As Missouri Milk Board Plans Morningland Dairy’s Funeral, Possible Encore At 2nd MO Raw Milk Cheese Maker

Morningland Dairy's cheese, after two-and-a-half years in refrigerated storage, will be disposed of Friday. (Photo from Doreen Hannes)Missouri is turning out to not be a great place for raw milk cheese makers to be operating.


On Friday, the sad final scene of a two-and-a-half year tragedy will play out for Morningland Dairy. It is the once-thriving raw-cheese-making business that came under government assault in 2010 when two samples of its cheese were said to be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, even though no illnesses were ever reported. 


The Missouri Milk Board and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ganged up on Morningland and obtained a court order to destroy 30,000 pounds of its cheese, implement a recall on many thousands more sold over the previous eight months, and shutter the cheese making business without providing clear guidance on how it could re-start. All this after a three-day inspection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration failed to turn up any sign of pathogens in its facilities. 


Morningland fought the assault, and lost its court case, which is currently on appeal to the state’s supreme court. The embargoed cheese, after two-and-a-half years in a cooler, is pretty much rotten. 


Doreen Hannes, a Missouri activist, has just published an excellent account of the sad chronology of events over the last two-and-a-half years, “Morningland Dairy--The Final Solution”. Another well done account, of the legal proceedings, by Pete Kennedy, appears at the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund site.  At 8 a.m. Friday, owners Denise and Joseph Dixon will gather with family and friends at the cheese maker’s headquarters in Mountain View (6224 County Road 2980), while the Missouri Milk Board arrives with two dumpsters to cart the cheese to a landfill. 


In the meantime, an eerie repeat of the Morningland scenario seems to be playing itself out at another small Missouri raw milk cheese maker--Homestead Creamery in Jamesport. As in the Morningland case, the facts and the actual danger to consumers are difficult to pin down. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Jan. 11 put out a “Health Advisory” that was notable for its vagueness and inferences, saying it had “become aware of several cases of diarrheal illness from northwest Missouri, possibly caused by Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC), including one confirmed as E. coli O103. These may be related to the consumption of locally-produced, raw (unpasteurized) dairy products.”


You’ll notice use of such hedging terminology as “possibly caused” and “may be related”. 


Such hedging is taken as fact by some personal injury law firms that scour the Internet for public health announcements about food-related illnesses. One of the lawyers blared breathlessly on a blog: E.coli lawyer Fred Pritzker is investigating a recall of Homestead Creamery cheese due to possible E. coli contamination.” 


In the next paragraph. Pritzker bragged: “Fred and his Bad Bug Law Team recently won compensation for victims of another E. coli outbreak caused by tainted raw milk cheese.”


And then in bold: “You can contact Fred for a free consultation here.” 


(I inquired with Pritzker for information on what he had learned from “investigating” the Homestead case, but he hasn’t responded.)


Yes, it’s a competitive business, this product liability lawyering, trolling for live bodies to help you sue the pants off the big bad food producers. And who is this big bad Homestead Creamery Pritzker has his sights trained on? 


It’s a tiny outfit run by a German Baptist dairy farmer, Tim Flory, and his ten children. He owns 30 cows and lives a life similar to the Amish, without computers and the Internet, and like the Amish, pacifist and outside the world of lawyers and such. 


The Missouri Milk Board shut Homestead down two weeks ago when the agency apparently associated one illness from E.coli 103 with a batch of 63 pounds of cheese from his dairy. The agency forced him to recall the cheese, which made sense. But no cheese has come back he says, for a simple reason: It’s all been consumed. 


I use the word “apparently” because there hasn’t been anything formal put out by the Missouri Milk Board or any other agency beyond the Jan. 11 announcement. An inspector with the Missouri Milk Board who has been overseeing the investigation, Don Falls, told me there has been one illness associated with Homestead’s cheese, and that, “We are investigating it.” He declined to provide further details, saying information would have to come from the Missouri Department of Agriculture. 


