Farm-to-table dinner raids and government attacks on small farmers – AKA why we need the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund

Locally grown cherry tomatoes at the Charlottesville farmers market

Locally grown cherry tomatoes at the Charlottesville farmers market

It’s no secret that I’m passionate about local, sustainable food and humane animal agriculture. I’ve posted about local farms, I’ve talked about my own foibles with gardening and raising chicks, I’ve interviewed sustainable agriculture legend Joel Salatin, Jimmy and I even pulled up roots and moved to the middle of nowhere with the intention of growing our own food. So when I hear about government officials targeting small farms, it gets my britches in a bunch. Bigtime.

I found out about the government raid on Quail Hollow Farm through a post at Nourished Kitchen. I look to Jenny’s site for information on traditional foods, and have long admired her outreach programs like the self-funded WIC program and real food pantry. When I saw this post come in through my email, I was saddened, and I was furious too. Sadly, it’s one of many stories like this, where a family farm is targeted by an overzealous government official. Read and watch about the raid on Quail Hollow Farm’s private dinner event for their CSA shareholders:

Despite hiring a professional chef, despite using licensed kitchens and on-site preparation facilities and despite holding a private event for her guests, Laura and her farm were targeted, and the health inspector even deemed her professionally prepared, organic and farm-fresh foods unfit for her guests, her family and even her pigs – insisting that they pour bleach over the meal and suggested that she go buy food from the grocery store to serve her guests.

Roasted tomatillo salsa I prepared from locally grown produce and canned in my own kitchen. ILLEGAL AND DANGEROUS

Roasted tomatillo salsa I prepared from locally grown produce and canned in my own kitchen. ILLEGAL AND DANGEROUS

There’s something very broken about a system that calls genetically modified organisms, high fructose corn syrup, chemical additives, and food dyes safe, but considers farm fresh eggs, grandma’s fruit preserves, and fresh raw milk a criminal health hazard.

The reality is that farmers and outreach programs like the ones I mentioned above can be shut down in an instant by the overzealous whim of a government official. In Laura Bledsoe’s account of the night they shut down the dinner for private guests, she recollects that even after the health inspector forced them to pour bleach over their fresh, professionally-prepared food, after she called the police on the farm, even then she still couldn’t give a the cops a reason why they should write up a citation to the farmers. But, the night was already ruined, and hundreds of dollars of gourmet food was in the trash. Ridiculous.

It comes down to personal freedom

A delicious and beautiful ginger pineapple beverage at the Charlottesville farmers market

A delicious and beautiful ginger pineapple beverage at the Charlottesville farmers market

Whether I want to eat a box of chicken McNuggets or chow down on a locally-raised, free-range roast chicken should be MY CHOICE. Not the choice of an overzealous government official who chooses that moment to enact an arbitrary decision. It should be my inherent right as a human being to choose what food I feed myself, my family, and my animals. I think the fact that a government bureaucrat can step onto my property and tell me that I can’t serve food I have grown and prepared myself to my private guests is wrong. It’s unethical. It’s scary.

Does this story upset you? I think it should. Your right to support family farms, small businesses, artisan producers, and to choose what you feed your family is at risk. Even in America, we need to fight to keep our personal freedoms. Fight early, and fight often. Here’s how you can help.

Join the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund

Jimmy and I are both members of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. This organization provides legal support for farms and ranches that have been targeted in similar raids as the one Laura experienced last fall.

Some of the children my mom taught in our home school studying the human body - we created each system as we learned about it. Here's a skeleton and some guts. Later we put muscles and skin on top.

Some of the children my mom taught in our home school studying the human body – we created each system as we learned about it. Here’s a skeleton and some guts we created out of papier-mâché, glue, glitter, tinfoil, fabric, and who knows what else. Later we crafted and then put muscles and skin on top. I loved my home school education.

