A Mennonite Farmer is Hauled Away
On April 25, 2008, in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, Mark Nolt, a Wenger Mennonite (Horse and Buggy Mennonite) dairyman, threatened for months with arrest for selling raw milk without a permit was removed from his property by state troopers.
Jonas Stoltzfus, a friend, fellow farmer, and Church of the Brethen, was asked by Mr. Nolt to speak for him, and said of the raid yesterday - "Six state troopers and a man with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture trespassed onto his property, and stole $20-25,000 of his product and equipment."
Mr. Stoltzfus explained that Mr. Nolt did not have a permit because "he chose to turn his permit back in because it did not cover all the products he was selling. He felt he was being dishonest selling stuff that was not covered by the permit. He is a man of great integrity."
"According to reports from neighbors and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, several officials of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture participated in the raid, and while Mark was being transported by police car to the courthouse, PDA officials confiscated $20,000 to $25,000 worth of dairy products and production equipment. Neighbors reported the farm had been closed and that a large group of officials had gathered, with videos prohibited."
"Mr. Nolt was told that people had gotten sick from eating his food, but no one ever came forward and no proof was ever offered."
"This is a secret police raid," Jonas Stotlzfus said, "complete with state troopers, raiding a hard-working farmer selling milk to friends and customers. And his customers ARE his friends." Mr. Nolt
Mr. Stoltzfus said of Mr. Nolt, "he is not going to stop [selling raw milk] til he is ready to stop. He is the equivalent of that little black lady in Alabama who wouldn't go to the back of the bus. He is doing the same thing, he won't go to the back of bus." Mr. Stoltzfus said "she got arrested for that and so did Mr. Nolt. He ignored [the threat] and kept on selling. He is a courageous man." Mr. Stoltzfuz said "Mark believes it is his right to sell, according to the constitution, just like it was Rosa Park's right to sit wherever she wanted on the bus. Same deal. There is nothing in the constitution to prevent Mr. Nolt from buying and selling, especially to his friends," Mr. Stoltzfus said.
Stoltzfus commented that Mr Sheridan of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (Stoltzfus does not have the spelling and believes he is with the licensing division) used to work for Dean Foods and Hershey Foods, big corporate operations, and that Sheridan was "jealous that farmers make a better product" and called the raid by Mr. Sheridan "a vendetta."
This case is similar to that involving Meadowsweet Dairy LLC in New York, in that both Pennsylvania and New York allow raw milk sales, but adamantly oppose the sale of other raw dairy products.
Mr. Nolt was doing things the way his community has for generations, selling milk straight from his cows to those he knows.
Mr. Nolt contends that the regulations have not been approved by the legislature and shouldn't apply to him because he is selling directly to consumers, via private contracts that are outside the purview of the state, making a privilege out of a right he believes he has - the right to private contracts."
The permitting issue, ostensibly for food safety, is contradicted by a look both at raw milk itself and at its competition, corporate milk - pasteurized and often from cows injected with rBGH.
Four issues stand out:
1. INDEPENDENCE of farmer and customers
Raw milk: Farmer sell raw milk from their own cows, to neighbors and friends at a price farmers set themselves, paid by people who value their product, without a middleman.