Mendo Islanders: Cease and Desist says California Dept. of Food and Agriculture to Green Uprising Farm in Willits [Updated]


[Update below from Michael Foley…]

Dear friends, family, newspaper editors, and those who seek wholesome food in their local community:

On Thursday June 30th during the weekly farmer’s market in Willits, California, my husband Michael Foley was served a notice of violation from Jim Dentoni of the Calif. Dept. of Food and Agriculture.  The notice said: “You are hereby ordered to cease and desist the sale of, and giving away, of any and all raw or pasteurized dairy products from any unlicensed dairy and/or processing milk plant.”

My husband and I run a small family farm called Green Uprising at Blackberry Bend where we reside with our children and grandchildren.  In addition to providing the community with fresh fruit and vegetables grown without artificial pesticides and fertilizers, we board, feed, and milk ten adult goats for shareholders who have purchased ownership interest in the herd.

According to the Calif Dept. of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) this is a threat to the public health.  Our children, our grandchildren, friends, family, neighbors and shareholders all drink raw milk directly from the teats of goats boarded at our farm (my goodness!) and we are all alive and well, happy and healthy.  In fact, if you go back three or four generations most everyone who consumed milk drank it raw from a family farm in their community.  But, according to CDFA, our shareholders don’t have the right to drink raw milk from a goat herd they have purchased an ownership interest in.  According to CDFA, they know better than you what’s good for you.  And, they think that pasteurized milk from a feedlot dairy where large amounts of antibiotics are used (due to the unhealthy conditions) and Bovine Growth Hormone (a genetically engineered artificial growth hormone) may be given to stimulate milk production, is healthier than the milk I hand milk into glass jars from my ten precious goats.  You have got to be kidding…

We have agreed to temporarily cease and desist providing milk to those who have ownership interest in the herd. But, we are committed to fighting the intrusions of a “nanny state” that imposes its misinformed notions of food safety.  We  will be gathering our shareholders for a meeting and, with legal counsel from the Farmer to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, we will be discussing all possibilities available to ensure that everyone has the right to drink the milk of their choice.  By the way, when I went out to the barn and told Floppy, Rosemary, Persimmon and the rest of the flock to cease and desist producing milk they told me I was crazy, they were hungry and I better get to work milking them, now.  So, what am I supposed to do with the gallons and gallons of milk filling the fridge, Jim Dentoni?  My mother, who was a child during the Depression, taught me never to waste good food.

Why is it so easy to shut down a small family farm?  Why does the California Department of Food and Agriculture believe that Hostess Twinkies, Lucky Charms or Coca Cola are safe foods, but that raw milk produced at our farm is dangerous?  Here’s a deal I would be more than willing to make.  I don’t believe that raw milk is a public health threat, but we would gladly cease and desist the production of  raw milk if the following real public health threats and real threats to the future of our planet would also cease and desist. For example, how about shutting down nuclear power plants, offshore oil drilling, fracking operations, or asking coal companies to cease and desist mountaintop removal and shutting down coal-fired electricity plants?  Or how about asking Cal Trans to cease and desist on the bypass plan and give the land back to its original owners?

[Update] Michael Foley responds to comments:

Can’t sell cheese except from a licensed facility. You can drink your own milk still, even serve it to the kids but not, presumably, guests. CDFA (or some part of it) even thinks that our shareholders, who’ve purchased an ownership interest in the herd, would drink it — but only on the farm! And if I gave it to my daughter who lives in Oakland — whoa! outside the law. As interpreted by CDFA.

So there may be a court case involving a San Jose couple in the same situation. We may join it. There seems to be lots of traction behind a movement to enact local food sovereignty ordinances. A good symbolic step, though it will mean the same thing to CDFA, I presume, as California’s medical marijuana law means to the feds.

Stay tuned. Come to the showing of Farmaggedon. [Friday, July 15th – Little Lake Grange, 291 School St, Willits, CA at 7pm]


I’m of course very angry, as I’m sure most of you are as well. It strikes me, though, that there is an escape hatch. If all money transfers are in untraceable cash, they will be unable to discern that sales have occurred. It is surely not against the law to give away raw milk. Marijuana sales have opened this door. This is maybe the easiest way to cut out government meddling Let us refuse to dance to the government/corporate tune in any way we can beginning with trading locally for locally produced products in every way we can – in cash.

    They have been told not to give it away either – seems like most ideas put them back into outlaw status…

Who filed a complaint? How were these bureau-monsters clued in to your minuscule operation? Have a meeting with all your customers and come up with a “plot” to foil these guys. Here’s the real tea party opportunity for open rebellion. If your consumer group decides to hold you at “gunpoint” and then start sucking at your goats’ teats or filling their jugs without your complicity in calling “law enforcement”, all of this just a holding operation until you can get some bigger guns trained on the “enforcers”, while major media attention is garnered through a tweet kind of campaign, we might collectively benefit.

Personally, I would not care to suck at your goats’ teats, nor drink whole raw goat milk, but that has nothing to do with the great value for little kids and others.

Good luck – I mean that, not sarcastically, but sincerely.

    There is a potential for the whole community to weigh in & help this first local direct attack on our human & divine & legal right to choose what food we wish to ingest. Please join us at the showing of “Farmageddon” – Friday, July 15th – Little Lake Grange, 291 School St, Willits, CA at 7pm. Sara & Michael will be present to answer questions & the discussion will take us forward into action…I hope!!!

