They are Rounding Up the Raw Milk Drinkers

pearl and new baby 2017resize

January 25, 2018     By Bernadette Barber 

Twin bills in the Virginia legislature, SB 962 by Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-26) and HB 825 by Del. Barry Knight (R-81) are the first steps in destroying the very farm operations that allow people to access cream line raw milk ( farm fresh, unpasteurized, unhomogenized).

In the 1950’s it was common to purchase raw milk in VA. Over the course of time, industrialization forced smaller dairies out of the countryside. By the 70’s and 80’s people were missing that good old real milk. They sought it out and by default, since by then outright purchase was illegal, they found that it was not illegal to drink milk from your own cow. So it began, cow shares and herd shares sprang up in Virginia.

People chose raw milk for a myriad of reasons, taste, healthfulness and ability to know the farmer who milks the cow are three major ones.

To understand the gravity of the situation, one must understand the power hungry milk processors at the state level and the national level. They have well paid lobbyists. The lowly dairy farmer him or herself does not make a fortune on milking cows. They might make a dollar a gallon- (it is measured by weight not volume). On the other hand the processors, who manufacture the creams, yogurts, butters, flavored milks, cheeses and more are making a fortune. Sometimes the margins are so slim on items they constantly must create new items to appeal to the masses. Over the course of time competing industries have interfered with profit margins. Enter protein and power beverages, designer teas, gatorade, coconut milk, almond milk, designer juices and more. They all command attention at the grocery store and the dairy industry is losing the customer base it once had.

Citing USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Data from 2012 to 2016, annual conventional milk sales declined by 8%, (that’s 4 billion pounds) and organic milk sales increased by 20%. The decrease in fluid milk sales transfers to an annual decline of $1.7 billion dollars as reported by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

So there it is, the bottom line. Fluid milk sales is a mult-billion dollar trade. And they don’t want to share. So in come the RINO republicans and industry advocates, Barry Knight and Mark Obenshain to kill off a small thriving community of cow-sharing- organic-raw-milk drinkers and farmers.

Do yourself a lovely favor this day, consider acquiring some raw cream for your coffee. And do some online research. In one search use the word CAFO and in another use the words cow share. See which model you would like to use for your personal food consumption. And ask yourself why Knight and Obenshain want to destroy small farm operations.

If you have more time, please call Del. Knight 804-698-1081 and Sen. Obenshain 804-698-7526 and ask them to withdraw the bills.  Because they are both on the Agriculture Committees, they do represent ALL Virginians in that aspect, please don’t let the gatekeeper deny your voice.   It will help some small farmers.

For more information on the issue and to get involved,  please view and join 

Thanks for all your help,

Bernadette Barber



Richmond Republican Roundup 2018



How nice would it be to be able to buy the berries, granola, AND the yogurt from a local farmer?

I am watching the legislature from my farm by the wonderful video feed that is now afforded to the populace. Lawmakers can no longer hide their votes in committee meetings.

Senate bill 675, graciously held by Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) who is a champion of small farmers and food artisans- would have added home-made yogurt to the list of foods allowed for sale from home, uninspected by the government.       

The same lobbyists and state employees trot forward each year with the fear mongering that is really a profit controlling mechanism for big food and big ag, in this case VSDA- Virginia State Dairyman’s Association, which is really the processors association.  Yogurt is milk’s most profitable value added product on the market, and they don’t want to share.

Yogurt is a centuries old food that is healthful to eat. It also can be an income stream for many small farms. You would think freedom loving republicans would vote for such a measure, especially a “country boy” like Senate Agriculture Chairman, Richard Stuart. With how economically depressed rural areas are in Virginia, one would think our republican legislature would welcome any little bit that would keep farmers farming and freedom of food choice flying.

But no, on this bill the RINOs who killed the bill were as follows: Sen. Richard Stuart, Sen. Ben Chafin, Sen. Frank Ruff.  They voted with five democrats, Senators Dance, Ebbin, Lewis, Mason and McClellan. It surely could have passed if they added a yea vote to those of Sen. Richard Black, Sen. Bill Stanley and Sen. David Suetterlein, and a lone democrat Sen David Marsden.

