“During the question-and-answer period following my talk at the Northeast Organic Food Association-NY conference in Saratoga last month–about the government-industry campaign to rid us of raw milk–a man piped up to say he ran a herdshare operation in New York, and was wondering about the Meadowsweet Dairy case.
A herdshare in New York state? That piqued my interest. I had thought Meadowsweet was the closest thing to a herdshare New York had, with its limited-liability-company organization. I had to let him know Meadowsweet hadn’t done well in appeal–last fall it was denied its final option for appeal of a lower court decision that Meadowsweet couldn’t operate outside the state’s regulatory jurisdiction, with its 100-plus shareholders.
Afterwards, I spoke with the herdshare operator, Mike Thorpe, and he told me his is one of a handful of herdshares around the state. His herdshare has about 150 members in the Buffalo area, with a waiting list of 100. The farm has private sales arrangements covering other products and crops as well (including citrus from a second farm it runs in Florida).
He says he’s been hassled over the years by Ag & Markets, which has advised him to obtain a permit to sell milk off his farm. He says he has avoided the permit route because Ag & Markets is “trying to force permit holders out of business by finding bad bugs in their milk,” a reference to the agency’s listeria hysteria campaign over the last five years.
All of which prompted me to get in touch with Meadowsweet principal Steve Smith about where his dairy stands. He told me his LLC sold all its cows to the shareholders, who board them at Smith’s farm…as a cowshare. Moreover, the long case he and his wife, Barb, endured, actually did lead tosigns of positive judicial oversight that he feels could be helpful ongoing–in particular, limitations on Ag & Markets search warrants, which originally had been open-ended.
I have agonized for some time about whether I should report on these New York developments. Both farmers indicated they were okay with me identifying them and finally I decided that, yes, I should feel comfortable because, last I heard, we still have the right in this country to drink milk from our own cows….”
And about the lead picture:
“…What am I bid for a beautiful painting of a group of raw milk guys? Actually, Max Kane, the Wisconsin raw milk advocate and buyers club owner under threat of being jailed for refusing to provide the state with information about his customers and farmers, is asking that question.
He commissioned a painting, shown above, of five of us raw milk types gathered after Kane’s trial on contempt of court charges. He plans to use the funds he raises to further the cause of food rights. More info here. I must say, I never imagined myself showing up in any kind of oil painting portrait.”