In a Wisconsin Courtroom, Forget Even Talking About Healthy Food


Vernon Hershberger with Virginia farmer Joel Salatin, who stopped in Thursday evening to speak in Baraboo on behalf of the Hershberger defense. There were times today in a Baraboo, WI, courtroom, when I wondered if I was still living in the United States of America.

It started first thing when one of the prosecutors in the Vernon Hershberger case, Eric DeFort, complained to the judge that the lead defense lawyer, Glenn Reynolds, was using the word “liberty” too often, as in “Vernon Hershberger’s liberty is at stake in this trial” (because of that little detail that he could be sent to jail for two years or more). 

To which Glenn Reynolds responded: “I’ve been trying cases for 35 years and I’ve never had an objection to that. It’s inherent in criminal versus civil cases.”

The prosecution was right, yet again, said the Judge, Guy Reynolds. “Objection sustained. No more reference by counsel to the threat to the defendant’s liberty.” 

It ended with the questioning of a defense witness, one of Vernon Hershberger’s food club members, Joseph Plasterer. He was asked by defense attorney Glenn Reynolds to explain why he sought out Hershberger’s food back in 2004, when he joined the food club. 

Plasterer: “We asked if we could be part of the farm…”

Glenn Reynolds: “Did you have a reason?”

Plasterer: “My son was not thriving…”

Prosecutor Eric DeFort: “Objection!”

Judge: “Objections sustained.”

Glenn Reynolds: “Explain why you sought out Hershberger’s food.”

Plasterer: “We wanted access to unprocessed food that was higher quality than would not be available from the stores.”

Prosecutor: “Objection!”

Judge: “Objection sustained. Strike the answer. Jury is to ignore the answer.” 

I know it’s becoming increasingly difficult in certain places to access food privately. But illegal to speak of it? That was a new one. It was an apparent outgrowth of the judge’s efforts over the last few months to restrict or eliminate any discussion of raw milk, legalities of private food, food safety, and other topics related to food and health. 

But in between, the jury got to hear from Vernon Hershberger’s dad, Daniel Hershberger. A big man with a full gray beard, he explained in a deep voice how Vernon became adept at using a horse-drawn plow, and how the Amish philosophy the Hershbergers’ community lived by was to “share food with the hungry.” Food club members “didn’t own the land, but shared in food.” 

Members who didn’t have enough money could earn their keep by raking manure and cleaning milk bottles. 

Needless to say, the prosecution didn’t get very far in trying to make him look bad during cross examination. At one point, the elder Hershberger bemoaned, “I come from a generation where a handshake meant something. And I seem to be in a generation where it doesn’t, and where everything is technical.” 

But even he ran afoul of the judge’s censoring. When asked about his motivations for making good food widely available, he said, “From my teaching, I am very passionate about the health conditions of this country.”

Prosecutor: “Objection!”

Judge: “Sustained. I am not going to permit any witness to get into this.” 

But the point had been made, and hopefully the jury was listening.  The case could go to the jury by the end of Friday. 


The first copies of my book, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights”, arrived in Baraboo today. I got my first look at the final version, complete with index and such. Pretty cool. Several dozen attendees snatched copies up, with inscriptions from Joel Salatin, who wrote the foreword, and from me. 

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37 Comments on "In a Wisconsin Courtroom, Forget Even Talking About Healthy Food"

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Ora Moose
Ora Moose
May 24, 2013 12:44 pm

David, I applaud you for keeping us informed in this judicial process as it has huge implications for the future of our food choices. Thank you.

Btw, the link you posted above for your new book actually goes to your previous book, Raw Milk Revolution. The correct link is

Shana Milkie
May 24, 2013 1:52 pm

How bizarre, to censor words like “liberty” and “health.” Vernon Hershberger’s very liberty is certainly at stake in this trial. The clutches of tyranny are throwing their weight around more and more. As Michael Schmidt always says, “Resist with love.”

Thank you for your coverage of this trial and the whole food rights movement, David. The more people hear about what is happening, the more our movement can only grow.

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
May 24, 2013 2:46 pm

I would like to thank you as well David. Your contribution is beyond measure, for your insight has served to unite and motivate people from across North America in support of those who have the courage to stand against a system motivated by pure self-righteousness and greed.