You can see the live feed here from minute 15:30 to 33:45

RNC Keeps Junk Food on the Table

RNC Keeps Junk Food on the Table


Using the Democrats Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Republicans   ensure large grocers a government subsidized clientele. Food Freedom is totally ignored.

Another glaring example of “establishment” politics was seen this past month when the Republican National Committee  (RNC) held its convention in Cleveland, OH.   During the  platform discussions,  Maine state senator, Eric Brakey  introduced   an amendment to a plank to allow states to have the power to take junk foods off  the table of welfare recipients’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP) purchases.  The thoughtful amendment considered health implications, states rights, wasted tax dollars, leaned to limit corporate control and greed and looked to take an incremental approach to limiting spending.   Discussions ensued with some powerful exchanges but the day was held by the establishment elite with regards to farm and  food at the national level.

Noel Irwin Hentschell (CA) opposed the measure and said “ we are supposed to be the party of individual freedoms, where people eat what they feel they need to eat…  its not republican”    If Noel Hentschell saw the Rawesome raid  by federal agents that happened in her own town of LA, she would know that people  don’t have the freedoms to eat what they feel they need to eat.

Scott Johnson from Georgia opposed the amendment suggesting that when we define things such as junk food, we walk into a myriad of problems of regulations with which retailers must contend.  He noted that in GA it was attempted and  a problem arose with defining Oreos and chocolate covered oreos.  One is considered an allowable food purchase and one is considered a candy which was unallowable.  The measure was repealed after too much push back  by retailers.  It is interesting that Coca Cola has a huge presence in GA and is a major snack food manufacturer.

Stacey Guerin of Maine spoke in support of Brakey’s amendment  “Unhealthy eating is costing our nation billions of dollars in healthcare effects, and I agree, if you are  buying something with your own money, that is your choice, if you are using federal dollars and state dollars to supplement your food intake it should be healthy foods.”

Andy Puzder (CA), CEO of  Hardees,   complained “I hope we don’t become the party of the food police.  This is something Bloomberg tried in New York and won’t be very popular with our voters”

Factually speaking, the establishment politicians have a long history of violently policing food through draconian regulations against farmers and farmers markets and any direct sales from farmer to consumer. Under the pretense of “food safety,” they have criminalized many fresh food and sales of foods within the community where those foods are produced. One such example is during Reagan administration when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the interstate transportation of raw milk for human consumption.

States have an uphill battle to fight on getting EBT cards accepted at farmers markets. USDA and FDA regulations vastly favor huge producers and processors at the expense of small, independent, and family farms. Through heavy-handed policing and economic choking of small producers, the Republican Party has long-held to the industries wishes of destruction of small farms and the cottage industries that branch from them.All this to favor a junk food industry that is slowly killing their constituents.

Cynthia Dunbar  (VA) agreed with the basic premise, but believed it did not go far enough. She mentioned the constitutionality of the entire issue.  Later she clarified “there is no basis for the federal government to be funding welfare  or regulating food consumption. It is not one of the  eighteen enumerated powers within the constitution; therefore , it is reserved for the states and  people under the Tenth Amendment.”


Senator  Brakey  wrapped it up with a strong argument stating that

“these programs are supposed to be for helping people cover their basic necessities as they get through a tough time in their lives. They are not to enable people to live excessive or unhealthy lifestyles at the expense of the taxpayer.  There is a big distinction to be made with someone spending their own money and spending taxpayer money that is designed to  give people in poverty nutritional food.  It is an abhorrent misuse of taxpayer dollars to let that money go to anything else.”


In a follow up conversation with Mr. Johnson,  president of Supermarket Bank, he remarked that fulfillment of food stamp purchases are made through retailers because those retailers have  efficient food distribution systems- much different than the original distributions through USDA channels of the past.  Retailers must petition the government to be able to accept food stamps and receive a food stamp license.  Modern updates have modified that into Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards.  He also made the point that sodas are an allowable purchase on an EBT card.

Regarding the Republican ideals of private companies and free markets he said that although it seemed like corporate welfare,  it was amenable to him for tax incentives for grocery stores to move into Food Deserts.  I asked him if he knew of any silver bullet solutions that involved food to eliminate multiple  issues we face on the national level. He stated there possibly could be but he was unaware of any.  I asked him if he ever heard of the concept of Food Freedom, he replied no.

