Screw-Tightening Time on Michigan Raw Milk Herdshares

In the month-long game between Michigan agriculture regulators and raw milk distributor My Family Co-Op, the regulators today put down the “Gotcha!” card.

If you’ll remember, last month the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development forced My Family Co-Op to dispose of nearly $5,000 worth of raw milk, eggs, cream, and other food after the agency determined the co-op was distributing raw milk products like cream and butter in violation of a policy statement on herd shares issued last year. It also said My Family Co-Op was selling other products like eggs and meat without a retail license. 

At first glance, the letterJenny Samuelson. owner of My Family Co-Op, received from the MDARD today seemed to be good news. “Based on the violations observed on July 15, 2014, the MDARD could seek administrative fines, pursue criminal charges, or seek a restraining order against you and My Family Co-Op. However, because you and My Family Co-Op have no record of previous violations of the Michigan Food Law, the MDARD is electing not to pursue these option.” Translation: We are such good guys, we are letting you off the hook this time. 

More good news. “My Family Co-Op may resume the delivery of Fresh Umprocessed Whole (FUW) Milk to those individuals who have a valid herd share agreement directly with the farm.” 

The letter goes on to suggest that even more favorable news is coming—that a retail food license Samuelson applied for last week is in process. 

The letter does remind Samuelson she “may not resume the delivery of (other raw milk) products, which include butter, buttermilk, and cream.” 

But the real kicker, the “Gotcha!”, comes in the letter’s last paragraph: “All products that are sold or delivered will be required to be labeled, stored, and distributed in a manner that conforms to the requirements of the Michigan Food Law. For example, the distribution of FUW milk, using a licensed food establishment vehicle or the storage of FUW milk at a licensed food establishment, would be a violation of the Michigan Food Law and your license.” 

In other words, once Samuelson has her prized retail food license, she will be prohibited from distributing raw milk from the same truck as other foods covered by the license. So theoretically, she’d have to make two trips to deliver food to her members. It wouldn’t be feasible, since she already travels many miles to serve her members. 

Like most farmers in Michigan, Samuelson also didn’t examine the fine print in the policy statement that was issued last year. It wasn’t as if it was a subject for negotiation, in any event. But, of course, the regulators trip farmers up for a living, so they knew exactly what they were doing when they wrote the policy statement. 

Nor did I fully appreciate the Catch-22 when I wrote in a post that Michigan was different in its application of licensing laws from Wisconsin. It turns out they aren’t that different—Michigan does allow herdshares, where Wisconsin doesn’t. But Michigan requires herdshares to make a choice—they can distribute raw milk or they can distribute other food, but they can’t very easily do both. 

What is Samuelson to do in light of the fact that she is being told not to distribute raw milk in the same truck as other foods? I know she would welcome suggestions. 


In the meantime, she is suggesting that her members and other supporters call the author of the letter to her, MDARD’s compliance manager, Byron Beerbower, 517-284-5694 (he didn’t include an email.), and voice objections. 


I think the game being played by MDARD is called death by a thousand cuts. 

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47 Comments on "Screw-Tightening Time on Michigan Raw Milk Herdshares"

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mark mcafee
August 12, 2014 5:25 am

Michigan can also be caught in its own web of deceit. A law or regulation that creates a rediculous set of standards is not a good law. No where else in the USA where raw milk is legal are other foods prohibited from being transported in the same vehicle.

One question…did Jenny pay her yearly dues to FTCLDF? This is a no brainer piece of litigation. Commerce clauses surely are being violated by Michigan regulators. It is baseless and violates all sorts of constitutional protections. Sue the oppressive bunch of haters and be done with it.

mark mcafee
August 12, 2014 5:28 am


Is there some kind of Midwest food sickness… seems to run right down the middle of America from Wisconsin straight south…right on the Bible Belt. What is it about these states?

D. Smith
D. Smith
August 12, 2014 1:17 pm

Would she be able to pull a trailer (with the other food products like butter etc) behind her milk truck?

I wonder what Sysco would do if they had to have a different truck for all the crappy products they deliver every day.

D. Smith
D. Smith
August 12, 2014 4:01 pm

[quote] ” . . . it seems to run right down the middle of America from Wisconsin straight south . . .”[end quote]

Yes there is some kind of sickness – it’s called a yellow streak down the back of every gubmint worker afraid of losing his/her job. I do believe part of the reason we aren’t seeing job growth in America (no we aren’t) is because obozo is afraid that people will leave their current jobs and find something else to do if they don’t want to obey the current set of regulations they must enforce. If… Read more »

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
August 12, 2014 7:14 pm

Sysco is about the ditiest word in the english language speaking world if you were ever in the food industry or ate.

