Eight years ago, a private Minneapolis food market known as Traditional Foods was shut down by local public health officials for not being properly licensed. A few days ago, a private market meant to replace Traditional Foods was shut down in much the same manner, just days after it proudly opened in spanking new quarters. (See photos.)
Eight years ago, the owners of Traditional Foods claimed they would fight the food police and prevail. So it is today, as Will Winter, the owner, has expressed confidence that lawyers from Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund will find a way to allow the new market, known as Uptown Locavore, to reopen.
If you examine history, though, the odds aren’t great for the new market. Traditional Foods never reopened at its old location after the owner was jerked around for many months by evasive local bureaucrats. Mind you, neither market was involved in selling raw milk, but rather focused on fresh meats and fish, along with other delicacies like quail eggs.
History has shown that the only way to make it as a private market in Minnesota is to defy the officials, as Alvin Schlangen did after Traditional Foods was shuttered. He continued to provide raw milk and farm-slaughtered meats to members of his food club, even after his delivery van was raided and food confiscated. His defiance led to heavy-duty pressure by the powers that be, including fcriminal charges and a trial. In the end, he prevailed, and continues in business today.
Ironically, Will Winter was the founder of Traditional Foods, but had sold out prior to the raid in 2010 that eventually shuttered the market. It’s unclear at this point if he has the stomach for defiance.
In an email yesterday to members and supporters of the market, Winter stated: “The Uptown Locavore is totally closed down, the food cannot be touched by me or anyone, and the farmers are not able to bring the additional milk, eggs, meat and other items we have already ordered. This is hurting not only me but over 20 sustainable farms. We are in pain, now, and for no legal reason whatsoever. Justice is not being served!”
He advised supporters: “Don’t give up hope. We can change this if we work together as a group of citizens who know our rights. We need to put pressure and bring embarrassment to the city officials who are on this unfair vendetta.”
Maybe supporters can make enough noise to pressure local officials to shift their position and recognize the private food rights of Minneapolis citizens. I’m doubtful. This is Minnesota, after all, which works more closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration than almost any other state, All indications are that the new administration in Washington prefers that the FDA treat food rights and raw milk issues much the same as previous administrations did. Given that regulatory landscape, Winter will have a decision to make about whether he wants to risk his personal freedom to assert everyone’s private food rights.