Minnesota Takes Aim at Egg Farmer Co-op Member for Third Time

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FA Note — Anoth­er barage by the unholy alliance between Big Ag and gov­ern­ment, designed to erad­i­cate your free­dom to grow/buy your food as you will, put­ing the lie to  “sus­tain­able” agriculture.

Alvan Schlangen, left.

Alvan Schlangen, left.

Min­neso­ta sim­ply can­not get enough of Alvin Schlangen. An egg farmer who tends to and vol­un­teers with a fresh food co-op. Two coun­ties in par­tic­u­lar (MDA) have tried him in court over food han­dling issues, both times try­ing to paint the co-op of pri­vate mem­bers as some kind of com­mer­cial estab­lish­ment like a gro­cery store or restaurant.

It must dri­ve them mad that they sim­ply can’t storm in on a whim and apply their mono­chro­mat­ic com­mer­cial test stan­dards onto non-CAFOs goods. Such as dur­ing the ongo­ing bird flu out­break sweep­ing through poul­try farms across the Mid­west. Alvin tells me that Min­neso­ta Depart­ment of Health inspec­tors now call them­selves “advis­ers.”

Iron­i­cal­ly, instead of run­ning to Alvin for advice on pre­vent­ing dis­ease out­break, they set their sights on him in par­tic­u­lar and he was writ­ten up in the press. How do “advis­ers” react when hear­ing the word “No” while they advise? Show up with two armed local army offi­cers, of course. You read that correctly.

You’ve entered the Food Free­dom Zone…

In the SCTimes report, “Court: Freeport farmer must coop­er­ate in bird flu probe,” the title and first para­graph pret­ty much sets a pre­dictable tone:

A Freeport organ­ic egg farmer who was con­vict­ed of vio­lat­ing state food safe­ty laws is at odds with state reg­u­la­tors again.

While that par­tic­u­lar choice of words is a source of irri­ta­tion or bemuse­ment for food free­dom lovers, Alvin says that “tech­ni­cal­ly that’s not untrue.” Quick recap: the first tri­al charg­ing him for four counts of raw milk sales and han­dling food with­out a license took place in Hen­nepin coun­ty. Jury nul­li­fi­ca­tion resolved that and set him free. Not long after, in a case “dou­ble jeop­ardy,” he was tried in his home coun­ty of Stearns for the very same rea­sons. The raw milk charge was dropped (to reduce media atten­tion). He was fac­ing jail-time and lofty fines and was found guilty by the jury. How­ev­er, the sen­tence was reduced to a year of pro­ba­tion, a $700 fine and jail time was stayed.

Alvin has a his­to­ry of inte­grous and peace­ful non-com­pli­ance. Thus, he is con­sid­ered “at odds” with state reg­u­la­tors again. He bold­ly denied a court order recent­ly to let inspec­tors poke around, even though he did not have any ani­mal ill­ness­es to report. The out­break was high path­o­gen­ic avian flu. If birds have it, they fall over dead. He has been court ordered not to make egg deliv­er­ies, to allow inspec­tors to test his chick­ens and to coop­er­ate with state offi­cials. But he denied them access on the farm until they had a war­rant and sher­if­f’s deputy.

On defi­ance, he says, “You can’t have peo­ple that don’t obey rules…that’s not Amer­i­can.…” It’s a shock to the sys­tem for peo­ple to sim­ply go on their way, no per­mis­sion need­ed. It’s near­ly unheard of now. The club mem­bers rely on his judge­ment, invest­ments, and qual­i­ty con­trol to get the end food results they want and need. What is impor­tant to them — nutri­ents? build­ing health? ani­mal welfare?

It’s such a dif­fer­ent par­a­digm for com­mit­ment to food, nobody can under­stand that unless you get away from the com­mer­cial pro­gram. When it comes to food pro­duc­tion, you can’t fol­low com­mer­cial rules if you want qual­i­ty food,” he said. Reg­u­la­tors and media only know the oth­er par­a­digm and bend oth­ers to their terms.

State pro­to­col requires quar­an­tine” and test­ing for birds with­in “three kilo­me­ters” of flu out­break, pre­sum­ably for com­mer­cial farms. Board of Ani­mal Health reg­u­la­tors are appar­ent­ly stay­ing awake at night wor­ried that Alvin will deliv­er eggs to some of the 200 pri­vate mem­bers before they can test them. The press, by proxy, paints him as insti­ga­tor of dis­ease when it’s not his farm that is incu­bat­ing bird flu.