The FTCLDF is similar to the Home School Legal Defense Association, which advocates for parents’ rights to direct their children’s education and keep their freedom of choice with regards to schooling. Even as a kid, I knew how important the HSLDA was. My mom, a college-educated teacher, home schooled my brother, sisters, and me, and taught a few other friend’s children in our home. I remember the times we were harassed by government officials about zoning regulations and the “traffic” our tiny school of 15 kids in our home was causing to the neighborhood. It was comforting to my parents to know that there was an advocacy group dedicated to protecting their right to direct our schooling and advise them on their legal standing.

In the same way, the FTCLDF advocates for the rights of small farmers, fights for freedom of choice for consumers, and keeps an eye on government officials who would do damage to these small businesses by harassing, raiding, confiscating equipment and food, and throwing farmers into jail.

Right now, they’re holding their annual fundraiser, and donors can receive select gifts –  a Weston A Price Foundation Tee-shirt, a copy of the book Folks, This Ain’t Normalthe film Farmageddon, and a limited edition lithograph of Early Haymaking in the Ozarks. For a donation of  $250, you can attend a farm-to-table event at Joel Salatin’s legendary Polyface Farm.

Thomas Jefferson used strong words in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote:

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

Swarms of officers, indeed. If local food, sustainability, and freedom of choice are important to you, please consider joining the FTCLDF today. Even a small donation can help.

Passionate declarations about personal choice are going down in the comments. Leave yours.


  1. Greg Stenson says

    Amber, thank you for giving more exposure to this story. I live in Las Vegas, NV and remember hearing about this fiasco through the grapevine last fall from some people that participate in a few CSAs here in Southern Nevada and Southern Utah. Perhaps the most interesting conundrum is that this situation was caused by the the Southern Nevada Health District. I understand the role of a health district, especially in a heavily tourist-trafficked city like Las Vegas– One case of salmonella can destroy an eatery’s reputation (Oh imagine the tragedy if said eatery were to be in a popular hotel and casino). But to all but shut down a farm-to-table event because the meat wasn’t stamped by the USDA? Ridiculous. Yet those same people that were attending that dinner to drive 40 minutes north to Las Vegas and drink the liquor of their choice any time they want in a 24-hour period … legally! Banning real, grassroots nutrition, but allowing gluttonous inebriation; sad, isn’t it? Yes, this is a talk that can be had for hours, with all sorts of parallels, allegories, science, and philosophies, blah, blah, blah … but in the name of simplicity and health, I think it is evident that local government did the wrong thing that night.

    I will be donating to the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

  2. says

    Health Department SELLOUT to Corps… full crop to the garbage, not even pigs allowed! This is simply outrageous B*shiz!!! The direct effect of sold-out government officials to Monsanto! Only to mention the worst corp for the topic.

  3. Sunshine MS says

    Thanks for the info, Amber – I’m off to shout it from the rooftops and helping FTCLDF – us homeschoolers know that the battle can be long, but we can be the change and cause the change we need.

  4. Jeanne says

    When I homeschooled my son it was legal and we were not harassed because of those who had gone before us and fought the battles. I am incredibly grateful. Now the real food farmers need our help. I will donate to the legal defense fund and spread the word. To all those fighting at the front lines, be of good courage. You are not alone.

  5. John Calhoun says

    I am totally on board on buying local. I am a raw milk consumer (in a state where its actually allowed), buy local and am totally disgusted with big food/ big farm. I am also a dedicated Robb Wolf follower for the most part (see raw milk comment above (-;). However the reason the health inspector was even there was that this event was ADVERTISED in a local paper. It wasn’t until after the health inspector arrived that they tried to change it to a “private event”. If it was truly a “private event”, why was it advertised. If I have a barbecue at my house, I don’t advertise it in the local paper. Being in law enforcement, I see this attempt to circumvent laws regularly (lets change something after the fact that makes it OK now that I have been caught).

    Before I get flamed, please keep in mind that I understand these people (the farmers) are part of the solution, and that laws need to be changed to help the small farms thrive. I just think all the facts should be presented.

  6. Christen Dodd says

    Amber, thank you so much for writing this post. It was really an eye opener for me as I didn’t even know there was anything like the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (or why it is needed). I’ll def. be helping to spread the word and contribute to it myself!

