U.S. Government is Out to Destroy this Family Farm
Vernon Hershberger is one of 18 children of an organic dairy farmer. His father was organic in the 1970’s, before organic was cool. Vernon’s Dad tended 15-20 dairy cows on his small farm. It was not a profitable venture. Back then, you couldn’t get a fair price for organic milk. There were no certified organics, such as we have today. And, the public didn’t understand the value of organic practices, so were unwilling to pay extra.
Vernon grew up in Holmes County, Ohio, the largest Amish settlement in the world. As of ten years ago, over twelve thousand Amish families resided in Holmes County.
The Hershberger’s lived off the land. They ate whatever they produced on their own farm. Vernon and his 17 brothers and sisters were raised on raw milk and cod liver oil. His parents just believed that was the best for their children. Mother made her own cottage cheese, and the children helped make the butter from fresh cream. They would take turns shaking gallon jars of cream until they turned to butter. Later, the family acquired and used a wooden hand crank butter churn.
Their diet was not typical of the Amish. Most of the neighbors were buying conventional foods from the grocery store. His father’s organic ways were the laughing stock of the community. His Amish neighbors had long since adopted modern farming techniques, such as, chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Their traditional diet had its rewards, though. Vernon has never been to the dentist. He has never had a cavity. His siblings were also strong physically, and in good health.
Following in Father’s Footsteps
From age 15 to 26, Vernon worked in a furniture shop. In 1998, Vernon and his wife bought a farm in Loganville, Wisconsin, with the help of his father. It was a conventional farm, which they converted to organic. The process took several years. Vernon amended the pastures with soil microbes, and lots of organic matter. By 2001, Vernon was shipping certified organic milk to a processor.
He never intended to get into the raw milk business.
The raw milk business happened, naturally. Friends who lived in neighboring towns, Baraboo and Reedsburg, asked if they could have some fresh milk. Vernon gave them some milk from his bulk tank. From there, it just grew by word of mouth. When his friends sang the praises of his delicious milk, more and more in the community became interested.
In 2003, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection held a meeting with farmers who desired to sell raw dairy to local customers. Cheryl Daniels of DATCP met with 10 farmers, including Vernon Hershberger and Tim Wightman (Author of the Raw Milk Production Handbook, who now heads theFarm to Consumer Foundation). Daniels made an administrative ruling which enabled these farmers to provide raw milk others by private contract.
It was clear at the time, that these private agreements would allow the farmers to operate legally.
Vernon started his club with a contract developed by another farmer. Over the years, he has changed his contract 3 or 4 times in order to stay in compliance with the law.
Just like his father, Vernon feeds his family the fruits of his farm labor. He says the biggest reward of his farm is being able to work at home with his family and share homeschooling responsibilities with his wife.
His farm club members share the work load on the farm. Almost every day, other members are there, preparing food and tending to their animals.
The Government Turns on the Farmers
In 2009, the regulatory climate changed dramatically. DATCP began to harass the farmers providing raw milk through private contracts. By January 2010, things got worse for farmers, the state regulators were going from farm to farm attempting to shut down the distribution of raw milk. The state was demanding farm records and club member’s names….”