“Live Free or Die” or should it be “Drink Raw Milk or Die”

Not sure if it’s sour grapes or sour milk churning in Maine but, regardless, Blue Hill Maine is the epicenter of a national revolt by localists, food activists, and local farmers who are tired of being told by the government what they can and can’t eat (or drink).  My folks, who live just outside of Blue Hill, inform me that you can’t trip over a milk bottle in town without hearing folks debating the issue.

The central issue is whether local communities should have the autonomy to decide what they can eat and drink, and whether they can grow and consume local produce without government nannyism abounding.  The crux of the concern is food safety and the risk of Salmonella, E. coli or Listeria from unpasteurized eggs, milk and milk products.  Shit happens occasionally, so the health risks aren’t nonexistent.  FDA public service announcement here.  But the debate centers largely around whether small local farmers must comply with state and federal licensing and inspection requirements that apply to large commercial operations, despite the fact the patrons of these small farms are purchasing these goods directly for their own consumption.  And I guarantee you these good folks understand a thing or two about the risks of country living, including drinking raw milk.

NPR article here on the raging debate in Blue Hill and elsewhere.  Folks the government is getting serious.  In Wisconsin, a small Amish farmer was recently criminally prosecuted and faced thousand of dollars in fines for selling raw milk to his 200 private food club members.  Fortunately, he was acquitted on all but one charge.  The local farmer in Blue Hill, Dan Brown, wasn’t so lucky – he’s awaiting a judge’s decision on his civil fine.

BLUE HILL, Maine — A Superior Court ruling against a Blue Hill farmer who has been selling unlabeled, unlicensed raw milk will have farmers in several Maine towns wondering about the future of local “food sovereignty” ordinances that seek to exempt them from state oversight.

Dan Brown, of Gravelwood Farm, lost a civil case on April 27, in which he was accused of violating three Maine laws: selling milk without a license, selling unpasteurized, or “raw,” milk without marking it as such and operating a food establishment without a license.

Since 2006, Brown has been selling raw milk from a farm stand located on his property. An 8- by 11-inch sign states that the milk is raw. Brown also sold his products at farmers markets after Blue Hill adopted its Local Food and Community Self Governance Ordinance in at this point it’s a policy question,” he said Friday.

Seriously people.  Are we really going to treat local farmers like criminals, lock them up, confiscate their homes, and bankrupt them?  For what – sharing a gallon of raw milk and a few eggs with their neighbors.  Heck, I remember as a kid when my mom would force me to eat that hamburger on my plate after it sat around in a warm kitchen for a few hours – are we going to throw her in jail too?  This type of government behavior was the genesis of the Boston Tea Party.  Perhaps soon instead of tea, farmers will soon be dumping milk into the Harbor.  Nope, can’t do that – they’ll need a Clean Water Act permit first.

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