If Mark is correct the jury aught to see through this ruse by the prosecution to manipulate the court in DATCP’s favour.


May 24, 2013 4:59 pm

Thank you again for your reporting. I am very eager to hear the decision. I wish I could have been there in person.

May 24, 2013 6:27 pm

Your reporting gives occasion to think about the nature of our court system, particularly juries. Most of these kinds of cases seem to have gone before a single judge, who typically sides with the state. I guess it’s much easier to “capture” one person than twelve, and maybe that’s what was in mind when our justice system was created, providing for a jury of our peers. I still don’t understand what the criteria is for a case to go before a jury instead of a judge. Judges seem to be peers mostly of the state, ergo, the corporate… Read more »

Dave Milano
May 24, 2013 6:29 pm

Judge Reynolds has a tiger by the tail.

He is trying to manage this unmanageable legal/regulatory system by pushing out of view the bigger issues of human rights and the value of personal beliefs, attempting to narrow the court’s challenges into tiny, isolated pieces that its legal machinery can handle. He knows that the big questions, if not securely caged up, will grow in power and influence–maybe even to the point where they could swallow the legal/regulatory world whole. The judge knows that if he cannot reduce this trial into simple arithmetic, he will effectively hammer a nail into the… Read more »

Karen James
May 24, 2013 7:51 pm

There was a poor peasant named Vernon
For safe, wholesome foods he was yearnin’
His family he fed,
His country he led,
And the haughty went down for a burnin’

God bless you and keep you, Vernon.

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
May 24, 2013 7:54 pm

Dave M, great comments.

David, it just occurred to me: What happens if the jury is deadlocked and cannot come to a unanimous decision? Would it be declared a mistrial, and if that were to happen what would come next?

D. Smith
May 24, 2013 9:13 pm

David, thank you for taking the time to report all the intricate details probably not even noticed by others. It’s appreciated by those of us who don’t have a lot of time to follow these things. I’m not sure the MSM (Znn, Faux, BSNBC, etc) is even taking the time to report on this case at all. Even if they were, they would be biased reports, I’m sure.

A lot of people following this case, to be sure. Thanks again for your time in sharing.

Deborah - Pacifica
May 24, 2013 9:30 pm

David – could you clarify for me…is your book fully available as of now? I was curious why was saying that it will not be available until June 12th. Is this truly correct?

Shawna Barr
May 25, 2013 12:04 am

Sounds like the jury will have the case soon. I’m wondering, is this a sequestered jury? It is my understanding that a jury can overrule an existing law if they believe the law to be unjust. Any idea if this jury has been made aware of that option?

May 25, 2013 1:14 am

twenty years ago – friends of mine were going to gaol in California for pamphleteering outside Courts, with literature about the “fully-informed jury” … where were all the arm-chair civil libertarians, then?! When we were reviled and conveniently written-off as = “cranks / tax protesters / rightwing nutcases / racists / “haters” and all the rest of the epithets puked-out by the anti-christ ADL. Could it we were right then? Could it be we’re right, now about other issues which go to the core of the controversy about “demob-cracy” versus the intent of those who… Read more »

Deborah - Pacifica
May 25, 2013 1:49 am

Oh boo hoo, oh well, good things are worth waiting for. Thanks for the clarification, David. Wish I could have been up in Wisconsin this week.

May 25, 2013 5:14 am

You know, it seems to me that we defeat the purpose of a jury when we first: allow the judge to determine what the jury sees and hears, then we allow him to tell the jury how to interpret the law, and finally we lock the jury in a room and let the bullies have their way. We also defeat the purpose of a regulation when we put the very people we want to regulate in charge of the regulating agency. Raw milk is showing the weakness of our court system the same way DNA evidence did when it… Read more »

May 25, 2013 5:18 am

It’s hard to talk about the trial while waiting to hear the verdict.

mark mcafee
May 25, 2013 5:20 am

Today the state of Nevada passed raw milk legislation that will allow state wide raw milk sales in stores. The bill goes to the governor for signature.

DATCP must ask themselves…. If pasteurized milk was so great and good for us all… Then why would anyone want raw milk??

I stand by my faith in 12 reasonable human beings in Baraboo.

