What Will Bill Chirdon of PDA Do With His Big Prize from Raid on Mark Nolts Farm?

SalatinBk.jpgOne of Mark Nolt’s lasting images from last Friday’s raid of his farm by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, is of Bill Chirdon, the top PDA food safety official, walking off with a copy of Joel Salatin’s book, “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal.”

Of course, that’s not the only lasting image. There are also the images of half a dozen police cars “coming in like a bunch of Vikings” last Friday morning, recalls Mark. And of Chirdon and his henchmen from the PDA, armed with a search warrant, confiscating up to $50,000 worth of dairy products and equipment. The worst was the equipment, says Mark, including a stainless steel cream separator, cheese-making tools, and valves for the vats, along with all the milk jugs. “A lot of it is older equipment—they don’t make the small dairy equipment any more.”

But the most curious was the seizure of Joel Salatin’s book, which recounts Joel’s run-ins with state and federal regulators who have made life miserable on his Virginia farm over the years. Mark sells the book from the farm (“I’ve sold quite a few of them”). “I just wish we had a photo of him leaving with the book,” says Mark. “I think he must have a sense of humor.”

I think Mark is quite generous to Chirdon. To me, there’s something obscene about Chirdon, who’s spent the last year harassing Mark Nolt and many of Pennsylvania’s raw milk farmers through discovery of pathogens that never make anyone sick on more than half a dozen dairies, just walking off with the book. It’s almost as if he’s mocking Mark and the other farmers Chirdon is trying to drive out of business. In fact, I don’t get the entire equipment-seizure part at all. If Mark is violating some law, then shouldn’t he be charged with violating the law and tried for that? Isn’t the seizure of equipment, and books, simply arbitrary and harassing?

As Mark says, “One thing we’re all clear on is that this is not about food safety.”

No, this is a struggle over freedom and rights. Mark doesn’t want to say what his legal approach will be when his trial comes up next Monday.

Mark is convinced Pennsylvania’s raw milk permitting doesn’t apply to people like him, who are engaged in private transactions with individual consumers. My guess is that while he could well be found guilty of violating PDA regulations by refusing to operate with a raw milk permit, officials will try to avoid putting this father of ten children into jail and turning him into even more of a cause celebre. Instead, they will likely try to drag the process out and bleed him financially via more product confiscations and other such harassment.

In such a situation, a PR and lobbying campaign could make a huge difference. When it comes to civil disobedience, the step that helps most is for others to join in—in this case, for other farmers to similarly refuse to obtain permits. There are any number of other Pennsylvania farmers who have refused to obtain permits, but haven’t been willing to stand up as Mark has done. That’s been the situation in other states as well, including New York and Michigan, for the simple reason that most farmers feel they can’t afford to jeopardize their businesses and properties in the interests of a cause. The state is okay with that, preferring to set an example of Mark to intimidate the others to come around. But the next worst thing from their viewpoint is for Mark to become a cause celebre, so the best option for opponents is to take Bob Hayles’ great suggestions (following my Friday post about Mark), and make sure Mark does in fact become a cause celebre, via press releases, calls to legislators and PDA’s office (number on the page I link to in the first paragraph), and attendance at his trial Monday (per Don’s advice following my previous post about California).

In the meantime, Mark says he will continue milking his cows and supplying his customers. Maybe Bill Chirdon will do some reading to prepare on his end.

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8 Comments on "What Will Bill Chirdon of PDA Do With His Big Prize from Raid on Mark Nolts Farm?"

Bob Hayles
April 29, 2008

I’d sure like to see a copy of the search warrant for Mark’sfarm raid Friday. I’m just a dumb goat farmer,but I’ll bet I could tell if the warrant covered the seizure of the book.

If it didn’t, I’ll bet I couldask the local county district attorney for a theft warrant against Chirdon…just for starters.

Bob Hayles
Thornberry Village Homestead
Jasper, GA

Thornberry Village Homestead…a small goat dairy, owned by God, managed by Bob and Tyler.

April 29, 2008


Here is a few parts of an editorial.You should read the whole thing.

" Standing Against A New Serfdom

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg and sparked the Protestant revolution. The Christian world– indeed, the Western world and everywhere else influenced by the Western world– has never been the same since. And yet the key concept that lay at the heart of that revolution was nothing more than: "We can read, too."


