In Vernon Hershberger’s Decision “Not to Join in Their Game,” But Rely on Local Support for Raw Milk Distribution…a Way Around the WI Bossman?

Vernon HershbergerA few people here have wondered what’s up with Vernon Hershberger, a Wisconsin dairy farmer who resorted to civil disobedience 15 months ago rather than knuckle under to the the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

In the process of carrying out two inspections, DATCP inspectors slapped stickers on the coolers storing dairy products in his small farm store, ostensibly to prevent the coolers from being opened. The inspectors also dumped blue dye in a bunch of his raw milk. And they left him with a “Special Summary Order”, signed by the Bossman himself, Steven C. Ingham, head of the Division of Food Safety, that stated, among other things:
* “Consumption of unpasteruized raw milk is dangerous to health;”
* “The sale or distribution of unpasteurized raw milk creates an imminent health hazard;”
* “By selling or distributing raw milk milk and raw milk products, the Respondent is violating…Wis. Stats.”
* “The Respondent may request a hearing…limited to whether the summary special order is justified in its terms.”

As I described at the time, Hershberger made a decision to part company with DATCP, and cut the tape and immediately re-open. Only the 200 members of his food club can obtain milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products. His private club members hold a lease to all of Hershberger’s livestock. They essentially are only receiving the products that rightfully belong to them through the lease. They compensate Hershberger for the work he does and everything else it takes to raise and take care of the animals and whatever else is involved in providing members with the food they need.

I visited him a few weeks ago when I was in Wisconsin, just before Judge Patrick Fiedler issued his decision upholding DATCP’s seemingly absolute authority in the Craig and Zinniker case.

I wanted to meet Hershberger in person, because I admire his courage in challenging the Wisconsin authorities in their campaign to deny people access to healthful foods. He said at that time he was fine with me writing about him, which I hadn’t yet done by the time Judge Fiedler made his decision. Since the decision came out, I checked in to make sure he wasn’t afraid to be quoted in light of the harsh decision.

Being the humble man that he is, Hershberger told me it was okay, “But I don’t want to be boastful. I only want to encourage the consumers and farmers.” He didn’t say it, but fear seems not to be part of his makeup.

His advice to other Wisconsin farmers: avoid getting sucked into legal proceedings of any sort with state regulators. He said that when his legal problems began with DATCP last year, he was advised by some to establish a limited liability corporation, or herdshare, and “do tons of paperwork” that could be submitted to DATCP. A few farmers warned him that he was risking his farm and its 35 cows by challenging DATCP and its warnings of a $5,000 fine for each violation of the order.

He decided then and there he wasn’t going to have anything to do with lawyers or DATCP hearings or judicial proceedings. “I just feel very strongly not to join in their game. That’s what I call it. When they came here to close us down, they were trying to get me to join in their game. Get a lawyer. Try to release my products.”

Instead, he says, “I didn’t play. I just kept on providing product. Once they get you in their game, they’ll suck you dry.” Moreover, everything is out in the open, no under-the-table stuff on his part.

He’s been inspired by the example of Michael Schmidt in Canada. He, too, was threatened with huge fines following three raids by Ontario authorities–fines that had become so large the judge who ruled in Schmidt’s favor in early 2010 said they couldn’t even be calculated.

Hershberger credits his members with standing behind him, and voicing objections to local officials. He also credits local law enforcement people with standing by him. He says a local sheriff’s deputy told a Hershberger confidant: “If there was ever a time I wouldn’t want to be in law enforcement, that (raid on Hershberger’s farm to tape the coolers) was it. There isn’t anything going to happen to that case, because there are too many people in law enforcement who feel the same way.” That’s helped discourage local prosecutors from filing charges.

Hear that, Wisconsin farmers? There is a way out of the pickle Judge Fiedler’s decision seems to have created. It requires you letting go of your fear, and of mobilizing your customers, and taking the temperature of local law enforcement. Going as local as you can go. Without the cops to back them up, it’s tough for the pencil pushers to push too hard.

It seems to me that if you all go about your business of openly selling raw milk on a private basis, their warnings about dire consequences may be as empty as their warnings about the dangers of raw milk. It’s very difficult for them to go after everyone.

