Investigator: ODA “Going Forward with Prosecution” of Adam Hershberger


ODA investigator Ron Cordial

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.


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41 Comments on "Investigator: ODA “Going Forward with Prosecution” of Adam Hershberger"

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February 3, 2016 7:28 am

Wow, how unfortunate. Really is. It really brings forward the importance of having a well established process of dealing with complaints and addressing all issues.

I trust all Herdshares can learn from this

Sally Oh
February 3, 2016 8:17 am

I think what’s really unfortunate is having a well-established process of dealing with complaints that satisfies all customers but one who is Not To Be Satisfied. Most businesses have had a customer like that at one point or another. In all my years of teaching communication skills and problem solving to thousands of business professionals, however, I’ve rarely heard of cases this extreme.

February 3, 2016 8:28 am

Really? I would to learn more about the process.

Is it referred to in the original agreement?

How would somebody know what the process is that is joining the Herdshare?

February 3, 2016 7:40 am

It’s unfortunate that in such circumstances the fingers are/is pointed at the person that has spoke with authorities, rather then the action itself. The action, under such condition, has the distinct potential of becoming known to authorities, so why seek to blame someone for it? The circumstance that lead to the authorities being notified of issues, could have been managed differently. While I don’t care to put blame back on Herdhberger, especially from the safety of my couch, following the story and actually speaking with Brown leads to consider that risk mitigation , in way of better resolution strategies could… Read more »

Sally Oh
February 3, 2016 8:29 am

As one who has been at the pointy boot end of regulatory authorities more than once, I am sorry to see such good people put through this wringer. The process is punishment enough, regardless of the outcome. In my estimation, Brown is a narcissist, as vindictive as I’ve ever seen in my scant years on this earth. There is no punishment for a narcissist, all attention is welcome. She is in her glory right now.

February 3, 2016 8:58 am

Wow, I can see how reading this blog about the subject may infuriate readers toward Brown. Not being able to hear from Brown on the matter makes it more problematic. I have read a few things about Brown here. Not being able to hear from Brown makes such comments more believable.

That said, I don’t see how defaming Brown helps the situation. In fact, it’s more likely to fuel the flames of discontent.

February 3, 2016 9:03 am

I am surprised that a Mennonite Christian would consent to how this blog has portrayed Brown.

And if not for religious tenents, then as overall strategy. Fuelling conflict simply raises the stakes of loss. And I see only loss here.

Loss to Hershberger, loss to Brown, loss to the credibility of this blog, loss to the credibility of Herdshares, and loss to the Herdshare owners themselves

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
February 3, 2016 9:36 am

Agent Ron Cordial, and this is often the case with many enforcement officials, is to side with the plaintiff especially if that plaintif has a veterinary degree and is, as David stated, “unable to let go of (her) anti-raw-milk teachings”. (Emphasis in brackets is mine) Indeed, “teachings” that motivate her self stated objective, “to protect the public health”. In so doing the truth often becomes twisted in order to establish a case against what they perceived to be a non-compliant individual breaking the law. The private contract and the freedom to choose is irrelevant in their eyes and is perceived… Read more »

Molly Malone
February 3, 2016 1:11 pm

I am a little confused here. This article states that Hershberger denied butchering or slaughtering meat for other families. Later in the article a complaint from a member about the wrapping on meat is cited. So, it seems Hershberger IS selling or providing meat to other families. I thought herdshares were for dairy only. Can anyone here clarify this?

Molly Malone
February 3, 2016 1:16 pm

I am also confused on another point. David, you open the article questioning whether Joyce Brown will get her revenge on Adam Hershberger. When I look back at your original blog post on this, you are suggesting that her actions were motivated by her being either an undercover agent or that she couldn’t let go of her vet school teachings. What are you now basing your statement of revenge on?

February 3, 2016 1:18 pm

David – can you post links, physical addresses and phone numbers for these “authorities”? I think every last one of us should ask for a copy of this so called “open investigation.” Let these idiots know that we are watching – IN DROVES. Even if we can’t get records – blasting them in this way shows that there are people across the country willing to stand by their friends, their values and against this sort of bigoted tyranny. We stopped this same sort of crap with a coop in IL a few years ago – she emailed her list and… Read more »

Gordon S Watson
February 4, 2016 1:13 pm

article in the recent issue of the Epoch Times : headlined “The next food fad is coming : Feed your biome” … = a handy explanation of the food processor giants orienting demselves to consumer demand ||||| by Andrea Hayley
… this signals we’re at the stage where the previously-disruptive movement is received as ” self-evident”

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
February 4, 2016 10:22 pm

Here are some words of wisdom that appear to have been lost in the annals of history. Sir William Blackstone, whose legal commentaries became the basis of university legal education in England and North America stated,
“So great moreover is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the general good of the whole community. …Besides the public good is in nothing more essentially interested, than in the protection of every individual’s private rights…”
Blackstone Commentaries, 2:138-9

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
Today 3:37 pm

This is a breath of fresh air.

“Raw milk crusader Michael Schmidt has a supporter in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller.

Miller and MPP Bill Walker toured Schmidt’s Durham area farm yesterday at Schmidt’s invitation. Miller says he found the operation as clean and safe as he’s seen anywhere.

He says the Ministry of Natural Resources should have better things to do than continually bother Schmidt.
Miller says Schmidt has been honest and open all along with about he’s doing.\”

Today 3:49 pm

Yes, many thanks for all the work being done in other provinces to advance the discourse with officials and bearocratic. It has opened doors and lends some hope there