MO Farmer Plans Public Distribution of Raw Milk, in Defiance of Cease and Desist
The latest tactic in impeding raw milk distribution--harassing farmers using drop sites--seems to be spreading from Minnesota to Missouri.
And like in Minnesota, where many of the ten consumer drop site hosts warned by regulators recently are continuing the defy the warnings, resistance is developing as well.
The Missouri events have developed rapidly. Last Thursday, a public health official from Missouri's Christian County appeared at a residence where farmer Eric Vimont was dropping off milk, and waved a cease-and-desist order in front of him. Vimont, whose farm is actually in a neighboring county, refused to accept the cease-and-desist. So today, via certified mail, he received an "Order to Abate for Food Establishments." "No food operations shall occur until the food establishment is brought into compliance," it stated in part.
Vimont, who has for the last six years been making raw milk available privately to customers who order in advance, says he not only has no plans to abide by the order, but he is going to publicly drop off raw milk to a group of customers tomorrow (Thursday) evening...in front of the Christian County Public Health Department in Ozark (301 E. Brick St., which is 1 block north and east of the County Courthouse).
Vimont expects about 30 customers who normally pick up near that location to be present to get their milk, plus, "We expect a lot of people who are not customers." He emphasized, though, that the milk is only for customers who pre-ordered. "There is no milk for open distribution."
He says this is in line with Missouri law, which allows for the sale of raw milk from the farm, with delivery to individual consumers. The new rub seems to come over whether the delivery is allowed to drop points or consumers' individual residences. The county health department has been referring to a 2007 opinion from the Missouri attorney general arguing that farmers are prohibited from selling "to the general public from a distribution center" established by the dairy farmer.
Vimont views the sudden focus by Christian County, a prosperous county in the southwest part of the state, on the nuances of delivery as part of the growing clampdown on food right nationally, and he is determined to do his part to resist. "I'm a little guy on a farm that is tired of being told he can't do certain God-given things," he says. "I want to see the tide start to change in this nation...in terms of unelected officials and regulators micro-managing our lives."
Pete Kennedy of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund sees the action against Vimont as designed "just to make things more difficult for his customers."
Vimont says he moved to Missouri from the Northwest in 2006 with a goal "to provide the absolute best possible milk we can. We are antiseptic clean in the milk parlor." He says he and his wife "beg our customers to make at least one trip to our farm, preferably at the milking time. We milk in the late morning, so it's convenient for our customers to come and watch." They are currently milking nine cows.
This isn't Vimont's first encounter with county public health authorities. A year ago, they had local police go after him over his milk distribution, but after an hour of discussion with an officer, explaining the nuances of Missouri law and local regulations, "the officer decided I wasn't violating the law" and Vimont continued going about his business. County health officials backed off...but only temporarily.
I find very sad the reports by Natural Health News that Aajonus Vonderplanitz obtained his Ph.D. from a diploma mill. Like Gordon Watson, I have a lot of admiration for Vonderplanitz for standing up for food rights at a time when very few understood the issues at stake. And he's done important work defending farmers being harassed by local authorities and the Food and Drug Administration. What makes these accusations ironic, for me, is that I don't see where he needed the supposed status of a Ph.D. to do what he has done. His nutritional theories would never be taken seriously by any conventional academic institution. His patients care mainly about whether he helps improve their health, and I've spoken with a number who claim he's worked wonders for them. In courtrooms, a Ph.D. could never make up for the absence of a law degree.
Vonderplanitz has lobbed some heavy grenades at Sharon Palmer and James Stewart of Rawesome fame. I suspect some of those grenades are now coming back from the other side. Food rights opponents are enjoying the infighting immensely.