  7. honestly says

    Why not just send the donation to the RNC, that way we could work on limiting government mixing in in many other areas as well (but especially food and education!)

  8. says

    Thank you for getting this info out there! In the last year I’ve noticed how much more I am caring about my rights and personal freedoms (thanks wholly to Robb Wolf for bringing this stuff to light). And I realized that my main goal in life is to be able to fully care for myself – from covering my own health care costs to growing my own food. I think the govt tries too hard to step in on it’s people’s behalf, and that has create these kinds of power-hungry govt workers. I think if Americans could wake up and see that owning your responsibilities for your life fully is -possible -doable & -feels effing awesome…more would give it a go.

  9. Lynn says

    I heard about this raid in NV as I was planning a Farm To Table event at a raw dairy/herd share farm last June. Yikes! What if this happened to us!?! We applied for a special event permit to pour liquor with the state liquor commission and had licensed adult servers handle the beer & wine. But what about the food? All the meats and dairy from the farm (not USDA inspected), vegetables donated from local growers, all prepared in the local high school’s culinary department kitchen by myself and a friend, both of us cook professionally. We advertised heavily in the area, we sold tickets to the public. The sheriff knew what we were doing as he needed notifying of the pouring permit. I have no idea if we broke any laws with the food we served, but probably so. What to do? Who to call and ask? Can I serve this pork? Can I serve this veal? Can we pour this raw milk to non-herd share members? One thing that made us feel safe: Pete Kennedy was one of our speakers, president of the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Our attorney was also eating the food with us! I figure we were covered as best we could. Please join the FTCLDF, and donate. Do it today. They work hard to protect both producer and consumer rights..

  10. leithel1 says

    Hate to bring it up but this is the Agenda 21 in prime form. The general population is profoundly unaware as to what is going on.

  11. deborah says

    Did anyone see the segment last night on NBC news with Brian Williams and Dr. Nancy Snyderman? It was about organic foods and eating local food. Very pro-farmer and choice. Although they say new studies prove organic is not more nutritious, common sense says it is safer with no pesticides. I am approved by NC to make jams, herbal vinegars and other non-temperature perishables in my home, the inspecter I dealt with told me many people have died from food processed in factories with inspections on site but no one has died from jam made in a private home kitchen. So much of this is being able to control where a problem came from when and if it happens. Here in NC, CSA’s and going to farms to pick your own….apples, blackberries, whatever or gather, your own eggs even… a big deal. We have more road side produce markets than churches……….they said on the news that it was a no brainer, know where your food comes from, how it is grown and eat local!

  12. Sheryl says

    I can not even imagine what you must have felt on this evening. I am very old school so I can just about bet I would have went to jail for escorting someone off my property via shotgun style. How dare our government think they have the right to tell us what to eat when we have so many obese & diabetic humans right now. Not to mention all the other health issues. I for one seem to have allergies from pesticide sprayed foods. I get horrible blisters in my mouth followed by itching. I never in my wildest dreams thought this was happening in our FREE country. I thank you for the information & plan on doing what I can to help out. BTW I grow some of my foods, can, give away as gifts, plus try to get fresh wild pig meat when I can. So what they are going to raid my stock of food. UHUH I didn’t earn my name CB WAG for letting someone dictate to me.

  13. says

    Keep your chin up… the reason we have outrageous over stepping by government officials is because the corporate food companies and their groupies know we are gaining ground everyday. Choosing your food is a human right…you can choose poptarts and Coca-cola or you can choose raw milk, pastured pork and greens from your yard. No government can take our human rights….We will overcome this.

  14. says

    Man oh man! This makes me hot too!

    I want the government out of our food!

    I wish that we could be a self-sufficient nation of small farmers – just as Jefferson envisioned it!

  15. says

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  16. Dave says

    The government is a bunch of crooks …..there the biggest drug dealers in the world n the only way they keep selling drugs is to keep us sick …think about it .if we r healthy we don’t need 90% of the drugs out there

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