In Clean, Green, Serene Vermont, Ag Agency Threatens Legal Action to Block Classes on Raw Butter, Yogurt, Cheese–Why Farmers and Consumers Must Challenge the Bullies

Jared Carter, director of Rural Vermont, has some difficult decisions to make about holding dairy prep classes in Vermont. At the Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, Sen. Tom Coburn posed this situation: supposing Congress passed a law requiring all Americans to eat three fruits and three vegetables every day, would that be legal under the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce provisions?

“Sounds like a dumb law,” commented the Supreme Court justice-to-be…but she refused to say whether she’d consider it unconstitutional.

When I first heard the exchange, I figured that, despite all the government’s outrageous behavior around food in recent years, this particular notion of the government stepping in to control my food preparation and eating preferences wasn’t something likely to happen during my lifetime.

I was wrong. In clean, green, serene Vermont, something akin to Sen. Coburn’s proposal is in the process of going down. 

Here’s the situation: Rural Vermont, an activist organization that lobbies on behalf of small farms and food rights, planned a series of classes for consumers on preparing raw dairy products like butter, whipped cream, yogurt, and cheese.

The first class was being held tomorrow evening in East Barnard: “Raw Milk Baked Goods, Whipped Cream, Yogurt, and Butter”. It promised to teach “the ins and outs of homemade dairy products- and how to incorporate them into tasty baked treats!” Yum!

Next up was a class on cheese making for people with some experience (“delve deeper into the biology and chemistry of moulds, yeasts and bacteria.  We’ll discuss aging techniques and even spoon some curds together.”) The last class in the series was on preparing mozzarella, camembert, and farmers cheese.” (“A great class for getting into a variety of fun new products.”)

Tonight, Jared Carter, director of Rural Vermont, sent out emails suspending the classes, with this statement:

“Our dairy classes have been put on hold due to a Notice of Warning from the Agency of Agriculture’s alleging that by teaching consumers (or “unlicensed persons” in his words) how to make butter, yogurt, cheese, and other products at home Rural Vermont and our farmer hosts are in violation of Vermont law. The raw dairy processing classes are an important part of Rural Vermont’s campaign to educate consumers on raw milk and to increase exposure for farmers selling raw milk in their community. The warning threatened legal action towards Rural Vermont and our farmers. Rural Vermont does not want to put our farmer members at risk so we are temporarily suspending the classes.

“The Agency’s argument centers around its interpretation of the 2009 Raw Milk Law, in which they claim that it is illegal for farmers to knowingly sell raw milk to customers who plan to do anything to their milk besides drink it.  Rural Vermont believes this violates the intent of the law and does not agree with the Agency’s interpretation.  Nevertheless, until we have solid understanding of the Agency’s official policy, we have decided to suspend the classes.”

I know Jared Carter didn’t ask my advice, and besides, his organization has a great record of accomplishment on behalf of Vermont farmers–it was instrumental in a five-year battle to expand Vermont’s raw milk law the ended with new legislation in 2008 that satisfied most raw dairy producers.

But this situation is so outrageous, I’m going to offer advice anyway: Rescind that suspension order, pronto. Hold that class tomorrow afternoon, or re-schedule it, along with the other classes in your series. Invite television stations and other media to attend, and see if the Agency of Agriculture shows up. Challenge the bozos to go for a restraining order or injunction, or better yet, to come to the class and seek to interfere. I certainly will be glad to be there, and I can tell you, I won’t obey any order to leave the class. I can almost guarantee they won’t even try such theatrics. And when it’s over, you’ll have SRO in your remaining classes from all the publicity you’ll get, which at $20-40 a class, will produce some badly needed change.

Your first defense is the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment, protecting free speech. You can teach about anything you want (except maybe how to build a nuclear bomb, and even there you may have a case). You’re not part of the public school system, and as far as I know, you aren’t receiving government funds. You are your own man and your own organization, you can shout from the peaks and through the valleys of Vermont all the recipes in the world about raw dairy (and whatever else you want to teach people to prepare). And you can prepare whatever foods you want.

If my legal interpretation is erroneous, I’m sure there are lots of sharp lawyers out there who can figure out any of a dozen other constitutional protections you have that allow you to teach cooking classes. Don’t worry about paying the legal bills–at least a few of them will be willing to do it gratis, in exchange for the great publicity they’ll get from fighting such a blatant and outrageous case of food rights infringement.

And if by chance a judge grants an injunction against your classes, organize an Egypt/Tunisia/Yemen-style march. If this doesn’t get the populace worked up, I don’t know what will.

But you MUST NOT accede to this intimidation. That’s all it is, bluffery, intimidation. If you do go along with it, you are complicit in the affront the threat represents, and the goons will be emboldened to go the next step, and the next. This must not stand!?

