Will Joyce Brown, the vocal dissenting member of Highland Haven Farm’s herd share, finally get her revenge on Ohio farm owner Adam Hershberger?
Possibly, if it is up to an Ohio Department of Agriculture enforcement agent, Ron Cordial, who says ODA prosecution of Hershberger is imminent. Agent Cordial has been interviewing herdshare members in recent days, asserting as a fact that Hershberger is about to be prosecuted for violating the state’s laws on slaughtering and selling meat.
As I described in a recent blog post, Joyce Brown, a self-described “retired veterinarian,” has pursued a vendetta against Hershberger, emailing herdshare members, going to the ODA’s dairy division with food safety complaints, putting up a web site and Facebook page criticizing the herdshare, and reporting him to the ODA’s enforcement division. It is in this last effort where she apparently gained some traction, as Cordial visited Highland Haven farm December 16, and pulled out an email from Brown as evidence of possible violation of the state’s meat laws.
In a telephone call January 26 with one of Highland Haven’s administrators, Diane Phelps, Cordial said that in his December 16 visit to Highland Haven Farm, Hershberger denied all allegations related to violations of meat laws. Diane Phelps recorded the call, with Cordial’s permission; the recording can be accessed at the end of this post.
When she suggested to Cordial during the call that there may have been some misunderstandings during the December 16 discussion, and asked Cordial to submit his questions to Hershberger via email, Cordial refused, saying: “I’m not going to do that. I tried it on December 16, and he was totally uncooperative. He denied having anything to do with Highand Haven farm or having anything to do with a herdshare,….then he denied butchering or slaughtering animals for other families.”
I asked Hershberger about Cordial’s statement. Hershberger said he inquired with Cordial as to what his regulatory authority was with respect to herdshares. When Cordial couldn’t or wouldn’t provide an explanation, Hershberger declined to answer questions about the size of his herd and other specifics about the farm. “I wouldn’t lie to him,” Hershberger added.
As for meat, Hershberger said Cordial “also accused me of butchering animals and selling the meat to the public. I said that wasn’t true, we’re private.”
When Diane Phelps inquired during the telephone call with Cordial about reports from herdshare members that Cordial has been telling them the state plans to prosecute Hershberger, Cordial said it was true: “We are going to go forward with the prosecution, we are going to charge him with illegal slaughter.”
“Are you allowed to tell people that, that you are prosecuting him?” Phelps pressed Cordial.
“It’s an open thing,” Cordial replied. “People are victims as far as I am concerned when they get tainted meat, or get adulterated meat from a person that is not licensed. They have a right to know that….He also knows that it is illegal to do, and he said he wasn’t doing it.”
Hershberger said he hasn’t had any complaints from herdshare members about tainted meat, or getting sick from the meat. He says one herdshare member complained recently that a particular wrapping on some ground beef wasn’t sealed properly, and Hershberger says he immediately took the meat back and refunded the member’s money.
When it comes to changing one’s story, Cordial seemed to be the one out on a limb when he discussed the particulars of his investigation: “Our investigation is open to the public. They can get a copy of it at any time. So can Mr. Hershberger. I told him that.”
When Phelps said she wanted a copy of the investigation, suddenly the brake lights went on, and there was some quick backtracking. “You can get it from our legal department when it is over with,” Cordial responded. “You will have to go through our legal department. It is still an open investigation.….Once my case is closed and it is filed it will go in the records and they can get a copy of it at any time.”
When Phelps took issue with an assertion Cordial made that Hershberger “stiffed” a local slaughterer, Cordial became agitated. “There is two sides to every story….Mr. Hershberger wouldn’t give me his side, so I guess I’ll have to go with the other side. ….You weren’t there m’am. And I am telling you my side. And you were not there. That’s fine. We will discuss that in court.” With that, Cordial hung up on Phelps.
In the meantime, a Highland Haven herd share member checked with the local slaughterhouse in question, and reported back to Cordial that the slaughterhouse says Hershberger doesn’t owe it any money, and was never “stiffed” by the farmer. In a conversation that herd share member recorded in the last couple days, Cordial backed off his “stiffed” charge.
Cordial brings plenty of enforcement experience to his current ODA position. According to a bio provided on the web site of an Ohio firearms instruction company where he has been an instructor, Cordial “retired from the Columbus Police Department after 25 years of working Wagon, Vice, Homicide, S.C.A.T., and S.W.A.T.”
There’s nothing there, or anywhere, about him having prosecution experience, however. Perhaps Columbus cops simply tell the local district attorney whom to prosecute, rather than make recommendations, as happens in most of America, including, I am sure, at the ODA.