August 12, 2014 9:39 pm

“Like most farmers in Michigan, Samuelson also …” As I understand it, she seemingly is providing a service from the farmer (High Hill Dairy) via her herdshare agreement in her name with them to other customers; therefore, she is not operating according to the law. While I don’t believe raw milk should even be regulated, this article and many other references to this occurrence misconstrue that she is the farmer and has followed all related Michigan policy and guidelines when in fact she is not the farmer, therefore she is not following policy.

D. Smith
D. Smith
August 13, 2014 3:35 am

Yep, that’s another piece of the puzzle. It’s just too bad so many people sold out to Dean Foods before they realized the full nature of their intent. Now it’s just plain too late because no one could afford to buy out Dean Foods except an even larger corporate conglomerate. What a horrid thought.

The other awful thing about those same midwestern States is they are the same ones who are also catering to all the common core nonsense and try to ban homeschooling, and they have always been the States who push vaccines and try to ban… Read more »

August 13, 2014 4:40 am

It would be useful to see the separate agreements, so we can see the relationships clarified. We here may also be able to suggest improvements that may help them all. Can you obtain and post, David?

mark mcafee
August 13, 2014 5:34 am

Got a call from a single mom today. She needed help because she was under attack from her baby daddy ( she was never married to him ) who wanted custody of their 17 month daughter and was using the ” warning ” label on the back of our Opdc milk bottle as an example of unfit mothering!!! Now…I have heard it all. The father was using the FDA and national pediatrics anti raw milk garbage against our raw milk mom.

She was pleading for help. Her daughter loves opdc raw milk and has never had anything other than breast… Read more »

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
August 13, 2014 1:57 pm

If this man’s rational holds true, then a parent who vaccinates their child can be sued for custody. Take a look at the warnings on the vaccine package inserts.
Conventional medicine and the health bureaucracy that governs same, is a breeding ground for inconsistent irrational reasoning. Hell… consider abortion where it is a crime for a pregnant woman to make a decision that endangers the life of her unborn child yet she is within her right and legally entitled to abort that child if she so chooses.


Southern Consumer
August 13, 2014 4:42 pm

Sysco would simply increase their contributions to the local and federal politicians, thus creating a loophole to exempt them from such laws/rules

Shana Milkie
August 13, 2014 5:32 pm

And pray tell what law has Jenny Samuelson violated? I don’t think it’s clear at all that she’s done anything illegal or that any potential charges from the Dept. of Agriculture are legitimate. I admire her entrepreneurial initiative and believe she’s doing a service for the citizens of Michigan. We need hundreds more like her in our economically depressed state. She should be celebrated, not persecuted!

While she is not the farmer, she does provide a conduit for the food to go directly from producers to consumers. That route of food distribution is not the equivalent of a retail food… Read more »

August 13, 2014 9:56 pm

No law violated, but maybe the farmers, herdshare members, and Jenny need to work out a plan which looks more above-board and have more arms-length, business relationships. Three separate parties, three separate contracts. Look at the model of consumer food cooperatives in Japan such as SCCC – see – the co-op (the members are consumers) contracts separately with both farmer(s) and the delivery companies, and can then choose whatever farmers and companies provide the best services. Why aren’t American and Canadian consumers, with our supposed love of independence, taking the initiative and doing this… Read more »

August 13, 2014 9:56 pm

Happened in Ontario too.

August 13, 2014 10:48 pm

Two typos in my previous comment found and corrected:

” Three separate parties, TWO separate contracts.”

” I feel UNcomfortable about people appropriating and using the term “co-op” …”

D. Smith
D. Smith
August 14, 2014 2:29 am

Sysco obviously already has lobbied for the right to legally break the law in this regard, doncha think?

mark mcafee
August 14, 2014 4:13 am

Ok…. After some research, I found out with why Eureka Natural foods located in Humboldt County is on the OPDC store locator. They carry OPDC raw cheese! They are forbidden from selling our raw milk, cream and butter or Kefir…. But our raw cheese is ok to sell in Humboldt County.

Little by little this anomaly is going to be changed …. I dropped in to say hi to the assemblyman that represents district 2 which covers multiple north coast CA counties including Humboldt and Del Norte. I was in Sacramento for a CDFA milk pool… Read more »

Shana Milkie
August 14, 2014 1:18 pm

Here is the e-mail I sent to Byron Beerbower at

Dear Mr. Beerbower,

Your recommendation that Jenny Samuelson obtain her retail food license was clearly ill-advised, so I respectfully ask you to begin again. She is arranging for food to be brought directly from producer to consumer, so she is not operating a retail food establishment and therefore should not be subject to retail food laws. Perhaps some new model of food distribution is needed here, or perhaps she fits in as a contractor of the producers or an agent of the consumers. In any case, shouldn’t it be the… Read more »

D. Smith
D. Smith
August 14, 2014 3:28 pm

Ahhhh, good plan. Put the onus probandi on them!