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27 Comments on "In Clean, Green, Serene Vermont, Ag Agency Threatens Legal Action to Block Classes on Raw Butter, Yogurt, Cheese–Why Farmers and Consumers Must Challenge the Bullies"

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Smy Opin
February 17, 2011 12:52 pm


It sounds like even in Vermont, there are government employees who will soon be on sending out resumes.
People who dwell in the high places need to be reminded that they can become people who FORMERLY dwelled in high places faster than they might guess.

Mark McAfee
February 17, 2011 3:55 pm

I have met Jared and I have worked with and done some political work for Rural Vermont.

This is complete bullshit and can not stand!!!. The state Motto of Vermont is "Freedom and Equity". What the hell is going on here? This is not freedom,…. this is absolute inequity…sounds like Vermont needs to grow some balls and be a little more like New Hampshire and "Live Free or Die". The Leadership at Rural Vermont has just achieved the tipping point of change…to back off now is to surrender. For gods sake and even more importantly for our childrens sake… Read more »

Mark McAfee
February 17, 2011 4:06 pm


I agree 100% with your assessment!! Rural Vermont must reschedule the classes and send invitations to the regulators with a firm message….Freedom and Equity…..go screw yourselves.


Shana Milkie
February 17, 2011 10:02 pm

What? I can hardly believe I'm reading this.

Thank you David, for exposing this untenable intimidation by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. The more publicity about this outrageous behavior, the better.

I second the call for Rural Vermont to hold and/or reschedule the classes as soon as possible. If we want our free speech, we've got to exercise it.

deborah evans
February 17, 2011 10:27 pm

I CAN believe it! This is un-Constitutional but that doesn't stop the rule-makers from going too far.

Rural Vermont must take up the baton of leadership and begin the push-back. The bureau-craps aren't prepared for the Citizenry to stand up and say "NO." Call all of the Patrons of FRESH milk in Vermont [ and it looks like there are many from the WAP site] to join in your NEW campaign for Free Speech.

Get the press across the US+Canada to sing out! They LOVE a controversy, David + Goliath stuff sells papers and air time. The TV cooking… Read more »

Jeremy Johnson
February 17, 2011 10:28 pm

Excellent post, David.

Mark McAfee
February 18, 2011 2:34 am

Our standing protocol at OPDC, when ever the FDA or any agency does something stupid against state raw milk law or threatens some bad rediculous anti-raw milk action…is to call a press conference and contact all of our consumers and spread the news. This manure spreading really gets the grass roots all riled up and on high action alert….

This is the exposure that is critical to gain power and cause change.
Do not hide when they threaten you….expose them to the world for threatening you!!! Use their own letters against them….print them in full living color and publish them… Read more »

Bill Anderson
February 18, 2011 3:03 am


While the infringements on personal freedom and freedom of assembly here are certainly outrageous, I'd like to address the food safety perspective on these things.

Butter, Yogurt, and Cheese are all inherintly safer than fluid raw milk. As long as you are adding a robust population of living lactic-acid producing bacteria to your milk as it warms up to culturing temperatures, you are only IMPROVING food safety by making these types of cultured products.

Yogurt, for example, is extremely acidic. It has a pH of around 4.1. It causes E. Coli to perish. See these studies:

<a target="new"… Read more »

Bill Anderson
February 18, 2011 3:10 am

I just found a study which suggests that adding garlic to your butter makes it even safer!!

"The addition of garlic to butter enhanced the rates of inactivation of all three pathogens at 21 and 37 degrees C."

Sylvia Gibson
February 18, 2011 4:17 am

garlic also contains a natural chemical that can cause burn like wounds on the skin. Some web sites say it is a natural antibiotic, also it can interfere with anticoag drugs….(disclaimer;always check with your health care provider)
Raw garlic stored in oil can grow botulism.

Bill Anderson
February 18, 2011 4:31 am

"Raw garlic stored in oil can grow botulism."

Even cooked garlic can harbor botulism, because it is a spore-forming organism and can survive prolonged boiling temps (212F). It takes over 280F to kill botulism spores.

But, IF you pickle it first (bring the pH to less than 4.6), it won't grow botulism when put in oil. This could even be done without heat as an old-fashioned lacto-fermented pickle, so you'd have raw pickled garlic in oil!

Ben Hewitt
February 18, 2011 7:42 am


I have a question for you. Do you know anything about the risk of botulism in dry-cured meats, such as salami and chorizo? We've been experimenting with dry-cure sausages at home, and have been using nitrates out of our fear of botulism, but are wondering how real the threat is. The PH of the finished sausages in generally in the 4.6 range you mention above. I can't really find anyone to say it's ok to not use nitrates, but that could simply be because they're covering their butts, so to speak.