Slavery or freedom? Which will Wisconsin dairymen choose?


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20 Comments on "In Vernon Hershberger’s Decision “Not to Join in Their Game,” But Rely on Local Support for Raw Milk Distribution…a Way Around the WI Bossman?"

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Tim wightman
September 19, 2011 6:44 am

With the predictable outcome of the Judges ruling with DATCP, not because of incompetence of the FTCLDF as some claim is the cause, but because the weight DATCP has in Wi and it close relationship with food Corps and Food trade organizations in this country, I felt the urge to comment on the outcome given it all started with my fateful phone call to DATCP 13 years ago almost to the day on how to allow consumers a product they were asking for.
After two incarnations of the Cowshare model and mutiple requests by DATCP to change after that it became clear this is only going to be won by the people deciding to take matters in thier own hands and take responsibility for the actions that started this progression of learning about restrictions on our rights to food we want.
In that 13 years we have learned DATCP will never be happy with any version of choice, I watched the late Rod Neseltusion in his first address to the DATCP board tell them that the federal government was the only money source he was going to pursue given the lax income generation in the State to Fund DATCP. We now have FDA telling us we have no right to food of our choice and no suprise that understanding filtered down to the County Judge level.
So, the FTCLDF has lifted the monitary burden of the realization from a few farmers, and one more causuality is added to the notches of the gun DATCP carrys in the open and points at anyone it chooses.
So, whats it going to be. Are we as consumers going to finger point on what went wrong or are you going to demand your product and begin to stand with your producer and share the risk.
The FTCLDF will not last forever and was not meant too, but your choice now today will.
I complained in the early part of 2002 it was unfair for farmers who had been taught to bear all risk were doing so to see what idea stuck for distribution and farms were being lost and lives significatly altered in the process, thankfully 5 years later the FTCLDF was founded.
But, the core issue remains.
You asked for it….. what are you going to do to keep it.
When are we going to stop handing over our responsibility to lawmakers laywers and farmers and take action that is the core of our republic.
Yes it is inconvienent, yes it takes time and yes one has to revisit their lives to understand what is at stake. These are not bad things but are representative of a life worth living and losing the dependency we have on those we have traditionally given our responsibility to.
Consumerism moves responsiblity to others, partnerships and shared responsiblity fosters change.
We won't buy our way out of this, we will have to eat our way out. the bitter roots of our complacency will be replaced by the sweet grass and cream of our efforts. But there are still many years in front of this horse than the time we will get to ride in the cart.
This is not a quest for our choice to eat, is is the rethinking of our society and how we are organizaned and how we spend our lives.
To miss that point is to keep writing checks and checking our responsibility at the farm gate, and having to look our grandchildren in the eye and try to explain why we did not do more.
Tim Wightman

Gordon Watson
September 19, 2011 6:51 am

early in the days of the Republic, Chief Justice Marshall made an Order of the Supreme Court with which the President didn't agree. He said "Marshall has made his Order … now let's see him enforce it"
the statement by the local "shire reeve" is very important …. the tide changes when the Man with the Gun starts sympathizing with the dissidents

Jennifer Feeney
September 19, 2011 8:05 am

I was recently reminded of the closing remarks of a speech given by Winston Churchill to a group of students in 1941. I think they are worth remembering:

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

Keep fighting my friends and standing up to what appears toi be an overwhelming force.

lola granola
September 19, 2011 8:46 am

I wrote this as a comment on the previous article earlier today, before this article on Vernon was posted:

"DATCP has no jurisdiction over private contracts (see Ingvar's example on page 1 of the comments); it only has jurisdiction over those who form voluntary contracts with it (i.e. those who want to sell milk into commerce or the public food supply). No contract, no jurisdiction. Vernon Hershberger is a prime example of this. Why hasn't DATCP pursued charges against Vernon? No contract, no jurisdiction!"

lola granola
September 19, 2011 9:17 am

On page 2 of the comments section from the previous article, David wrote:

"…to make the point that Wisconsin via Judge Fiedler has given DATCP what amounts to absolute power over Wisconsin's dairy farmers, indeed, all farmers in the state."