 Who controls food? 

It never occurred to me that food was discussed on the national level at political conventions.  I found that it is by many very power hungry individuals.  The Great American Farm Luncheon was  hosted by major  agribusiness firms and  organizatons to pitch their platform desires to the convention delegates.    CropLife America president and CEO, Jay Vroom,  was the Master of Ceremonies, at this event.    Many commissioners of Agriculture from various states attended.  Current and past members of Congress attended as well as the Agriculture Committee Chairmen from both the House and Senate and the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee chairman.

Those that sponsored the luncheon included the usual suspects of corporate welfare vultures, many of whom are some of the world’s  largest privately held corporations.

  • Monsanto
  • Bunge
  • Cargill
  • Pepsico
  • Land O’ Lakes
  • Syngenta
  • American Farm Bureau Federation
  • AgriBank
  • American Seed Trade Association
  • BIO
  • CoBank
  • CropLife America
  • Dow AgroSciences
  • DuPont
  • Feld Entertainment
  • FMC
  • Growth Energy
  • National Corn Growers Association
  • National Cotton Council
  • National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
  • National Milk Producers Federation
  • National Pork Producers Council
  • United Fresh Produce Association
  • S. Beet Sugar Association
  • The Russell Group


It is interesting to note that the Russell Group is an agricultural lobbying firm in Washington,  DC.  It touts  on its website:  “ For 30 years the Russell Group has helped clients succeed in Washington. We couple our unparalleled understanding of the legislative, regulatory, and budgetary processes with our extensive relationships with key policymakers and staff to help clients advance their goals.  The Russell Group team’s expertise includes the following policy areas:

  • Child nutrition
  • School meal standards
  • SNAP
  • WIC food package
  • Food safety
  • Food Safety Modernization Act
  • Meat and poultry inspection
  • Food recalls
  • Agricultural research
  • Biofuels
  • Biodiesel tax credit
  • Renewable fuels standard
  • Animal health
  • Antibiotic stewardship
  • Disease outbreaks
  • Trade
  • Conservation
  • Rural water infrastructure
  • Biotechnology
  • Production agriculture
  • Commodities
  • Dairy
  • Produce


Their clients include Kraft/Heinz, Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA),  PepsiCo,   IDFA International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), National Potato Council,  California Rice, and the United Fresh Produce Association.


With all that packaging, we see how well industrial food sector players maintain their own interests at the national level and curry favor with politicians.  The tax dollars garnered by those agribusinesses stretch well into the billions.  Those dollars are externalized costs that increase their bottom line.   It is truly funny that the republicans talk a big game about reducing government waste, promoting independence and hard work,  but sure collect on the federal dime while working to destroy the very farmers that bring vibrancy to their communities.


I don’t believe that most of the rank and file republicans at these conventions realize that  many simple food products  are  illegal to purchase anywhere in America.  A simple pumpkin pie made from ingredients fresh on her own farm is illegal to sell unless a government agent deems it safe by requiring expensive regulated kitchens that most small family farmers cannot afford.  There is no free market when it comes to food in America.  So amidst the talk of   limiting regulations that stifle economic progress and liberty,   the reality is  that the corrupt congressmen   and  the corporate cronies  who bought their lunch   promote  policies for farm and food in this nation that do nothing but harm the small family farmer and food artisan and limit our economy.


How does it all play out?

Judging by  Jerry Hagstrom’s coverage of the event,  we small scale local sustainable farmers must be getting our message out because he wrote :

“ .. Vroom established the second theme of the event by telling the attendees that they must “stop talking to ourselves” and “dedicate ourselves to communicating” with the broader society.

Throughout the event, there were references to the difficulty of convincing urban consumers and college students of the value of commercial-scale agriculture. David Daniels, director of the Ohio Agriculture Department, an appointee of Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, noted that he has to communicate with “people who live in a loft” and “have never been on a farm” and have nostalgia for old-style farming. “

That is quite a statement at a national level that they have to keep fighting us “old style farmers!!”

