September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Farmer not guilty in raw milk case

By by Bryan Zollman- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

FREEPORT, Minn. - A jury in Hennepin District County Court found Freeport organic egg producer Alvin Schlangen not guilty on all counts of violating Minnesota's restrictions on raw milk sales on Thursday, Sept. 20.
A six-person jury came to its verdict after four and a half hours of deliberation on all three counts of charges.
Schlangen's attorney, Nathan Hansen, stated that their battle against the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is not over, citing the future court case they face in Stearns County on the same type of charges.
"It does point to a pattern that they're out to get my client," Hanson said. "We're confident that our argument will win out in Stearns County just as it did in Hennepin County."
Schlangen asserts that the Freedom Farms Co-op is not violating the raw milk sale laws because it is a voluntary, private food club.
The Freedom Farms Co-op said in an official statement, "We are a group of people with over 130 families who pay membership fees to the club to pay for transportation of our pre-ordered food. We have found that this is our best option for sourcing nutrient-dense, wholesome food. He only sells the eggs raised on his farm, and the Minnesota Constitution protects the right for him to do this without a license."
Their statement continued with pointing out that their system is set up as a "convenient and efficient method to connect the people with the products of the animals we lease, along with other food items that we can't grow on our own."
Consequently, Freedom Farms Co-op says that Schlangen is not in a retail position because the food is being delivered under a prepaid contract.
"Our choice to join this private food club has no effect on non-members," the statement further reads. "Our contracts detail all potential health risks, and we agree to assume all responsibilities on an individual basis for those risks. Alvin isn't doing anything to hurt you, but this lawsuit is costing you money, for which you should be outraged."
Added Schlangen, "We're not talking about raw milk from any cow in the state. It's a grass-fed animal that can be sustained for several years on healthy soil and healthy pasture."
Schlangen said he was not surprised by the verdict, but was prepared for it to go either way.
"I was fully expecting what we got, otherwise I would have been crazy to be in that courtroom in the first place," he said.
On the State of Minnesota vs. Alvin Schlangen case, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture released a statement saying, "We respect the role of the jury in the legal process. However, we strongly disagree with this ruling. The law on this matter is clear, and the jury was tasked with making a narrow finding of whether, in their view, the state had provided sufficient evidence to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of Alvin Schlangen violated state law. This is the highest burden of proof in the legal system, and the fact that the jurors deliberated for as long as they did shows that they found the decision a difficult one to make. This narrow ruling does not wipe away the fact that many children and adults have gotten dangerously sick from consuming raw milk. It also does not wipe away the other legal rulings that have upheld MDA enforcement actions. Protecting the integrity of our food supply remains our top priority, and Minnesotans expect us to do that job using modern science and the law as our guide. We will continue to work in their best interests."
Schlangen said the harassment the traditional foods community receives has hurt his Traditional Foods Warehouse he owns in Minneapolis. Currently, the warehouse is not functioning.
"In my opinion, it's got so much to do with competing with mediocre food that is mass produced," he said.
Schlangen said he will continue to provide consumers with products they want.
"It's not going to stop," he said. "It's a matter of efficiency. We've been harassed. The access to natural, wholesome foods has been blackballed for 10 years. With this foundation we have now, it's a green light. It doesn't change the necessity to be food handlers or efficient food movers or being good at supporting that sustainable source. None of this can work unless you have somebody on both ends who is happy with what their purpose is. One is feeding kids and the other is creating food. We have nature involved here and a lot of intelligence. We're using state-of-the-art information to create, handle and move the food. It's pretty ridiculous we have to keep tiptoeing around a problem that was created by the production of moonshine in the prohibition days and unhealthy cows and unhealthy workers. They blanket the entire industry because of that."
He hoped the verdict in his case could be a landmark decision, and curb some of the harassment he claims.
"I think it's going to change that a little bit," he said.

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