But in regards to Vernon, David writes in this article:
"I visited him a few weeks ago when I was in Wisconsin, just before Judge Patrick Fiedler issued his decision …"

David, you knew weeks ago that DATCP was not pursuing charges against Vernon because he had no contract with them. Yet in the case of the Zinnickers/Craigs you have implied that the decision amounted to a statist takeover of farming in Wisconsin. You knew all this time that this was not the case. It appears you are trying to deceive your readers.

Barney Google
September 19, 2011 9:49 am

I find it amazing. The so-called experts in the raw milk movement are being outsmarted by a bunch of us dumb farmers.

The Complete Patient
September 19, 2011 8:29 pm

lola granola:
I wish I knew half of what you give me credit for knowing. ("…you knew weeks ago that DATCP was not pursuing charges against Vernon…") I knew nothing of the sort. Charges against Vernon could be brought at any time. And by the way, they wouldn't come from DATCP, as I understand it. That agency can't file civil or criminal charges–they'd have to come from a district attorney or WI attorney general.

To your statement, "No contract, no jurisdiction", that may well be the case. But DATCP isn't operating on that premise. It believes it has "a contract," as you put it–the "Summary Special Order" I quoted from in my post couldn't be clearer in its position that Vernon Hershberger is under DATCP's jurisdiction. You and I can disagree with that position. And it may be that a local prosecutor has accepted your position as a reason for not filing charges against Hershberger. But that is all speculation on my part (and yours).

Barney Google:
I'm not sure who's being "outsmarted" by whom, but if your "bunch of dumb farmers" includes Vernon Hershberger, I say, keep doing what you're doing, and find more farmers to join you. You may well have the winning formula.


Mark McAfee
September 19, 2011 11:42 pm

I do not think that anyone is dumb ibn this movement….

It is all a matter of which arena you chose to serve, fight or teach.

There is the:

Legislative….. RAWMI, RMAC, Grass Roots, WAP and others.
Executive Admin Appeals….FTCLDF, RAWMI, Farmers and others.
Court of public opionion….WAP, Farmers protesting, Consumers, RAWMI, Teaching, RMAC & others.

All of these working in their chaotic synchrony over time wins the change.

None of these arenas are stupid…all are essential. Change… just like diamonds…. takes pressure and time from all sides.

Mark McAfee
September 20, 2011 3:11 am


I am involved with a raw milk political reality check out here in CA and I think it is worthy to share some of it with the greater national and internation raw milk crowd. To all of you that think we still have freedom….think again. That freedom was lost 50-60 years ago when our grand parents failed to show up at hearings in Sacramento to protest market protecting "Big Ag" Food and Ag Codes that prohibit and limit raw milk production and its availability. It is not your fault…but it is this generations fight to change.

In CA we are blessed to have 100% legal raw milk sales. However, this right comes at a huge cost and it is very difficult to comply with these Food and Ag code regulations. If it was easy, there would be many more legal raw milk dairies etc….it is not easy.

There is also a secondary underground raw milk supply in CA. A Cow- Goat Share community ( that is about 120 strong ) has emerged to feed people, reconnect farmers and consumers back together. I am in 100% support of this emerging local food system. I do not think that it is exactly what the USDA " Get to Know Your Farmer and Get to Know Your Food" initiative was thinking when this concept was promoted a few years ago….but in reality, that this is exactly what connecting to local whole food looks like when it is practiced. So congrats to the USDA….people in CA have "got to know there farmers" and now we have Animal Share based contracted raw milk supplies all over the place.

This underground system has now come under attack…big time. Criminal charges, CDFA cease and desist orders…..not fun…not free and not good. These share programs have no definitions and largely they are a freedom fest and take on all sorts of shapes, sizes and safety realities. Some are just Grade A dairies that sell there raw milk off the bulk tank…no testing no contracts…just a verbal pronouncement that they are a cow share program.

These pioneering farmers and their consumers are all alone and some have rejected collaborative relationships as they stand against the machine that seeks to wreck and oppress them. They have not been to Sacramento to seek change…they have not sued CDFA to seek balance of treatment( except for Mike Hulme ). These programs are outside looking in…

Some of these share operators reject even the support of the State Grange, OPDC and me. They see us as somehow selling out to CDFA by meeting with them and coming up with an exemption ( a legal definition ) which will exempt CDFA from authority over them. In my world, I can not understand this logic at all.