Thanks in advance,

Ben Hewitt
February 18, 2011 7:44 am


we are in VT and are supporters of Rural VT. It's a great organization.

I'm not sure why they caved so readily on this, but I intend to ask them.

Bill Marler
February 18, 2011 8:17 am

David – I interpret the VT law as once a consumer is allowed to buy raw milk, they can (or at least should be) allowed to do whatever they want with it (turn it into butter, cheese, etc) except resell it (that seems clearly outside the law at this point)

Am I missing something?. I think I'm with you and Ben on this one.

Bill Anderson
February 18, 2011 8:56 am


I'm a cheese maker, not an expert on cured meats… BUT from my understanding, nitrates are actually somewhat traditional in charcuterie and enhance the flavor. Or rather than nitrates, I should say saltpeter, which is a natural part of some salt deposits in their unrefined state.

A live active lactic acid fermentation which drops the pH of the sausage below 4.6 should be good protection against botulism too. And storing the sausage in a purely aerobic enviroment. Botulism is a strict anareobe — it cannot grow in the presence of oxygen.

But like I said,… Read more »

Bill Anderson
February 18, 2011 9:37 am

p.s. Nitrates are also used in some varieties of cheese to inhibit "late blowing" from clostridial butyric spores (clostridium tyrobutyricum) in relatively high pH varieties of cheese (gouda, edam, butterkase mainly). Nitrates are banned in the U.S. from being used in cheese, but many industrially produced European cheeses have nitrates in them, including cheeses imported to the U.S.

Also in Europe, AOC and DOP (name-protected raw milk cheeses) almost universally ban the use of nitrates in cheese. The trade off there is that the use of silage is banned in many of those cheeses (again, the higher pH… Read more »

February 19, 2011 12:55 am

Everyone here most probably eats real butter and not those disgusting, health-degenerating RBD seed oils (corn, canola, soy, etc), but in case anyone still actually uses those refined, bleached and deodorized oils, watch the YT comparisons between butter-making and canola oil-making:

Of course, I make my butter in my handy Kitchen Aid mixer… so simple.

February 19, 2011 12:57 am

And just think, that RBD crap is approved by the FDA as healthy… and safer than raw butter????

Bill Anderson
February 19, 2011 3:17 am

I'm bringing raw milk to share, at the massive grassroots protests going on in the state capital here in Madison, WI tonight!! What better opportunity to build cross-connection between family farms (and their supporters) and blue-collar workers!!

Power to the people! Raw milk for all!! ON WISCONSIN!!

Mark McAfee
February 19, 2011 6:55 am

Bill Anderson…you ROCK!!! Great idea.

This world is really readjusting all over the place. The internet is showing a better way forward and really displaying the inequities. The people are done with the dictators and the kings.

In the Arab world citizens are fed up with military oppression and being ruled by kings.
In America….we are done with the FDA military dictatorship over food choices.

I guess America is going to have to figuer out how to deal fairly withn people. In the past all we had to do was pay off a Shiek or a pompous ass… Read more »

Bill Anderson
February 19, 2011 7:22 am

One friend said it best:

"Come to Madison (the new "Cairo") as soon as possible to take part in the revolution."


I will try to get some pics/video of raw milk for the people!!

February 19, 2011 10:57 am

Scary analogy. Hopefully you guys don't assault anyone while calling them names.

Staying far far away from the raw milkies.

Truly Concerned
February 19, 2011 11:21 am


It seems that Lykke prefers a dictatorship in Egypt to a democracy. What an appropriate analogy to the dictator regulators.

Lykke are you a fascist also?

Mark McAfee
February 19, 2011 11:31 am


Do you live in the USA? In general terms, could you tell us who you work for…no spefics. I would just like to know who you are so I can better understand your perspective.


February 19, 2011 11:42 am

Truly Concerned,

You are so predictable – rarely see you post anything here until Lykke writes a comment. Regarding Egypt, I was referring to a not-literal concern about side groups/mobs who do bad things:

And, best wishes to this deeply caring reporter and her family in healing.


Lykke is a bit of everyone who challenges–and sometimes supports–you.

Truly Concerned
February 19, 2011 11:57 am


Are you comparing raw milkies to the sex assault perpetrators in the article you mentioned?

Why would you do that?

Wayne Craig
February 20, 2011 10:34 am

I note that Lykke refers to itself in the third person. I guess we really should not be surprised with that ego and personality!!

Here in WI I think I will suggest to my Dept. of Ag bureaucrat that they make the current cheesemaking and buttermaking license a requirement for home use as well as commmercial applications. If we don't stamp out this home cheese and buttermaking just think what that could lead to. WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!!!

These Vermont bureaucrats must be trying really hard to please Jim over at FDA.

Wayne… Read more »