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Jury Vindicates Farmer of Criminal Charges Related to Minnesota Food Buying Coop
Decision Heartens Proponents of Raw Milk Access
Falls Church, Virginia (September 27, 2012–GlobeNewswire)—A significant court victory was won for food rights on September 20, 2012 when a Minnesota jury found farmer Alvin Schlangen not guilty on all three criminal misdemeanor counts for violations of the state food and dairy code.
The case was referred by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and brought by the Hennepin County prosecutor’s office. The Department alleged that Mr. Schlangen sold raw milk off the farm, that he handled food without first possessing a food handler’s permit, and that he distributed misbranded and/or adulterated dairy products. A fourth charge on a labeling violation was dropped at the beginning of his criminal trial.
Schlangen, a volunteer manager for the Freedom Farms Coop (FFC), was raided by MDA twice in 2010 and once in 2011; the department seized thousands of dollars worth of the members’ food. The charges against Schlangen stemmed from the March 2011 raid in which MDA impounded Schlangen’s truck and confiscated all of the club members’ food on it. The cooperative has leased farm animals and pays for their care. As the managing member of the coop, Mr. Schlangen provides a service by delivering nutrient-dense food to FFC members.
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and the Weston A. Price Foundation provided assistance to Mr. Schlangen in defending himself against these charges. “We congratulate Alvin and his attorney, Nathan Hansen, for vindicating Alvin in a court of law. This is an important step in getting our regulatory agencies to honor citizen’s rights to private contracts,” said Pete Kennedy, Esq., President of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
The food coop is similar to many that have sprung up around the country, in response to the nutrition advocacy work of The Weston A. Price Foundation. This new way of attaining food for the family table poses a challenge to regulators who are most familiar with conventional market.
Throughout the three-day trial, the courtroom was packed with members of the Freedom Farms Coop who supported Alvin. The judge remarked on the well behaved children in attendance, and one of the coop members responded, “It’s the raw milk!”
Mr. Schlangen faces a second criminal trial in a different jurisdiction, Stearns County on six misdemeanor counts for alleged violations of the Minnesota food and dairy code. A pre-trial hearing in the case is scheduled for November 2nd.
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and artisan food producers while protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods. Those concerned can support the FTCLDF, a U.S. based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, by joining or donating online at www.farmtoconsumer.org or by calling 703-208-FARM (3276).