Tim Flory, the owner of Homestead, says he has similarly been unable to obtain direct answers to his questions of why he’s been shut down and, more important, when he will be able to re-open. He’s had no reports on the results of testing done by the state on his cheese, nor on the conditions under which the cheese is being held. He says he’s been told the FDA will be in shortly to “take swabs of the whole plant and do their thing, whatever that is.”


He says that reports on the sites of the product liability lawyers about the possibly tainted cheese having been sold at a retail site, is inaccurate. Most of his 15 varieties of gourmet cheddar, gouda, and other cheeses are sold through his own farm store, and that included the 63 pounds of recalled cheese. 


So all he can do is speculate, like everyone else. He utters this politically incorrect thought: “Maybe someone got sick who never had raw milk before.” You see, asking basic questions like that gets you branded as "blaming the victim," even if what you are doing is questioning why a possible, maybe, illness of unknown severity is enough to shut down a family's livelihood and many customers' source of nutrition. He bemoans trying to meet a food standard of “a sterile people. That is America today.” 


I should add that Flory makes such observations without anger or rancor. He emphasizes that he has no hostility toward those from the state who seem intent on putting him out of business. “I would want nothing in print that would indicate they are of less value than me.”


Having been shut down for two weeks, unable to sell any products, has put a big dent in his family’s finances. “When we run out of cash, I suppose we’ll have to eat corn flakes,” he says, only half humorously. “Since they have put us out of the business we’re in, I asked him (Don Falls) if they had any programs for welfare.” 


Flory is very familiar with Morningland Dairy case, and while there are a number of unnerving similarities, one difference is that he won’t mount any kind of legal resistance, as Morningland did. “I can’t see any daylight at the end of that tunnel,” he says about possibly signing on with the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund or a private lawyer.     “I don’t have any interest in resisting” the state.


He bemoans the broader implications associated with the government stomping out small farms like his. “Eventually, these regulations will develop perfectly good food, except it will be very expensive and it won’t be very healthy.” 


Flory may be off the Internet, but he understands the game very well. The lawyers thump their chests, raise holy hell about "victims," and the regulators do their dance. Hard-working farmers like Flory and the Dixons? They are the enemy, left to twist in the wind of a fear-mongering society that preaches fear of food and bacteria. 


What is happening to the States of Missouri and Wisconsin? Did they take the same online courses in stoopid? I sure hope they don't set precedent for the rest of the country. Missouri is hard on farmers and now they want to get tough on guns.

It won't work. But I imagine they'll give it a go anyhow. They will most likely find out that people who own guns and are law abiding enough to TELL the school they have them aren't the ones we need to be concerned with. The criminals have the edge because they don't play by the rules.

Besides everyone involved is missing the biggest point. It's the point no one wants to broach, you know, about cutting the legalized drug merchants and their pushers off at the knees?

Sylvia Gibson's picture

If you control the food and water, you can control everything. The idiots will force a potentially toxic underground of raw dairy and other foods. History has shown, that people will continue to obtain foods/drinks they want, even illegally.

Our kids, when small, were instructed not to tell anyone what weapons we had in our home. It was explained that if others knew what we had, it would make us a target, plus it isn't anyone's business what we have in our home. Fools.

nrausch's picture

My compliments and praise go out to Mr. Flory for his willingness to take a leadership role in this fight for truth. I am impressed by the convictions he is demonstrating. I believe his actions not to resist a failing evil system have a depth of wisdom, and a trust in God's direction (Matt. 5). The truth of real food is "a city on a hill that cannot be hidden" which increasing as a light to everyone. My prayers are with him, his family, and his farm.

rawmilkmike's picture

If it is illegal to sell raw dairy products, why is Vernon not being charged with selling raw dairy products?

Probably because that would be too straightforward. The fdUH wouldn't have time to go all the way around the barn and twist facts, mislead, and put the fear of God into the public about raw milk and raw milk products. It's doesn't sound "criminal" enough. After all, these folks dealing in (read: providing) raw milk products are criminals, must be treated as such and that way the public gets a real sense of what the fdUH is protecting them from. After all, a guy who will tear the tape off coolers after the almighty fdUH (in its protected capacity) put it there, why, that guy has to be a criminal, right? The audacity. Put him before a judge and teach him a lesson. [insert sarcastic grin]

mark mcafee's picture

Here is something to consider.