To all of the Share operators that reject political support from the Grange, OPDC and me….please reconsider your reluctance to join together in strength. If you stay outside the process….surely you will be hung one by one and eaten like road kill as the process wears you down and the SWAT teams seize your property, your cash, your computers, your email lists and close you down. That is not freedom…that is ugly ignorance and a failure to appreciate your enemy. Big Dairy and their processors are Big Ugly. They hate you!!! I know because when greeted in the halls of the legislature ( when OPDC tried to change laws in 2008 ), one of the senior representatives of these Big Ugly organizations….said straight to my face, "F….You…..and your raw milk!!". This is an exact quote. I will not share the name of the guy from the largest dairy coop in CA that said this to me….but in private I will share. Ask me the next time we meet.

The time is now…join all forces together, negotiate a truce, determine a "reasonable definition" for what a Animal Share is….and then be free to feed your people.

If you can not trust me….you do not know me. Please speak with those that do know me. Speak to Mike Hulme, Pattie and Jerome. We are brothers and sisters in this nutritional civil rights uprising. We are strong if we are many…..the enemy prays every evening and every morning that raw milk will stay divided and weak…

Do not give them their prayer. Instead lets get some peace so we can produce and provide safe delicious healing raw milk to our people. Together we will shift the paradigm and change will happen.

Your biggest most passionate supporter.

Divided we die…together we thrive.


Mary Martin
September 20, 2011 6:55 am

September 19, 2006
Day 13 hospital

This day was more of the same: dialysis, blood transfusion and plasma. Somewhere in this timeframe, he also received platelets. We were watching and waiting for improvement.

Remember how there had been some research done with a product called ambrotose and HUS. My sister-in-law found someone who had a topical form of this glyconutrient and they brought it to us at the hospital. I went to the health food store and bought a liquid DHA/EPA formula. Our skin is the largest organ in the body and absorbs everything that is put on it. We talked to the doctors about applying both products to Chris skin and they said it wouldnt do any harm. Chris hadnt eaten anything for almost two weeks.

Chris continued to be irritated by the NG tube. I didnt write down the exact day this occurred, but it was sometime before he was taken off the ventilator. In the middle of the night, he had figured out how to wiggle his body down the bed to where his hands were tied and pulled the NG tube out of his nose. Thank goodness he didnt pull out the vent tube. News got around about the feat our little stinker accomplished. No child had ever done this before. The PICU nurses are amazing. The nurse on duty that night described in detail Chris personality without ever having had a conversation with him. She told us he was intelligent, but also cooperative and very sweet. How could she possibly know that? Was hooking your child up to a ventilator and then tying his hands to the bed some kind of sick intelligence test? The nurse talked the doctor into letting the NG tube remain out. Chris was so much happier. I tried not to ponder on the thought about what it must have been like for Chris to have one tube down his throat and another down his nose and then realizing that his hands were tied to the bed. I preferred to focus on the fact he wouldnt remember any of it. We all had to cope and get through this ordeal.

I didnt write it down, but I believe this was the day someone from CDFA called me. It could have also been the previous day, but I know it happened before Chris was taken of the ventilator. He asked me questions about the milk. When did we purchase it? When did Chris drink it and what was the expiration date on the bottle? I could answer the first two questions, but not the last. Shortly after this, a public health nurse called me. She was asking me questions about Chris eating spinach and she wanted to know if we still had a sample they could test. I told her that it was still in the refrigerator, but that I would have to drive home and get it. I told her that I thought the empty bottle of raw milk might still be in the kitchen trash can.

Once at home, it was so strange. The house felt like a house, not our home. Home is where your family lives and our new home was the hospital. The spinach was in the refrigerator, still in the plastic produce bag from the health food store, and the empty bottle of milk was in the kitchen trash can.