While there are hundreds of things to dissect in this obvious attack on the American people by the corporate food system and the parties who purport to represent us, two things stand out to me


  1. We collectively can make our presence known at future conventions by educating delegates or  becoming delegates  and creating a food freedom  plank on the platform or
  2. We opt out of the system entirely and keep growing urban gardens, keep buying from  small independent  diversified family farms and keep milking our cows  and teaching others to  do the same.


Either way we are making a difference.


The Erma Bombeck of Food Freedom in VA


Lois Smith, President of VICFA

One of my dear friends I met many years ago is Lois Smith.  A sweet and sassy farmsteading mother of seven.  How appropriate that we met at the General Assembly.  She has a fierce streak for protecting liberty and a hilarious streak  once you get to know her.  A full quarter of what she says is tweetable.

Not only is she funny, she is savvy – politically savvy.  Current president of VICFA, she has been in the trenches for 15 years, guarding the home kitchen exemptions ( VA Code 3.2- 5130) from an over reaching bureaucracy called VDACS.  She knows all the members current and past  of the Agriculture committees for both the House and the Senate.  She knows who is a freedom  loving republican and who is owned by the lobbyists.  She knows all the lobbyists and even has compassion for a few.  She knows Food Freedom crosses political lines and which democrats shook hands with republicans  to promote the good for all.

Lois is the kind of person who is principled and selfless. There are many new young farmers and  food artisans out there  who take advantage with neither concern  nor knowledge of the hard fought rights VICFA had gained or protected. While they sell their goods,  Lois has little time to grow or promote her own farm and goods because  she stands on the wall guarding us.

There is no higher example than when she shepherded the 2016 Food Freedom Act until the end.  She woke up February 1st at 5 am and milked her cow. She then went to work all day, drove to Richmond General Assembly to  see the bill be heard a SECOND time at the 4:30 Agriculture Subcommittee hearing, then went to school until ten p.m. that night.  All for the benefit of people she will never know.  And she isn’t even paid.

I wish there were more Lois-es out there.  Those who understand the value of a home cooked meal, in its terms of  nutrition, economics, community stability and environmental impact, and who can crack a joke so funny it will make your sides split with uncontrollable laughter.

Take the opportunity to  make it to the next VICFA Meeting.  Its the second Sunday of every month at noon.  See their website for details and sign up for the newsletters and action alerts.  You will love the people you meet and Lois is guaranteed to make you smile!




The Queen and Her Knight


Ruler of Pumpkin Pies

We rid ourselves from Royalty centuries ago, but Sandy Adams, Commissioner of Agriculture controls the Old Dominion, at least in the area of food.

Monday evening, January  25th,  the amended Food Freedom Act,  house bill 619, pared down greatly to just allow baked goods such as pumpkin pies, passed the house agriculture subcommittee.   There was no opposition from Farm Bureau nor Agribusiness Council.  VDACS (Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)  made no opposition either.  They were present at the bill hearing.

Moving along in parliamentary procedure, the bill, was scheduled to be heard Wednesday, January 27th at 8:30 am.   Lois Smith, president of VICFA was ready to be on hand for any amendments and to testify for the anticipated passage of the bill.  Just before the hearing, she was informed that VDACS had an issue with the bill and it would not be heard in the full committee.   Why did they not mention it Monday night? They were there and could hear fine.   The full committee meeting was just an hour and a half away, they could  make their testimony then, in front of 22 members.

Determined to see the bill pass,  Smith met with VDACS Commissioner Sandy Adams and Dr. Wilkes  to strike a friendly amendment.  A compromise was suggested to add language for what temperature to hold the  foods.   Adams said NO.  We don’t like the bill, period.  We will give you no compromise. You have enough foods you can sell without my approval.  You get no pumpkin pies!!  Interestingly enough, when asked what the regulations were currently on pumpkin pies, neither Adams nor Wilkes could answer.

I thought only our delegates legislate.  At the Food Freedom Task force meetings in 2014, VDACS held that they only follow law, they don’t make it.

It seems something has changed,  maybe she has a Knight that she controls and will do her bidding.  Delegate Barry Knight, that is,  Chairman of the  House Agriculture sub committee and a 12,000  Hog contractor for Smithfield.