If those 12 can not spell a stinking rat…. Then we are all farther and deeper in trouble than we can imagine. Jury will be hung or find innocent… The greatest gift would come with a finding of punitive… Read more »

mark mcafee
May 25, 2013 8:07 am

At the great risk of being a Monday morning quarterback and with only the briefest of information….here it goes. It is 1230 in the morning CA time, the moon is full and the damn dogs are barking…and I can not sleep after getting two texts messages: one from Liz Reitzig and the other from Ajna Wilson at what was about 0100 in the morning Baraboo time….

Vernon was found not guilty on 3 out of the 4 counts charged against him by DATCP and the state attorney generals office. The jury found him guilty on one count of ” breaking… Read more »

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
May 25, 2013 11:04 am

Wow Mark that is great news and restores my faith in humanity as they say. Now maybe the prosecutors can look in the mirror and say to themselves “I was wrong and we all need to learn from this.” No more false prosecutions please.

May 25, 2013 11:23 am

Sleep is overrated when friends are in this vice called doa. A name like datcp might make us think that we don’t need to think at all. Dept of trade and consumer protection? Protection from what, health? I’m a bit concerned that this jury didn’t recognize that a hold order was not to protect consumers but rather to exclude their right of access to their real property. Apparently, that is what happens after a few days of mind numbing details about a somewhat efficient system of tracking food all the way from Vernon’s barn to the coop pantry. Very… Read more »

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
May 25, 2013 12:09 pm

“This is as close to Prohibition as anything I have ever seen, but this time it’s milk and an Amish farmer, rather than liquor and gangsters,” Reynolds said.

It doesn’t make sense that Vernon was found guilty of the 4th charge after being not guilty of the first 3. If he hadn’t done anything wrong, it stands to reason the holding order was clearly an illegal infringement, and Vernon had every right to free himself from those shackles. I know he would never do this, but he should sue the state for harassment and get restoration ad punitive… Read more »

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
May 25, 2013 12:29 pm

And here’s another: “I felt betrayed, because for 10 years I had tried to work with these people,” Hershberger said when asked how he felt when state officials ordered him to destroy raw milk from his bulk tank following the farm raid.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
May 25, 2013 2:15 pm

Wow. I am speechless. They ask a question and object to the answer? Is it because the answer is not what they want to hear? How is this a fair trial? It sounds like a mockery of our court system.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
May 25, 2013 2:24 pm

There is some positive in this world. Thanks Mark for letting us know sooner than later!

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
May 25, 2013 2:25 pm

That’s a good point ora.

May 25, 2013 3:56 pm

Any time a persons rights are being violated by the state in a trial they always pull these same tricks of limiting evidence and lines of argument to tie the hands of the defendant’s ability to defend himself. Its a corruption of the justice system but very common. Standard Operating Procedure.

The legal system looks down upon the common man and juries and despises the thought that juries have the right to nullify unjust laws. It’s the citizens one last reproach against their captors. Thats why they do everything possible to limit the juries options and knowledge of their powers.

Not… Read more »

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
May 25, 2013 4:02 pm

Speaking of Monsanto,“Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds”

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
May 25, 2013 4:07 pm

I agree Ora, the judge aught to recognize the contradiction and drop the fourth charge as well.


Dave Milano
May 25, 2013 4:09 pm

Good for Vernon. But it seems to me this victory is very narrow, just as Judge Reynolds designed it. The jury obviously avoided the important question of whether they should convict a harmless person under authority of an unjust bureaucratic law. Instead, they did exactly as Judge Reynolds instructed, and considered only Hershberger’s compliance. Mu guess is that they found Hershberger not guilty on three counts because the prosecution hadn’t made the case, not because the law was bad. On the matter of the tape, Hershberger himself allowed during the trial that he violated the order–in effect broke the… Read more »

Shawna Barr
May 25, 2013 4:33 pm

My husband and I stayed up and watched the verdict read live. They got it right…all except the holding order part…. Interesting that judges and the state see things so differently than the “people.” I’m thankful we have a jury system, and sometimes they actually get it right, despite the lack of a fair try and absence of important evidence.

The prosecution’s comment that Mr. Hershberger should “just get a license. It’s $265.” was revoltingly deceptive. There is no license that would allow him to sell raw milk products. Additionally, if he were to get a dairy license, a… Read more »

D. Smith
May 25, 2013 4:39 pm

Exactly, Dave. This is only the thunder, the lightning is yet to come.