about it, and am a member of one, and a food co-op, herdshare, grow some of my own in organic raised beds, and won't touch meat, poultry, or dairy unless it comes from local farmers raising livestock on pasture and feeding non-ruminants only GMO-free grain.

Homogenization came about so early industrial dairies could siphon off the milk fat without it being noticed, and use it for more expensive stuff like butter, sour cream, half-and-half-, heavy cream, ice cream, etc. When it's homogenized there's no cream line and more cream can be removed without detection.

I think most raw-milk consumers tend to be more aware of the history of dairying (including swill dairies,) and industrial food production in general, and tend to choose not only raw milk, but other nutrient-dense, clean, well-raised foods. When it comes to the industrial food system, a well-informed consumer, especially one who helps others become better informed, is a huge thorn in their sides.

david millsap

linda, i thought homogenization involved more than that.doesn't it kill germs and bacterias too ? doesn't the government make sure it's safe to drink ?

is vern liable if some kid gets sick drinking unregulated raw milk ?
will he pay thier medical bills or heaven forbid their funeral ?
or will the $ come out of the taxpayers paycheck ?

as for me , i like to see that USDA seal on the milk that i drink.

Linda Tyson

That's pasteurization, strikeforce. Pasteurization began when milk started being produced by swill dairies. The animals were fed unnatural diets - spent grain and mash from beer and liquor production, and they were kept in filthy conditions (not unlike today's industrial food production.)

Raw milk is legal in many countries, and some states including mine, under certain conditions which can, and do vary. I've been drinking raw milk for quite a while. The farmer that cares for our herd feeds a natural, species-appropriate diet, is scrupulous about sanitation, and tests the milk for pathogens. I would never drink unpasteurized milk from a factory farm. (I don't buy CAFO meat, poultry, or eggs either.)

It's still legal to buy raw meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and vegetables, even when they're raised in conditions I consider unsanitary and unsafe. All of these foods have the potential to cause illness and death, and more and more often, actually do - even when cooked.

Linda Tyson

Steak tartare, rare-to-medium burgers, eggs over easy, salads, raw vegetables, sushi, rare steaks, soft-boiled eggs, raw-egg shakes and smoothies, (and in some ethnic restaurants, raw liver) are all perfectly legal. Many other animal foods, especially in certain ethnic delis and restaurants, are perfectly legal sold and served raw. All of these, when not produced and handled very carefully, can cause severe illness and even death.

david millsap

are their warnings on the labels affixed to the packages of the afore mentioned foods and such, warning people on how to handle / cook/ or prepare the foods ?

and is the business licenced where you purchase these? do you have legal recourse if the food does make you ill and their is no warning label on the package ?
is vern a CSA ? does he test his raw milk for pathogens ?have you even seen his farm in loganville ? do you know where loganville is ?

Aajonus Vonderplanitz

Bravo, Margo. Finally, an accurate published doc of raw milk, milk politics and govt violations of human, moral and social respect. FYI, Vernon notified the DATCP on several occasions that he would no longer grow and supply the public. Govt has jurisdiction over the public only.
What begs explanation is the fact that most PUBLIC SERVANTS in high governmental offices favor corporations over humans. Do you think there is graft? Do you think that corporations planted them in those positions with political influence, threats and campaign supports? And the middle management follows their bosses orders? Govt hierarchy is structured like military.
Is there any other explanation for the outright violation and attacks on our natural God-given rights/laws that the Constitution articulates? Esp, our right to grow and consume healthy foods rather than corporate polluted, denatured and de-nutrified stuff labeled food?
Thank you, Vernon Hershberger for standing up to the true law-breakers with us.

Ramanuj Basu

Thanks for your eloquent support of Vernon and the raw milk issue!


Thank you, Margo Redmond for your very informative article.

