Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When Food Becomes a Crime (Guest Blog)

Minnesota moms fight back
Here’s a news headline you never would have seen 50 or 60 years ago:

Farmer Charged Criminally for Providing Fresh Food to Mothers

Back in the days when farmers were our friends or when we (gasp!) grew some of our own food, this sort of news headline would have seemed absurd or even outrageous. That’s why we were shaking our heads when this news release from the Farm Food Freedom Coalition landed in our inbox. According to their report, a civil disobedience action and rally will be held this month to protest the upcoming trial of Alvin Schlangen, a farm club buying manager in Minneapolis. His crime? Selling local farm foods to mothers who wanted fresh fruits and vegetables for their children.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture allegedly conducted investigations, sent warning letters to several mothers, and threatened that if they continued to help provide fresh food to their friends and neighbors that they would be subject to criminal charges and prosecution.

I have a hard time even trying to imagine several women sitting in a jail cell and asking one another the standard question, “What are you in for?” And instead of casually remarking they are serving a 10-year stint for armed robbery, selling drugs, or embezzlement, these women would have to sheepishly reply, “I was buying food from a local farmer.” I mean, seriously, if that wouldn’t get you laughed right out of prison, what would?

But back to the mothers in Minnesota, who are more than just a little bit ticked off by what they claim is harassment and government intrusion into their right to contract privately with local farmers for their food of choice. If Schlangen is found guilty of misdemeanor charges of handling food without a permit, mislabeling food, and handling unprocessed, fresh milk, the mothers will lose their food supply and delivery service. Pete Kennedy, Esq., President of the Farmer-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, thinks this would be the real crime. 

“Nowhere in the country at this time is state action against food freedom and consumer choice more oppressive than in the state of Minnesota,” Kennedy stated in the news release.

The mothers also say that the MDA should not waste taxpayer dollars to investigate and prosecute peaceful farmers and those who are choosing to provide fresh food to their communities. To protest, the mothers have organized a civil disobedience action and rally to gain more supporters and bring attention to their cause. At the rally, supporters will sign a “Food Declaration of Independence” and demonstrate non-compliance against what they perceive as “unfair” regulations. Expected to draw hundreds of people from across the state, details of the event have been posted on the Raw Milk Freedom Riders website.

Perhaps you’re just inclined to yawn and not care one fig about what’s going on in Minnesota right now. But what if the day comes when you visit your local farmer’s market for some fresh cucumbers or heirloom tomatoes and discover it’s shut down?  Essentially, your choice to purchase fresh, local food would be revoked, and you would be forced to frequent chain grocery stores and warehouse clubs where your lettuce could be six weeks old because it shipped from China. (Just to clarify, I’m not saying that lettuce in China is not good. What I’m saying is that people in CHINA should be eating it!) Oh yes, and if the lettuce appears to be fresh and green, it’s because it could be doused liberally with chemicals and preservatives to extend its firm, leafy appearance. The point is that you don’t always know what you are getting at the grocery store or where the food came from or even if it’s a cloned, genetically modified corn that was spawned in a lab. The Minnesota mothers are just one example of people who are choosing to buy local food, but are at the same time being accused of criminal actions for dealing with farmers.

If you’d like to learn more about what’s happening with your freedom to choose, information about farm raids can be found at For additional information on farm food and nutrition, check out You may also want to read about the Farm Food Freedom Coalition (FFFC) that wants to ensure that America's treasures, our independent farms and ranches, are able to thrive. Their motto is “We aim to preserve our agricultural heritage and the future availability of traditional, farm fresh foods. Americans want and deserve the freedom to choose natural, unprocessed foods for generations to come.”

Last of all, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and protects consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods. Concerned citizens can support the FTCLDF, a U.S. based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, by joining or donating online at or by calling 703-208-FARM (3276).

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