Once back at the hospital, my in-laws took the milk and spinach home in a cooler. We didnt know when the public health nurse could pick up the food, but we would have it available for her when she came to the hospital. My sister-in-law took pictures of everything, including the bottle of milk. That was the first time we became aware there was a warning label on the bottle. The expiration date was September 10th. We purchased the milk on September 1st. Chris drank the milk on September 3rd and 4th and I threw the milk away either on the evening of the 4th or 5th because it looked like it was beginning to curdle and it smelled sour.

It took a day or two for the public health nurse to pick up the food to be tested. We would have our answer as to what made Chris ill. I was still rooting for spinach.

Leon Shelhamer
September 20, 2011 7:21 am

Stay strong Vernon Hershberger! I am a concerned consumer/new blogger. I found this blog through a Weston A Price Foundation campaign. As I read am both happy to find so much information shared and unhappy to know that this controversy over the safety of raw milk is giving us so much to share. I am gonna pass this info on to my viewers and link to this site. My blog can be found at and our first article on raw milk can be found at I hope you all can make time to check us out we are trying to build an audience. We welcome constructive criticism oh and compliments too lol.

Mark McAfee
September 20, 2011 9:58 am

Three more Share the Secret raw milk presentations this weekend in LA.

I was honored to sit on a panel next to Bill Niman ( organic meat pioneer ) Mel Coleman
( natural beef pioneer ) Dr. Cindy Daly (Chico State ) the first organic dairy in the USA. This panel was part of the closing event of the Good Food Convention in Santa Monica.

Teaching was 10xxxx..The front row had raw milk consumers wearing Get Raw Milk shirts…wow. I am impressed.

At least 250 people in CA now are much more educated about raw milk….and that does not include the online students that were exposed.

Sylvia Gibson
September 20, 2011 11:56 pm

"ban is unfair, calling the law "silly, antiquated and anti-free market,"

The same could be said about raw milk.

Mark McAfee
September 21, 2011 1:01 am

A Huge Email Side Bar Debate Rages ( I have recieved or been copied with at least 50 well crafted thoughtful emails arguing all about this matter ).

… Raw Milk about: "Rights and Freedom or….. is it about Safety??"

Which arguments are best used to liberate the American Consumer or the American Farmer from this judicial and legislative oppression??

In my humble experience, it is inextricably linked to both.

It is not possible to be free and have rights and freedoms with out also the obligation to be personally responsible for choices.

It is not possible to have freedom if that freedom results in illness and therefore Safety is critical.

Many years ago….the American citizen and the American culture made a deal with the devil. Freedoms were traded for regulations. Many of these trades were made by scaring the citizens into thoughts of fear based on false industrial concepts and cures for filth. But none the less….the trade was made and our grandparents did not show up to protest the loss of freedom. Now it is our turn to regain these lost freedoms.

This means that the trade-off must be undone. It means that regulations that were passed into law to relieve our fears must be loosened. That means that we must now take back the personal responsibily we traded away 75 years ago.

Americans are only partially awake. The percentage of those awakened enough to be personally responsible is a fraction of a percentage….but growing.

Safety and science on the other hand is something that fights fear and ignorance. If fears and illness got us into this Faustian deal and regulatory trade-off with the Devil….then intelligence and education will get us out.

Safety and Science ( hard data and proof ) will get us Freedom….one can not occur with out the other.

Both are critical.


Mary Martin
September 21, 2011 7:23 am

September 20, 2006
Day 14 hospital

This was a hopeful day because they were going to attempt taking Chris off the ventilator. They were becoming worried that his lungs would weaken too much and also about getting an infection. He had developed a low grade fever in the middle of the night. They were concerned that one of his lungs was partially collapsed, but they wanted to try to remove the vent tube and see how he did on his own.

This was an extremely long day. As one area was improving, heart and lungs, another area was becoming a concern. The GI doctor came to talk to us about his pancreas. They didnt like how hard his stomach had become or the results of lab tests on his pancreas. Remember the Gb3 cells the Shiga toxins attack. The pancreas is a vulnerable organ.

At about 9:00 a.m. they stopped giving Chris the meds that kept him sedated. He needed to be awake in order to breathe on his own. He received dialysis also, so we thought this would help speed up the process. It didnt. It took almost 12 hours to bring Chris to a conscious state. Our backs were killing us from bending over talking to him and holding his arms. We had untied him from the bed.