It seems Adams has the ability to have a bill  RE-HEARD  because the vote did not go the way she wanted.   How can that be? How can a bill that was heard, voted on in the sub committee and PASSED not be heard in the FULL committee?   Is it within parliamentary procedure for a Chairman to reschedule a vote for a bill that was heard that was on its way to full committee?  How much power does a chairman have? How much power does the state have?

Monday night Feb 1, 2016,  the bill actually was sent back down to the sub committee and presented again.  This time it DIED without a motion.

Let this journey of simple pumpkin pie freedom be a lesson for us all.  We need a constitutional amendment to secure the right to acquire the foods we want.




Five Hundred against One


Photo Credit  Steve Maskell

“If you are not over the target, they aren’t shooting at you.”

~ Mark Baker of Bakers Green Acres

When one small farmer from South west Virginia got involved with the legislative process to promote  food freedom, he believed with all his heart that American Freedoms, begun in Virginia were important enough to stand up for  in Richmond at the General Assembly.  He spoke in favor of the Virginia Food Freedom Act and the Raw Milk Bill ( three cow exemption.) It was a six hour ride for him- one way.  Dwayne McIntyre  spoke to a Agricultural Sub committee meeting for  12 minutes, much longer than anyone else, but after a six hour drive to be heard, we all agreed it was deserved.  And he stood out.  Stood out enough to be noticed by  Virginia Farm Bureau and Virginia Agribusiness Council.

He made the point that we all want to be able to participate in the free market.  Small Farmers want to be able to sell their products.

The bill was shot down, but undeterred, Mr. McIntyre went back home to southwest Virginia and embraced the springtime calling of farm work.  He had the opportunity to move from full-time management of someone else’s farm to starting his own, beginning with one cow,  Em.  She was the beginning of his cow share operation which is legal in VA.  He found with Em, the vegetables and the poultry operation he and his family could profit well from their labor of love of the land and animals.

His bright friendly personality brought welcome interviews with news media that wanted to do stories on local food and new farm items available in the area.  He was featured in local news stories and radio interviews and most recently a television interview.  That media attention got him noticed by local extension agent Phil Blevins,  who is also the coordinator for the Agriculture Advisory Committee for Washington County Board of Supervisors.

Since Dwayne legally sells  non-government inspected ( but consumer inspected) poultry and vegetables at the Abingdon Famers Market,  like many other farmers,  and recently started his own Cow share operation, like many other farmers there, it was curious why suddenly   Washington County Board of Supervisors recently had a presentation on  its agenda  initiated by Rena Johnson, owner of Highland Dairy, a 500 cow industrial  dairy operation and member of the Agriculture committee.  She posited that non-(government) inspected foods and raw milk at the Abingdon Farmer’s Market were a serious danger to the community. How long have farmers been selling vegetables, eggs, poultry  and shares in cows?  Why the danger? Why now?  No one has complained about illness nor death. Farmers Markets are growing by leaps and bounds.

Luckily,  Mr. McIntyre was able to make a presentation as well at that same meeting, and the public comment was impressively supportive of small family farms.

For a small farmer starting out with a one cow share operation to be attacked viciously by  a  large farmer who has 500 cows is pretty sad. It shows the vulnerability of the industrial food system which is threatened by one independent small farmer.




Merry Christmas from Michigan State Dept of Ag and USDA

Merry Christmas from Michigan State Dept of Ag and USDA to the Baker Family. Harassment and terrorism was the gift this season.

Mark Baker, a peaceful veteran has only tried to make an honest living on his farm providing the finest pork, Mangalitsa to his local community who loves it.   Big industry is using the state to push around the liberty lovers who dare to provide an alternative to grocery store meat purchases and independent restaurant choices. There is a huge back story to this. But in keeping with Mark’s wishes- he has a wife and many young children to protect ( and yes, it is sad his own wife and children are not safe on his own farm) lets keep ourselves in check. We cannot let the employees of the State tempers ignite. The state has guns and there has been too much violence within our own country.   Please follow the story and make sure your state and federal representatives are aware that USDA is out of control, we will not tolerate this in Virginia.