August 14, 2014 11:05 pm

Samuelson was operating illegally because the law specifically states that all raw milk is to be handled directly from the farmer to the herdshare consumers and although I support everyone being upset about this general topic of the government invading our food rights, it is irresponsible individuals such as Samuelson and High Hill Dairy for that matter that she was a herdshare member at, and facilitated this mess that THREATEN the existence of the Michigan state law by not abiding by it that allows for raw milk to be distributed like this at all. Local farmers and consumers fought… Read more »

August 15, 2014 2:19 am

Wouldn’t you also have to say that it is irresponsible for those who were receiving the deliveries to be ignorant of the law and ignorant of their posture as it pertains to the law? Perhaps they were given a bum steer, or hear-say and went with it instead of examining the law for themselves.
Your comment appears sensible.

Can anyone offer a critique or amplification of NicoleM’s comment?

As to whether we sort things out vs. go along with the crowd, I’ve seen a little poster that says:
“Me and you is friends…you smile, I smile…you hurt, I hurt…you cry, I cry…You… Read more »

D. Smith
D. Smith
August 15, 2014 2:28 am

@ NicoleM: I found this information regarding another Michigan farm.

“MICHIGAN: Welcome to Bellwether Farm! We are a small, Certified Naturally Grown family farm that focuses on quality and service, not quantity. On our farm we have a small herd of Guernsey cows. Our cows are a heritage breed that produce well on an all grass/hay diet. Guernsey milk has many unique health properties such as; high levels of Beta-Carotene, Omega-3, and Beta-Casein A-2.

We offer a cow share program for customers to obtain chemical- and hormone-free, non-pasteurized and non-homogenized raw milk. Along with the share program… Read more »

D. Smith
D. Smith
August 15, 2014 2:42 am

Let me also add, I buy Bellwether Farm Creme Fraiche at Safeway, so these products are all over the map. If cow share vs herd share is the only difference here, something appears to need fixing at the State level in Michigan so people know what they’re allowed to do.

Shana Milkie
August 15, 2014 3:05 pm

Let’s see, the truck leaves the dairy with the milk and takes it right to herdshare members. How much more direct can you get? Please be careful when alleging that someone is operating illegally.

We in Michigan would do well to support all herdshares in our state. I don’t think that any particular herdshare is more or less vulnerable based on who is driving the truck. This attack on My Family Co-Op is clearly an attack on all herdshares. We’ve seen before that state governments like to pick on one operation at a time. We need to work together… Read more »

Shana Milkie
August 15, 2014 3:07 pm

As far as I know the only difference between a cow share and a herdshare is that the first is a share of a single cow and the second is a share in a herd of cows. It seems to me that it’s more sensible in most cases to have a share in a herd (unless perhaps the farmer has only one or two cows).

August 15, 2014 3:51 pm

“MDARD fully supports the growing movement for residents to obtain local, healthy and safe food.”

The USDA and State Ag agencies support for the local food movement is smoke and mirrors. They are part and parcel of the Industrial Ag system which intentionally and premeditatedly destroyed millions of farms in the 20th century.

Any support they give is PR cover for their efforts to destroy it, undermine it, or co-opt and kill it.

They are doing that in many ways but one such way is to impede actual farmer-consumer relationships where ever they can while at the same time pushing the… Read more »

D. Smith
D. Smith
August 15, 2014 4:54 pm

Around here where I live, a cow share is usually described as being the cow (only one cow) is owned by the individual, not the farmer. The individual who bought and owns the cow simply pays the farmer to put it on his pasture, the farmer milks it and gives (not sells) the milk to the owner. The owner buys the feed and anything else necessary for that one cow only, but he does not pay the farmer for the milk since the cow is already owned by the individual not the farmer.

With a… Read more »

D. Smith
D. Smith
August 15, 2014 4:59 pm

@ Pete: Exactly.

No wonder people are selling raw milk as “pet food” or as “cosmetic/bath” products.

August 15, 2014 6:57 pm

It seems to be a bit different here in Canada. Herdshare seems to be a generic for whatever animals you have (cowshare, goatshare, both cows and goats, cows-and-sheep, etc. And, the consumers are supposed to legally own the animals, because it’s illegal to sell raw milk anywhere in Canada, so the only way to legally obtain it is from your own animal. If you own only one animal, it’s pretty impractical because you’re out of luck when your animal’s dried off, so most folks have joint ownership in a herd, or in several head in that… Read more »

August 15, 2014 7:29 pm

Thanks for the pointer, Pete.