He went from being intubated to the oxygen mask. It took much effort for him to breath. I could feel my anxiety level beginning to rise. He looked around the room and seemed so confused. I was happy he was off the ventilator, but now we were back to Chris suffering. I felt dead inside.

Chris tried to talk to us, but he could only say a few words. His voice was very raspy. The nurses told us it would take a few days before Chris would be able to speak more than a few words.

Remember when they told us that Chris would never remember being on the ventilator. We didnt realize that Chris had no memory of ever having been in the hospital. His last memory was having diarrhea all day at his grandparents home. It never dawned on us that Chris wouldnt remember the 9 days in the hospital prior to being intubated. The poor kid woke up to this hospital scene and no one ever explained to him why he was there. We just assumed he remembered everything. We wouldnt realize this happened until two years after he was out of the hospital. A writing assignment at school triggered the subject.

September 21, 2011 7:40 am

Hey Y'all,

There's been some talk on here about supporting your local farmer, especially in the face of government goons. There will be a "Right2KnowMarch" beginning on Oct 1st and goes through the 16th. The March is described as:

"Most Americans agree we have a right to know whats in our food, and a right to choose safe, healthy food for our families and ourselves. And yet 80% of the packaged foods in America contain Genetically Engineered ingredients that have not been proven safe, and are not labeled!

Between October 1st and October 16th of this year, marchers from all across the country will be walking from New York City to the White House, in Washington DC, demanding labeling of all Genetically Engineered Foods, in what has come to be called the GMO Right2Know march. Come walk with us step-by-step we will take back our Right to Know!

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) endanger our health, the environment, and our farmers livelihoods. For too long, biotechnology companies like Monsanto have lobbied against labeling products containing their patented plants plants which are specially designed to be sprayed with cancer-causing weed-killers, and plants which produce pesticides in every one of their cells.

The GMO Right2Know March is the first of its kind in America, and will have daily events between its kickoff in New York City and its finale at the White House, in Washington, DC. Come for the knowledgeable speakers, fun presentations, camping, and much, much more! Now is your chance to make your voice heard. We will win back our Right to Know whats in our food one step at a time!

Sign up, bring a group, and join the Right2Know community! We are looking for walkers, bikers, drivers, volunteers, cheerleaders, hosts, and any other supporters out there!"

I think participating in this march would be a great way to help our local farmers, and also use it as a opportunity to spread the word about raw milk and health freedom in general. l will be attending the Right2KnowMarch. You can also if you live on the east coast.


How is Chris doing these days? Is he having residual effects from the E. Coli? I read some information suggesting that Coenzyme Q10 is helpful for kidneys. It likely won't restore kidney function to 100% but it would certainly help. :)

Mary Martin
September 21, 2011 9:32 am

Thanks BlueDog for the info on Coenzyme Q10. He does take that.

Violet Willis
September 21, 2011 9:46 am

So, Mary . . . did they find the e-coli in the curdled milk or the spinach? If niether . . . perhaps he picked it up from something else . . . you had the milk bottle that Chris drank from and also the spinach . . . and if niether were positive then perhaps . . . maybe he picked it up from a restaurant or even at school . . .

We may never know . . . .

Glad Chris is doing better btw:)

Kind regards,


frank touh
September 21, 2011 10:55 am

TELL THEM TO GET STUFFED….If you want to own a cow..then own a cow…
IF you want to drink it's milk ..then drink it…
THESE little HILTLERS are controlling you..

david perry
September 29, 2011 5:39 pm

To whom this may concern.Actually this concerns every human being in the US.A case out of the admin court of South Carolina ruled that judges are private contractors for the corporations known as THE STATE OF SOUTH all 50 states fall under this federal ruling.The example I give is this.When you go to Wally world do you have to listen to the sales people if they tell you you must buy whatever,say a gallon of ice cream.No one can force you as you will walk out the store because you dont answer to this corporation.Now don't believe me but if you want to pursue this look up rod class vs the state of south carolina.This was settled last week,and where were you… or…
this is about true freedom with responsability