"In America today, we face the threat of another effort to gather power into the hands of a priesthood and reduce the rest of us to serfdom. Just as was done by the Roman Catholic Church when drifting into its period of corruption, a would-be ruling class seeks to monopolize the authority to declare the meaning of the words by which other exercises of power are authorized.

Here and now, of course, that effort focuses on the meaning of our written laws. The current American political elite, having been allowed to do so for several generations now without meaningful opposition, has already traveled far down the road to utter, arrogant disregard of those laws– chiefly through the diligent work of the federal judiciary. That dedicated army of carefully-chosen sappers, with increasing frequency and ever-more arrogant flagrancy, ascribes meaning to our laws in plain defiance of their actual words and purposes, and dares the rest of us to disagree. Unsurprisingly, these "creative" readings of our fundamental law and the statutes which draw their authority from that fundamental law inexorably expand the power and wealth of the State, and subordinate everyone else."


Still, unlike Luther, who rose in the face of a millennium of precedent, and in a culture in which the idea of challenging the established power-structure was utterly alien, the corruption against which we must stand is itself alien to our cultural tradition, and has only acquired its sway within living memory. Our business of standing up and looking after our interests as free, self-governing men and women is as nothing compared to what was required of those who have gone before us.

Nor is what we are called upon to do complex. Indeed, the task we face requires nothing more than modest study, a little courage, and an abiding regard for our own dignity.

After all, we, too, can read."

April 30, 2008

Please do not equate the Church to the Powers being used in this case.

TN homeschool mom
April 30, 2008

Actually the analogy to Luther and the Reformation is quite appropriate, considering that it was the Reformation that gave us (or reminded us of) the concepts of religious freedom, liberty of conscience, the importance of education (so all could learn to read the Scriptures), the rise of empirical science, the rule of law (Lex Rex), the rise of representative and constitutional forms of government, and the stimulation of free enterprise. It seems that our country is no longer qualified to be a constitutional republic, since our government no longer recognizes many of these God-given rights.

April 30, 2008

"Please do not equate the Church to the Powers being used in this case."

Ya, our government hasn’t burned anyone at the stake yet and they’ve limited torture to foreigners.

April 30, 2008

Excuse me. I should have included the following note along with my previous post.


"NOTE: This editorial is not to be taken as critical or disparaging of the Catholic Church today– a church in which I myself was raised and for which I have great respect, especially in recent years. Nor is it intended as an endorsement of any other church or religious perspective. The history discussed here is presented not for its own sake, but merely as a useful model of how power, when allowed to become centralized, is bad for all concerned, and especially so when that power concentration involves control over the tools of knowledge and dissent."

Barbara Smith
April 30, 2008

Don or David – Does anyone know when Mark’s hearing is to be held on May 5? And the address? We would like to attend if possible.

Also, a general comment on this situation and on whether or not Mark should seek legal help. Sure it may delay things a bit for him to get a lawyer – maybe a lawyer could poke some holes in the state’s case and hold off the consequences for a while. But it would still in the end come back to the same issue. No lawyer would be able to prove in court that he should be allowed to sell milk without a permit! And even if Mark’s lawyer brought such a case against the state, there is no basis in PA for making this argument. As far as the judge would see, the state has provided a legal way of selling raw milk (with permits) and he/she could not be persuaded that anyone, no matter what their beliefs, should be allowed to bypass that reg.

So Mark, by non-cooperation, is cutting to the crux of the matter in a way that the state is unprepared to handle. It will be VERY interesting to see how they respond. They really don’t know what they’re up against. He has no intention of cooperating in any way, and they can’t lock him up indefinitely! Right? (They’re not taking any more prisoners at Guantanamo – sick humor). He is following a long and honorable line of Mennonites who have used non-cooperation to stand up for what they know is right. He is definitely taking the high road and, as a pacifist, I know that is the right and ultimately the most powerful thing to do. It tangles the beaurocracy in knots and it’s fun to see them squirm!

Anyway, I feel we all may be forced to use these strategies some day. The powers that be are not going to let go of control of the milk market through the courts "allowing" us to operate. It will indeed come to very drastic actions. We should all be watching those brave enough to step out in this way and gain courage from their example. Steve and I applaud Mark 100% and are watching closely (for obvious reasons). It makes us feel like wimps by comparison.But our day may come.


May 1, 2008

Here’s another good article: http://www.counterpunch.org/cohen04262008.html

It brings up the Clinton administration and "Mon-Satan".