I found this food hub item from 2011 and it’s Michigan related:

The accompanying copy seems to be of the gushy, blithering, ehnthusiastic style designed to turn the mind off as you are congratulated for stepping aboard the bandwagon.

I guess if we don’t keep our eye on the ball, we might lose the game before we even know what the game was in the first place. One way of looking at it, we’re in a chess match of sorts. The root of this “get big or get out” idea is what? Simple… Read more »

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
August 15, 2014 9:42 pm

Well said Pete, I’ve had my fill of their “smoke and mirror” or “lip service”. Their continual and persistent insincerity is enough to make one vomit.


August 16, 2014 1:27 pm

@ Shanie:

Direct is from point A (the farmer- in this case High Hill Dairy) to point B (Herd share members) so in the eyes of the policy, the step where Jenny Samuelson/ My family CO-OP takes the milk from the farmer via another agreement to herd share members is not legal because there is no point “C” allowed . And MDARD policy (Policy #1.40, 3/12/2013) clearly states “In a herd share operation, consumers pay a FARMER a fee for boarding their animal…” “Herd Share operations include the following elements: Signed and dated written contract between a SINGLE FARMER… Read more »

August 16, 2014 1:29 pm
August 16, 2014 4:00 pm

There is NO LAW stating a group of people can’t lease a Herd of cows Nicole that is what we did. Read your Constitutional Rights it is legal to have a Private legal agreement between two parties. What you are referring to is a Policy not a Law. They stated they did this because of a food license issue that had nothing to do with the raw milk. if I was doing something illegal I would been charged. We should supporting raw milk not trying bash specially when you not know the true facts. It about fighting for… Read more »

August 16, 2014 4:28 pm

Let me add this policy came into effect after My Family Co-Op was established and I was never directly informed about their changes.

August 16, 2014 6:46 pm

I appreciate your passion for food freedom and raw milk, but if you are not a co-op, you should not be calling yourself one. Call yourself a delivery business, yes, and get all the licences and permits that Purolator, UPS, and other such businesses need, yes. But don’t misrepresent yourself as being a co-op when you are not. And … why not help all your current customers actually organize into a co-op? Empower themselves? Become active shareholders in a co-op structure? Have the right to contract with you or any other delivery service they choose to,… Read more »

August 16, 2014 11:20 pm

We as a co-op shared ownership leasing a herd of cows until the State stepped in. Yes changes will have to be made now. But again you are missing the reason why we are here. No permits are needed when you are private do some reading on your Constitution. We are Private Association it’s covered under are legal rights.

August 17, 2014 2:35 am

“We as a co-op shared ownership leasing a herd of cows until the State stepped in. ‘

So you are incorporated under the Nonprofit Corporations Act?

Act 162 of 1982

450.3123 Use of term “cooperative,”“co-op,”“consumer cooperative,” or any variation thereof.

Sec. 1123.

(1) The term “cooperative”, “co-op”, or any variation thereof, may only be used in the name of cooperatives organized under or subject to this chapter, corporations organized under or subject to sections 98 to 109 of Act No. 327 of the Public Acts of 1931, being sections 450.98 to 450.109 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, parent cooperative preschools… Read more »

Shana Milkie
August 17, 2014 2:23 pm

I think we are seeing two sides of the same coin here, but maybe we should agree to disagree. The milk goes straight from the dairy to the members, period. Jenny Samuelson is operating either as an agent of the farmers or the members to deliver it; she is NOT reselling milk and violating the policy.

I have already read the links you posted and acknowledge the tremendous work done by all members of the workgroup. What patience to meet for six years!

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
August 17, 2014 2:52 pm

This is obviously a complex issue that can be interpreted in ways that complement your particular perspective. I have a couple of questions:

If Jenny is NOT reselling the milk (which I personally tend to agree she is not) than who is actually paying for her services, and how does she make a living doing this? Is it a shared cost enterprise?

Why is the government spending so much time and resources going after these small potato operations? It’s not like they stand to make a lot more money through taxation or have anything to gain by halting… Read more »

August 17, 2014 4:57 pm

That’s a huge part of the problem, David – the informality that people assume is going to fly. If there had been a real cooperative, contracting Jenny as a delivery driver with a proper contract, it’s likely that this big mess might have been avoided. That situation with Danial Allgyer reminds me of how a judge looked at Michael Schmidt’s “contracts” and also concluded that they were a sham. You folks haven’t had the court cases that we’ve had in Canada which have ended badly because of loosey-goosey “contracts” which judges have decided were just… Read more »

Shana Milkie
August 18, 2014 1:09 pm

All good questions, Ora Moose, to which I and a lot of other people would like to obtain answers!