Is fighting more important than staying in the market and building market? If your cheese or dairy plant is shut down pending some big lose. OPDC has faced this strategic decision a few times. We have won because we see the bigger battle and chose to stay in the market....what ever it takes. That means continuous feeding of people and continuous operations. If we are shut down....we immediately fix the challenge, learn from it and gain reinstatement. Even if that means throwing away perfectly perfect non pathogenic product. It is ok to resist and make them honest....but litigation and long term shut down is a loser.

This is an emotional and very very hard decision to make. But it is the winning decision. You do not win in courts,....rarely maybe. You always win in the market place and that means thriving and survival. The loss of a few thousand pounds of cheese is horrible....more horrible is the semi permantent shut down, loss of jobs, paying attorneys ( lucky if you have FTCLDF ) and loss of market presence and perhaps bankrupcy. That is a life long loss.

Consider this.....immediate compliance to a fault. So compliant that it makes their necks hurt just looking at your efforts to be quick and certain with improvements. Start back up quick and go forward.

Learn from the lessons here. The opposition is big on time, have plenty of guns and own the printing presses with their money...we have little time or money but we have the nutritional truth and the mother lion dollar voters.

These are strategic decisions and they are very tough. But if you want to win...try a RAWMI RAMP plan and being as perfect as possible.

They will give up and go away. They will have nothing to hit you with. You no longer wear a target.

Litigation is a mostly losing proposition. Not because you are right or wrong....but because the variables of time, money, power and being shut down places you in a place with no power, no cash and you are not in control and you lose....these are all losing factors. The numbers show this clearly.
Capitulation and compliance is not surrender and it is not is the ultimate of in your face success. Staying in business and growing market with safe nutritious foods.... That is the goal. get those inspectors off your property and out of your hair by compliance and being extremely proud of your operations. We need to up our game and really it take up to high levels. This is war. A war we must fight on our terms...not theirs. Our power is with the markets and the dollar voters. Our power is not ( yet ) in the courts.

Mark, a very sensible approach, however, that apparently won't work for the DIxon's or the Flory's. Well, maybe the Flory's could still make something like that work.

Do you have a handbook or something (through RAWMI or RAMP) which can be provided to other dairy farmers who might face this issue in the future, so that they know what, how, when, where, why if they decide they want to start over?

David Gumpert's picture

Excellent points, Mark. I know that the Dixons thought about this option, of trying to comply with problems as seen by the regulators, and from what I understand, concluded they couldn't determine exactly what they needed to do, how much they needed to spend, to come into compliance. 

In retrospect, it seems as if one of the things you've had going for you, that perhaps the Dixons didn't have to such an extent, is a highly committed community of customers/supporters. You've worked hard to communicate with that community. So when push has come to shove as to what you've needed to do to reopen, you get an essential push from your community...and the regulators move out of the way. 

Ora Moose's picture


Your comments and advice are invaluable, thank you for sharing your experience with us. I do have one question (well, many but let's keep it simple for now.)

I can see that if you have the financial means to take your approach, it does make sense to pursue compliance as the long term philosophy. But, what would you suggest to the little guys that don't have the money reserves in the bank or other assets to gamble with and are a bare thread operation? Unfortunately they seem to be the ones under fire since they are easy targets and can't fight back. Maybe FTCLDF can someday start collecting "union dues" to provide emergency funding for those that don't have any other option but shut down rather than immediate compliance?

Dave Milano's picture

It's not only the money. In fact the financial cost of compliance is just the tip of the iceberg. The trend in America and the world has been and continues to be ever greater centralization of power, money, manufacturing, and services. The bigger the business, the easier its survival. This is anathema to freedom, happiness, safety, and health.

Ora Moose's picture

Dave, please don't be so fatalistic. Reality changes, and so does the price. And it's so ultimately funny you just have to laugh, what's the alternative?