A farmer put on trial for providing milk to people who know it is raw? It seems even ridiculous public prosecutors spend time and resources going after the farmer. They allude to heath concerns, but there is not and there has not been any recent public health event derived from Mr. Hershberger 's raw milk. Besides, the big reason for such regulations (tuberculosis) is not longer as it used to by the middle of the previous century. If prevention is the issue those prosecutors and public health officials better should look at the massive dairy products and candies imported from other countries and offered by stores throughout Wisconsin.

It is obvious that Mr. Hershberger is being targeted as an example. Officials turned big dairy corporations' inspectors want to show farmers how can they eliminate alternative milk production and consumption to the current big corporations frame. My solidarity and support to Mr. Hershberg.

david millsap

the man broke the law. the authorities are duty bound to bring him to justice other wise they would be in violation of their oath.

work to change the law without breaking the law.

Jan Steinman

To the back of the bus, Rosa Parks!

If your founding fathers had that attitude, you'd be a subject of the Queen of England today. Those with overwhelming power don't give it up because of a few letters to politicians or protests.

When the power is all on one side, civil disobedience is necessary. Your own Declaration of Independence says, "whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government."

Your founding fathers were not ones to "work to change the law without breaking the law." It seems to me that restricting people's informed access to raw dairy is very clearly destructive of their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. It is their right and duty to actively resist unjust laws.

david millsap

comparing the revolution of 1776 with drinking raw milk ? boy that's a stretch !

let the amish farmer prove in a court of law that his raw milk is safe to drink and i will be the first in line. by the way , have you seen the cleanliness of som amish farms ? does his cows live in the farmhouse with his family ?

shame on you for comparing vern's raw milk thing with the civil rights movement of black america.

Trina Klessig

Pithy article Margo. Thank you. I think that you summed it up in your paragraph below:

The Hershberger trial is bigger than Hershberger. It’s about how free we really are in a free society to do our own thing as long as it doesn’t harm our neighbor. From the other side, it’s about how much market share can be grabbed and how much food choice can be controlled under pretext of protecting public health.

I drank raw milk as a child and I'm doing just fine, thank you. There are more pressing issues in our society than this. Our courts would do well to concentrate on other areas.
Vernon Hershberger has my support.

Cindy Schulze

Thank you so much for your article! Best one I have read on the subject for a while now.

They claim to be protecting the public health, but the public is not allowed to just come in and have the milk. You have to be part owner. No license is available in Wisconsin for what Vernon is doing. How can he be in violation of Wisconsin laws if there is no proper license for what he is doing? Not everyone can milk their own cow. Why can't we hire someone to care for the cow for us?

You hit it right on the mark when you said "they protect the economic interests of corporate dairies." It's not about protecting the public at all. I hope all Sauk County residents learn about this and stand up to the state and the judge for what they are trying to do to Vernon and the co-owners of his farm animals.

Alvin Schlangen

Families in this region of Wisconsin and Minnesota should be impressed with the aggressive nature of their regulatory bodies that make sure all of our food is safe, right? I think it would be an amazing step toward true food and health freedom if these particular regulators were required to seek the truth, tell the truth and actually support any local food that is likely to promote human health. What we have here is a small group of farmers and advocates that is doing more for the good of our communities than the tax-funded agencies that are generally held responsible for such work. It is time to reconfigure our departments of DATCP and MDA, to do due diligence in your work, stop the propaganda and harassment that requires major amounts of pure raw energy to rectify! To that end, it may be time to take an offensive strategy and build a class-action response to this tyranny as 10,000 taxpayers are being adversely affected in some way every day of the year. Who is ready for action? TYIA

Joy Martinson

Fabulous article, Margo. And if I might add . . .
Fresh, raw, local foods are the perfect foods provided by our Lord. Don't even TRY to tell us that you know better than He.
Thank you

Paul M Griepentrog

Garbage in garbage out!


Welcome to the discussion.

We welcome reader interaction. What are your questions about this article? Do you have an idea to share? Please stick to the topic and maintain a respectful attitude toward other participants. (You can help: Use the 'Report' link to let us know of off-topic or offensive posts.)