Interview with Vernon Herschberger, Wisconsin raw milk farmer and food rights champion

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 .)

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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 

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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 . 


8 Comments

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8 responses to “Interview with Vernon Herschberger, Wisconsin raw milk farmer and food rights champion

  1. James

    The first Amendment is as (George Gordon) law school would say, your biggest club.. The Old Testament has many raw milk examples. Find everyone you can and use them in your fight.. As for Gandhi drop him… You can not serve two masters.. Gandhi is not Hebrew, Jewish or Christian. If I were to prosecute you, you would get hung on that point.. I think you should call George.. He is an old dairy man and can give you more real law help than any person alive. Good luck my friend….

  2. Callaghan Grant

    Vernon and family, I am poor in funds but live in an abundance of love and grace through our Lord Jesus Christ and what I have from Him I give to you and your family in abundance. When you lay down at night to rest let your mind be at peace. Breathe deeply and feel the light of God’s love upon you. I, like many others, shall be meditating and in deep prayer on your behalf. You are an inspiration and fighting for both food access and freedom and for your religious beliefs that if God didn’t make it (if it is processed and no longer a natural clean product) then it is not FOOd by which God means for us to nourish our bodies. If the government takes away the natural dairy farmers then they deprive us, the People, of the nourishment we need to live healthy lives. This is an act of aggression with the intent to deprive us of your products and services and inasmuch as it is an attack intended to remove access to foods critical to our well being, YOU are acting in both self defence and our collective defence. You are acting as a samaritan intercessor and you are eating foods and drinking milk in accordance with your religious beliefs of what God wants you to do. This prosecution is therefore an act of usurpation of your right to exercise your religious freedom. The government can no more take away your milk than they can take away the jews right to eat kosher foods or the moslem’s tights to eat halal foods. As far as Gandhi goes, yes, he is a perfect example of the peaceable, nonviolent resistance you are using to champion your rights and ours. God is with you and so are we. Let me know if there is someone where we the people can target letters on your behalf to let the government know that you do not stand alone and I shall pass the contact information around and organize a letter deluge.
    My love, respect and admiration are upon you, my courageous Brother in Christ. May His peace be upon you.

    Amen
    Cailin Callahan
    thefiddlersbride@windstream.net

    • Cailin : I was going to publish this contact info for the Wisconsin state government court action and for other related officials in Part II of my interview on Friday. Since you asked this is what Vernon had provided me with for the purposes of this publication:
      Ben Brancel, Secretary of Wisconsin Dept of Ag.
      Office Phone: 608-224-5012
      Office Fax: 608-224-5045

      Scott Walker, Wisconsin Governor
      (608) 266-1212
      Fax (608) 267-8983
      govgeneral@wisconsin.gov

      Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen
      (608) 266-1221
      Fax (608) 267-2779

      Eric DeFort, Asst. Attorney General
      WI DOJ, Special Prosecutor for the County of Sauk
      (608)266-8514

      Judge Guy Reynolds
      (608) 355-3222

      • Fresh milk prevents illness;

        The CDC says raw milk could contain pathogens that could cause mild illness in some people some of the time. If you look up that illness you will find that the CDC also says that it is the most common illness in America, that it is not serious, and that the average American gets it four times a year. This means all of us have had it many times and will have it again soon.
        Each raw milk dairy would have to have one of the CDC’s so called outbreaks every day just to keep up with the nation average otherwise you would have to admit raw milk is preventing illness not causing it.

        Most adults can’t even drink
        pasteurized milk;

        Sixty percent of American adults are said to be lactose intolerant, in other words pasteurized milk makes them ill. Many people speculate that the same is true about fresh milk yet if that is the case than why is it lactose intolerance only exists in countries where the people drink pasteurized milk. Look it up for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

        Fresh Milk is a Super Food;

        Raw milk has the potential to help more people than any other health food in America. If you read between the lines the CDC, the world health organization and your doctor are saying the same thing.

