Part I – Family Roots, Inspiration and Role Models
By Raoul Bedi of the Vedic Harmony Centre (www.canadafoodsecurity.info)
Facebook : “Canadian Raw Dairy Consumer Advocacy “
Over the past week I interviewed Vernon Hershberger by phone and e-mail. Despite his multitudinous commitments, including raising 9 children (with one on the way!), regular farm work, and preparations for massive rallies and court appearances, Vernon was very warm, forthcoming and present in his responses and attention to detail. Thanks also to “THE BOVINE “ editor for providing some of the questions and for reprinting the interview in it’s entirety here.
A: Background Info and Family History
1. Question: Did you always drink raw milk? Why did you first start drinking raw milk?
Yes ,I have drunk raw milk all of my life. I grew up on a small dairy farm in the heart of Amish country in Holmes County, Ohio. My Dad milked 15 to 20 cows by hand and farmed organically even though at that time it was not the ‘going thing’ and you could not get a premium price for your products.
2. Question: Tell us the story of your farm and how it led to you supplying people with raw milk? How did you decide to provide raw milk to other people?
We moved out of Ohio in 1998 due mostly to the pressure of urban development around the Amish community which caused land prices to skyrocket to up to $50,000 per acre . We decided to try organic farming in Wisconsin. We bought a conventional farm and got it certified as organic in 2001. We started shipping milk to a Certified Organic processor also in 2001. In the latter part of the year 2002 we had a few friends from our local town who wanted to acquire some milk from our bulk tank for their families. From there it grew rapidly by word of mouth to over 100 families in the next 3 years.
B: Inspiration and Role Models
3.a) Question: You refer to the bible in your decision to breach the terms of your release. Could you say something about your religious affiliation, your contemplative life, and the role all that plays in your strong determination to go through with the civil disobedience of continuing to supply raw milk to the families who depend on it? What other ideals guide you in this phase of your life journey ?
In reply Vernon resent his famous statement made in Wisconsin court: ‘I cannot in good conscience tell the 100+ families who own the food and depend on it to feed their families, that they can no longer get food to feed their families. The Almighty God has spoken and I cannot do otherwise. God’s word in the Bible states in 1 John 3:16-18, “Hereby perceive we the Love of God, because he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the Brethren. But whoso has this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the Love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in Word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
Your honor, I have spent many sleepless hours since signing the bond due to my conscience being plagued by the thought of shutting up my bowels of compassion to my Brethren who are dependent on the food that is provided by and for them on our farm. To most of them it is not merely a matter of preference but much more a matter of life or death ! If the owners of the food cannot eat their own food, aren’t we living in a communist state? If our farm stopped feeding it’s owner-families, there will be literally hundreds of children who will suffer malnutrition and even starvation. Your honor, I would much rather spend the rest of my life behind bars or even die than to be found guilty of such a gross sin before the Almighty God. Col 3:6, quote, “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience”.’ (End quote .)
b) Question: Do you harbour any ill feelings towards any particular Wisconsin state government officials ? Or do you see the challenge you and your family currently face in a larger context ?
We do not believe in harboring ill feelings towards any other human being. We believe much more in Biblical principles such as: Pro 25:22 “For thou shalt heap ‘coals of fire’ upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.”
Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
And most of all the Golden Rule which is this: “Luk 6:31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
There is nothing that I would rather do than to have everyone come out to the farm for a meal and a visit including the prosecutors or anyone else that is threatening us in any way.
4. a) Question: Your situation seems similar to Durham , Ontario farmer Michael Schmidt . How is it the same ? How is it different ?
Our situation is very much the same in that our beliefs are similar in how we approach situations like this. We both come from a German and a Christian background.
It is different in that America has a Constitution that actually protects us in areas like this but the way I understand it is that Canada is not set up that way.
b) I) Question: You said somewhere that Michael Schmidt’s example had been an inspiration to you. Tell us about that.
He has been a big inspiration to me in the way he faces difficulties such as this i.e His faith in God, his non-violent resistance, and his love for his enemies.
ii) Question : Who or what else has been an inspiration or role model to you in your work and struggle ?
I have studied the life of Mahatma Gandhi (Indian social visionary ) a lot and have also been inspired by his integrity and faith in God.
c) Question: Do you have any advice or inspiration for young farmers aspiring to operate a raw dairy in Canada (under similar prohibitory restrictions that you have faced)?
Let’s not look up to only Michael Schmidt or any person as the source of the power behind this movement. But let us keep our focus on the Lord, our Creator, where all good things come from. We are all just humans and are bound to stumble and fall. I have seen many a strong man fall. So if we put our focus on a man we will fall with him but if we have our focus on the Lord we can help each other stand up again and keep going.
TO BE CONTINUED
Donations: There are several ways to financially support Vernon Hershberger and his quest to protect our Food Freedoms .
1. Online pledges and donations for legal expenses can be made at: www.pledgie.com/campaigns/16879 . Title: ‘Help Vernon Hershberger Standup for Private Contract Rights’.
2. You can send also a cheque, made payable to “Vernon Hershberger”, to his mailing address: S. 6145 Hwy. 23, Loganville, Wisconsin 53943, USA .