Dave Milano's picture

Ora Moose,

Fatalism is not envisioning the alternative.

In this case, I must turn your question upside down, since what we have now: a money-is-god system where space between people is compulsory (i.e. a system whereby goods and services are provided by faceless business and government entities controlled by myriad "experts"), is truly an "alternative" way of life. A far more healthful and natural way is this: People looking after one another and their means of survival. That requires few organized systems, is safer, more healthful, far less wasteful, and of course freedom enhancing. Is it too corny and out of date to suggest that love is the answer?

Centralized power and a hyper-regulatory State are twin brothers working to keep each other fat and active. Sadly, they have most of us in their employ, which makes exiting seem near impossible, and sometimes makes the exit itself invisible.

I suggest we all, as much as possible, leave the money economy. Let the blue suit and briefcase crowd sniff at the sentiment--we simply don't need their systems if we love each other. If you think that's impossible I'm sure I cannot change your mind. All I can say is that my own experience proves that it is not impossible, but merely improbable.

I'm well aware that the money economy will not go away, and that we all can benefit from it at times, maybe even often. It's a matter of degree. I'm saying only that having our entire existence controlled by system algorithms is deadly, and that family and community are not.

Yes, it's a war over how to live, whether we should live as active human beings in human communities, or as passive hominids receiving everything for good or (mostly and soon completely) bad from alien elite hierarchies.

That's a big part of why the "Food Safety" scum (referring not just to government cadres but NGOs and everyone who buys into this scam) care so much about the rare pathogens among real food but care nothing about the fact that industrial product is drenched in every kind of poison (and has a vastly worse pathogen problem). That's why they don't start, the way anyone who actually cares about food safety would, with fighting for the total abolition of GMOs and factory farm antibiotic use.

Of course this starts with psychopathically exalting the profit imperative, and with the fact that like all flunkeys they tend to be the cowardly bully type (and so even if one of them "cared" about safety, he'd want to focus on small, easy targets). But the "sincere" part of Food Safety fundamentalism is elitist hatred for the very idea of a self-reliance gardener, a small farmer, and a community providing its own food for itself, and the whole self-reliant, community-based way of life this implies, since such a human way of life is the least easily dominated by corporate and government hierarchies.

In the end, a CFS or FWW (to select two of the otherwise better NGOs who support the Food Control Act) cadre has more in common, by background, education, acculturation, and authoritarian hierarchical temperament with a Monsanto cadre than he does with real farmers, integral community citizens, indigenous peoples of any variety. (We who are trying to build an economic and political relocalization movement are, in a sense, trying to redeem an indigenous participation in the Earth.)

I really enjoyed the ideas in this short video.

ingvar's picture

There are multiple fronts in this war over food. Mark’s is one and it is vital in more than one way as he points out. Rawesome’s is another. Rawesome’s (and others in the same vein) especially goes to the deepest political issues that in my opinion must be resolved in a different way than where we in these United States find ourselves today. The war against human liberty, freedom, and virtue is not recent nor is it localized. It is largely a war of corruption. Frankly, that is the war in which we find ourselves involved. “Our daily bread” is one theatre in it. Perhaps as in The Lord Of The Rings, the trees and the ghost army will weigh in before it is over (& Sauron goes “poof!”) and we can go back to the Shire.
To life!
Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard

Price control. This is really what the whole damn fight is about. As usual, money is at the root.

This is short but tells an ugly side of the big story. I wish there were more details.

Who needs THIS much regulation? I mean really.

This isn't regulation. It's over-regulation.

Leon's picture

I don't think the founding fathers of this nation ran away from the British gov't when they unlawfully taxed or harrassed the settlers. That is why we had generations of freedom, but today too many people are complacent and refuse to either work for change in gov't or to even use the opportunity given to them by gov't to explain why they are living as they do. So we reap what we sow, and we have the type of gov't we deserve--tryants and arbitrary enforcement of laws, because of spineless, lazy, uncaring citizens.