The video below seems almost mundane in its discussion about dairy rules and regulations. But it’s what is not said that is most important here.

Ostensibly, Jackie Owens was at the farm last Thursday to carry out an inspection. Part of her regulatory duty, since her Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is responsible for overseeing farms of all sorts, as she politely explained. And just as politely, the farm’s owner, Verson Hershberger, declined her request for the inspection.

But Vernon Hershberger’s farm not just any ordinary farm. His farm’s milk and other produce are available only to the 100-plus members of his food club.

In addition, Hershberger is facing three misdemeanor charges that accuse him of operating his farm without a dairy permit and of operating a retail store without a retailer permit. He is free on bail, and the terms of his bail prohibit “manufacturing or processing of dairy products for distribution without a valid dairy plant license” and “sale or distribution of milk produced on his dairy farm without a valid milk producer license.”

Just to try to ensure there is no escape,and that the farm can’t truly operate as a farm, the bail terms mandate, “The defendant may not allow anyone else to operate his farm, or any room or building on his property in violation of any of these conditions.”

Hershberger in an emotional courtroom statement two weeks ago renounced the bail agreement. “Your honor, I have spent many sleepless hours since signing the bond due to my conscience being plagued by the thought of shutting up my bowels of compassion to my Brethren who are dependent on the food that is provided by and for them on our farm. To most of them it is not merely a matter of preference but much more a matter of life or death! If the owners of the food cannot eat their own food, aren’t we living in a communist state? If our farm stopped feeding is owners families, there will be literally hundreds of children who will suffer malnutrition and even starvation. Your honor, I would much rather spend the rest of my life behind bars or even die than to be found guilty of such a gross sin before the Almighty God.”

So with all that on the table, it’s clear DATCP agent Owens is at the farm to collect evidence that Hershberger is violating the terms of the bail agreement.

By the way, there is an interesting discussion near the end of the video in which a Hershberger club member inquires of Owens as to whether his farm might be exempt. She provides an intriguing answer.

Looks like the ball is the court’s court.

Minnesota is continuing on its campaign of collective punishment against raw dairy farmers by filing criminal charges against Alvin Schlangen in connection with his private food club that supplies members with raw milk and other food.

Schlangen was one of those caught up in the dragnet orchestrated by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture following on the outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 illnesses from Michael Hartmann’s dairy in 2010. His farm was searched at the point, and then yet again last March.

The complaint states, “That on or about March 9, 2011, at approximately 11:00 a.m. at a warehouse located at 61st Street west in the city of Minneapolis, county of Hennepin, State of Minnesota, Levi J. Muhl, Foods Compliance Officer with the Department of Agriculture went to execute a search warrant at the above address.  A man later identified as Alvin Schlangen DOB 10/2/57, defendant herein, has leased the space at the above warehouse to sell milk and other foods.

“Upon arrival along with Minneapolis Police Officers, Officer Levi observed the following:  fluid milk, eggs, meat, poultry, maple syrup, frozen vegetables and frozen fruit, cheese, yogurt, kefir and other foods…”  Sounds like wonderful food.

He now faces four misdemeanor accounts associated with distributing raw milk, selling food without a permit, and selling “adulterated” food. He could face up to a year in jail if convicted on all counts.

On a local listserve, Schlangen yesterday noted that since his run-in with authorities last March, his membership has more than doubled:

“First, and most importantly, we must keep making progress toward a healthy new economy built around local resources. Freedom Farms Coop was robbed ($5,000+ of whlse value) on March 9th of 2011. We were 60 member families at that time. The objective was to stop this activity that was allowing families to become independently healthy. How well did that work out? We are now over 120 families strong, even with the fear factor…”

He added this advice: “In a world where every stock option is a considerable risk, gold is likely a good buy, but an investment in your local food source has incredible potential. Secondly, decide to add your energy to the collective movement that will push this local, healthy food issue into the mainstream media. Talk about your options for real food and join the urban farmers that are lending incredible support to the few farmers that are brazen enough to allow this kind of pressure to influence (or not) their farm and family.”

Well said. Trial date is May 14.