Alvin con­tem­plates the idea of quar­an­ti­ning eggs that belong to some­one else. Can some­one stop you from eat­ing your own eggs? Alvin asked them what their stan­dards were for some­one eat­ing their home-grown eggs dur­ing ques­tion­able times. There are none — there’s noth­ing they can do to stop you if they want­ed to. “If I eat four eggs for break­fast, get in a vehi­cle and go down the road, tech­ni­cal­ly I’m mov­ing those eggs. If I load four dozen eggs, take them down the road to the peo­ple that own them, I am mov­ing those eggs.” One is break­ing quar­an­tine and one isn’t?

Why does he not sim­ply com­ply when agents want in? Skip­ping the obvi­ous intru­sive­ness, the pre­vi­ous attempts to shut the co-op down, and yet anoth­er thick-head­ed attempt to paint the co-op as a large scale com­mer­cial farm — his reason?

It’s not his food. He con­veys how reward­ing it is to serve with and for the com­mu­ni­ty as part of the real food solu­tion, but he tends to shares that which belongs to the pri­vate own­ers. And they tend to it too on a vol­un­tary basis. It does not belong to any­one else, it is not up for sale, it does not go out to the pub­lic and the mem­bers under­stand the risks of par­tak­ing in their shares.

One does not see this type of reg­u­la­to­ry zealotry in horse board­ing agree­ments, which have a sim­i­lar set up. Oh but this is about food — this is an emer­gency out­break, and he prob­a­bly lets the hens run loose out­side. Maybe poul­try weren’t meant to be stuffed togeth­er beak-to-butt, rov­ing through waste in the dark, while a virus rips through. In fact, this strain of avian flu does not like sun­light.

Do you know what hap­pens when inspec­tors deter­mine that some­thing con­tains a pathogen? Just about every­thing relat­ed to it can be destroyed or quar­an­tined — hens, eggs, chicks that come from the quar­an­tined eggs…you get the idea. This could even par­tial­ly explain the mas­sive num­bers of euth­a­nized turkeys in the large scale farms. But reg­u­la­tors would­n’t destroy his farm based on suspicion…or would they?

The prob­lems with unfet­tered author­i­ty on the lev­el of indi­vid­u­als are major civ­il lib­er­ty vio­la­tions, utter lack of edu­ca­tion or feigned incom­pe­tence about small farms, biased tar­get­ing and worst of all; past exam­ples. Morn­ing­land Dairy is just one trag­ic exam­ple of the gov­ern­ment cry­ing wolf lis­te­ria in a pre­med­i­tat­ed shut down of a healthy food farm after they found some of their cheese from the Rawe­some Food raid. Not once did they test any­thing for con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. After drag­ging the fam­i­ly through a lengthy, indif­fer­ent process, agents raid­ed the farm again and trashed $250,000 of their cheese. Micro ver­sion: We think you have lis­te­ria! No we don’t, test us! No…never. This farm is closed and we’re dump­ing every­thing. Good­bye, farm.

So, I won­dered if Alvin was wor­ried — are inspec­tors just being legit­i­mate­ly cau­tious or is this real­ly a big­ger deal for his farm? Is this a crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion? It could be fore­bod­ing — it’s a time to wait and watch, now that they are test­ing. The first two sit­u­a­tions could have been much worse, but if pros­e­cu­tion and the judge had pushed any hard­er, there would have been a media mess. How­ev­er, if inspec­tors decide they have some­thing by the end of the 28-day quar­an­tine, it could be disastrous.

I men­tioned his pre­vi­ous sup­port and he remind­ed me that not only is sup­port often sup­pressed in those times, but that peo­ple trapped in cor­rupt sys­tem can’t just take off and trav­el to cour­t­hous­es and lend support.

I would­n’t be [t]here unless I had to be. [That’s what I think] about cor­rup­tion that makes me want to stay away, but you can’t because you can’t change it if you stay away,” he said. And, “The crit­i­cal part of mak­ing some­thing out of a mess like this, or a poten­tial one, is to get the truth out there.”

We both agreed it was worth it.

Vis­it Schlangen Fam­i­ly Farm. Please check out Farm-to-Con­sumer Legal Defense Fund who helped Alvin and his fam­i­ly dur­ing the pre­vi­ous legal bat­tles. Check out West­on A. Price as well. And please sup­port your local farmer!

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