Baraboo, WI—Wisconsin dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger, who has a court hearing March 2 in Baraboo, expects and is prepared for arrest. The Wisconsin Department of Agricultural Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has charged Hershberger with four criminal misdemeanors that could land him in prison for three years with fines of over $10,000. The chargers are all related to Hershberger supplying a private buying club with fresh milk and other farm products.
DATCP charged Hershberger with, among other things, operating a retail food establishment without a license. Hershberger repeatedly denies this, citing that he provides foods only to paid members in a private buying club and is not subject to state food regulations. Currently out on bail, Hershberger has disavowed the terms, which called for him to refrain from providing his members with food, or involving others in doing his farming, by telling the judge, “If our farm stopped feeding its owners’ 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.”
“I am proud of what I am doing. There is nothing wrong with peacefully providing food to members of my community who want it,” claims Hershberger. “The state might put me in jail, but they cannot stop people from feeding their neighbors.”
Food sovereignty activists plan to be present for what they perceive as a pivotal moment in the movement.
“Our family will be there, standing with Vernon. I never dreamed that the US government would try to prevent citizens from choosing their food and where they get it, much less putting people in jail for doing so. I’ve seen first hand the destruction of one wonderful farm family and I won’t stand idly by while another family is persecuted,” says mother and activist, Karen Goeben.
At a pre-court rally scheduled for 11:00 in front of the Sauk County Courthouse, 515 Oak Street, Baraboo, supporters will engage in a signing ceremony for their “Declaration of Food Independence.”
Hershberger and other farmers around the country have been and are facing state or federal charges against them for providing fresh foods to wanting customers. In recent months the FDA has conducted long undercover sting operations and raids against peaceful farmers and buying clubs that have resulted in farms shutting down and consumers without access to their food.