WI Raw Dairy Producers Wait for the Other Shoe to Drop; Seeking Raw Milk at Scrumptuous Wise Traditions Meals
What’s going to happen next for raw milk producers in Wisconsin? That was one of the big questions being asked this weekend at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s Wise Traditions conference just outside Chicago.
A number of Wisconsin farmers who have been feeling the bite of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection were at the conference, and they report a combination of pressure and politics. On the pressure side:
-At the Zinniker Family Farm, owner Petra Zinniker reports that the farm, which has been shut down for more than a month after an outbreak of illness from campylobacter among its herdshare owners, is dumping about 150 gallons of milk each day. As yet, there’s been no formal report on the illness outbreak from public health officials, she says. The Zinnikers hope to be able to reopen soon based on a settlement with DATCP.
--Other Wisconsin farmers wonder who will be the next DATCP target. Wayne Craig, a raw dairy producer, thinks he's "next on the list," since the agency hasn't renewed the retail license he operates his Grassway Organics Farm Store under. He's expecting a special summary order will be filed, which would shut the store.
--Max Kane, the Wisconsin buying club owner facing a court session next month, is encouraging consumers and farmers to attend his hearing December 21. He will be holding a rally outside the courthouse in advance of when he faces a judge as to why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for refusing to provide a list of his members to DATCP. Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures has said he’ll attend, and I plan to be there as well.
The savior for Wisconsin farmers could turn out to be legislation expected to move through the state legislature beginning as soon as this week. Dan Siegmann, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, reported that legislators in both the assembly and the senate are pushing bills that would legalize the sale of raw milk by Grade A dairies. That revelation at an informal meeting Saturday at the Wise Traditions conference among Wisconsin farmers and supporters prompted concerns about whether the state’s many tiny unlicensed dairies would get left out in the cold. The consensus seemed to be that it is best to confront one challenge at a time—get the legislation covering licensed dairies passed first, and then deal with unlicensed dairies.
Kristin Canty, the Massachusetts producer of a documentary about the legal problems confronting farmers and food producers, showed some segments of the upcoming film at the Wise Traditions conference. One segment included footage of one of the raids on the Pennsylvania dairy farm owned by Mark Nolt. (He has been raided three times.) The grainy video shows state police standing guard from the top steps of his farm store, while Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture agents go in and out of the store, removing thousands of dollars worth of equipment and products, while Mark Nolt is advised to stand aside. It’s the first known footage from the Nolt raids.
The Wise Traditions conference had about 1,200 attendees, Weston A. Price Foundation president Sally Fallon reported. This was the tenth such conference—the first had about 75 people, and most of the speakers cancelled out, she recalled after she was presented with a special award in honor of the anniversary at the banquet dinner.
As usual, the food was wonderful. Lots of excellent meats, fresh veggies, fermented veggies, and delicious creamy desserts—a cheese cake and key lime pie that were notable for both their creaminess and crunchy crusts. One missing ingredient, though, was raw dairy. There was lots of butter and whipped cream, and it was all from a local dairy with grass-fed cows. But it was pasteurized.
From various conversations I had, it seems there was some question about whether Illinois dairies could provide enough raw milk for the large crowd, as well as concern about attracting the attention of regulators by serving raw dairy at a large hotel in a state that only allows purchase from the farm.
I was honored to speak at the banquet dinner, and I sought to take attendees “inside the mind of the regulator.” I argued that the conflict over raw milk is part of a larger struggle between those who value nutrient-dense food, and those who disparage its value. I also argued that the conflict is at a turning point, and that consumers and farmers need to work aggressively to educate consumers at large about the nature of the struggle, while paying close attention to safety. I suggested they use some of the same tactics of the regulators—in particular, monitoring regulator activities by recording their enfrorcement activities with videos and tweets and Facebook posts. A good summary at The Nourishing Gourmet.
More to come from the conference...Also, this wrapup of weekend events from Kelly the Kitchencop.