        Mike

  3. “God” ? which god are we talking about, here?
    you’re making the same mistakes the so-called “Pro-Life” movement made … quoting from scriptures of the Israelite religion in one breath, then citing anti-christ Mohandas Ghandi as though he served the same Lord : he didn’t.

    Better get your theology straight, Vern, before they throw you into that lion’s den

  4. nedlud

    Great for the Bovine to share this interview, thanks.

    It is going to take many many people of many diversified ‘faiths’ fighting back against (or if you prefer, ‘peacefully resisting’) the forces of exploitation that have basically brought ruin and perpetual warfare and violence of all types and ‘persuasions’ (cults) to this planet.

    May the genuine agrarians (healthy, natural food lovers) and respecters of the planet’s intricate and miraculous eco-system somehow prevail…

  5. Pingback: Support the fundamental rights of Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger | Real Food Houston

  6. The 24 points of the Hershberger raw milk case:
    1. We all lose if Vernon pleads guilty.
    2. DATCP can not ignore the wishes of the people from which their authority comes.
    3. An obvious exception to any food regulation is “unless labeled otherwise”. An advertisement or label could state unlicensed, uninspected, ungraded, fresh. The same thing applies to cheese or anything else.
    4. There is no need to recite the constitution when food choice is the very reason we have food regulation.
    5. DATCP has subverted the very purpose of our food regulations. These regulations were never intended to be used to ban the consumption of fresh food or any food for that matter. Our food regulations were written to prevent things like pasteurizations. DATCP is trying to ban the very food they have sworn to protect.
    6. The safety of raw milk is irrelevant, we don’t make things illegal because they’re dangerous.
    7. I know people that avoid raw milk because of it’s price or because it’s not skim or simply because it’s milk. I don’t know anyone who avoids it because they believe it’s unsafe. Furthermore I’m sure no one wants to believe they have to spend one day a week driving to the country to get food that should be at the corner store.
    8. The safety of raw milk is irrelevant, it isn’t DATCP’s job to tell us what to eat.
    9. Discussing the safety of raw milk is an attempt to justify a law that is clearly unjust and opens a huge can of worms. We’re not trying to repeal the law. We are only asking the state to obey our laws as they were written.
    10. The safety of raw milk is irrelevant unless the court is prepared to make a ruling on it. The discussion will only confuse the issue.
    11. You can eliminate all testimony from competitors with a conflict of interest.
    12. The state can’t legally ignore the terms of the private food contract between Vernon and his consumers.
    13. DATCP does not represent the people of Wisconsin. They are representing themselves and the processed food industry. DATCP has admitted this on many occasions and their board is by law made up of industry representatives.
    14. Vernon represents the will of the people. We all know the people of Wisconsin want raw milk.
    15. If you don’t drink it you don’t know because there’s way too much propaganda from it’s competitors and no one could be expected to decipher the data rationally.
    16. If you really want to know, you have a courtroom full of people who know, people with no conflict of interest, under oath, just ask them. It wouldn’t take long at all.
    17. Vernon hasn’t broken the letter of the law.
    18. Vernon hasn’t broken the spirit or intent of the law.
    19. DATCP has broken the letter of the law when they prohibit incidental sales, they come to court with “unclean hands”.
    20. DATCP has broken the spirit and intent of the law when they prevent consumers from obtaining the food of their choice.
    21. It may at times be OK to bend the law in favor of a police officer or some other state representative. This can certainly not be allowed when the state is accused of the misbranding and adulteration of our food. The court can not afford to get this wrong.
    22. If the club members have no complaints the state has no case.
    23. The data is on our side even when it is from our competitors.
    24. If grass fed raw milk had ever made someone sick, our competitors would have used that case instead of the Mexican cheese case or the improperly pasteurized milk case or a medical malpractice case. They are grasping at straws and coming up empty handed.
    Mike

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