So it seems, if I have a cow or goat, go away on vacation, pay someone else to milk it when I’m gone, and drink the milk when I return, I’m committing a crime? Or, if I buy a cow, pay for its care and milking, and drink my cow’s milk, I’m committing a crime? It strikes me none of this would ever withstand a jury trial in Mendocino County. This isn’t nearly the dodge that medical marijuana is. I read that the FDA is going to take after unregulated marketing of home grown fruits and vegetables. This is more than just goat milk; it is part of a coordinated attack against local.

I agree this is a miscarriage of justice but sometimes one has to find a practical solution in the interim. My understanding is that licensed dairies but not individuals can sell raw milk. But what about raw cheese? Cheese, after aging for a certain period, is considered, at least in some more enlightened locations, safer than raw fluid milk and is less tightly regulated. Could you turn the milk into raw cheese and sell, share or give it in that form?

Can’t sell cheese except from a licensed facility. You can drink your own milk still, even serve it to the kids but not, presumably, guests. CDFA (or some part of it) even thinks that our shareholders, who’ve purchased an ownership interest in the herd, would drink it — but only on the farm! And if I gave it to my daughter who lives in Oakland — whoa! outside the law. As interpreted by CDFA.

So there may be a court case involving a San Jose couple in the same situation. We may join it. There seems to be lots of traction behind a movement to enact local food sovereignty ordinances. A good symbolic step, though it will mean the same thing to CDFA, I presume, as California’s medical marijuana law means to the feds.

Stay tuned. Come to the showing of Farmaggedon.

This is just so disturbing and ridiculous! Why is the government involved – can I now not share a dinner with a neighbor if I use dangerous ingredients such as RAW real milk?
Yikes! What is the world coming to? We must fight for our rights – please take some action – if we don’t take a stand – we will all lose! We deserve to make our own choices on our food sources and insisting on humane treatment of the animals that provide us these amazing healing foods.

I am happy to hear that Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has got your back. This is not isolated to California. It is a concerted effort by USDA and FDA and it has huge, ugly ramifications.
Once again, this is a backwards situation. Why should we have to enact food sovereignty laws to undo the crap laws that USDA and FDA enacted without our support?
Meanwhile, make cheese!
All the best to you.

The government has no authority to regulate a herd share. It is not a dairy and does not sell milk. It does not require a “license”. A herd share is a privately owned herd of animals. There is no law that says that in order for you to own property, that property must also reside on land that you own. Can you imagine hearing, ” Sorry, the furniture you paid to have stored in a storage unit is no longer yours, because it left your property.” That is ludicrous.

Bureaucrats are twisting the laws to serve their own purposes; they only want milk to come from licensed facilities. If people can get milk by other means, what will become of the licensed facilities? What would happen if licensing and inspections where no longer needed? What would the bureaucrats do then? They might have to…gasp…go to work and PRODUCE something!!

The right to own property is protected in our Constitution. And, when an animal is owned, that includes the meat, milk, hide, manure, etc. That milk BELONGS to those herd share owners! The government agents, in this case, are violating these people’s rights, and should be held accountable for it.

I hope FTCLDF comes back with guns (figuratively, of course!) blaring and sues the ever-loving **$!!*##* out of these guys. The Foleys are not doing anything unlawful, but the government agents are. May justice prevail.

    Unfortunatly we have the wrong people holding these offices who think that they can dictate instead of delagate the law. It comes from the wrong side of two jourisdictions: one is corporate and the other is common. In the case of corporate you have a license with known or unknown liabilities punishable with fines, restrictions and even incarceration. The common law is more a self-governance that is more regulated by individual rights that only extend to the rights of others and must show evidence with witnesses how you have damaged another before action can be taken against you. “Where you have license, you do not have liberty”. Vote for people like Ron Paul! May GOD help us bring back LIBERTY!

We have very little influence on government at any level, except in one way: jury trials.

We’re rooting for you! People should have the right to drink milk from their own dairy animals. The vendetta against raw milk is unfounded, out of control, and just another scare tactic. Sadly, I fear it will drive many out of small farming. Eventually you just get tired……

If there was ever an appropriate theatre for nonviolent resistance, it would be in defense of your own person & property, and here is a perfect example. And if this isn’t bad enough, apparently the county is quietly ramping up the building code war again.

People get ready.

CDFA in the person of the Secretary of Agriculture, no less, now has a new interpretation: shareholders may take the milk, but only if they milk the goats themselves.

Here’s the irony: you may buy part or all of a steer on the hoof, commission the rancher to slaughter it for you and convey it to a “custom butcher”, who stamps the packages with “Not for Sale”, and receive it to serve to your family, guests, etc. No objection. The carcass may be hauled in the back of a pickup and the processed meat delivered to you in same, but nobody objects. USDA, CDFA, and the courts have all decided this is OK. So why not dairy?

Actually, Micheal, what the rule for California on direct sale of whole animals for slaughter is that the animal either has to go to a USDA facility to be killed or it has to go to the buyers property for 4 days. After the four days, the farmer can go to the buyers property and kill the animal for him and even charge for it but only after is has been under the buyers control for 4 days.

If an animal goes to a USDA facility for slaughter, it can go to a county health inspected cut and wrap (such as The Superette in Calpella) which then all the packages get stamped with NOT FOR SALE. If you want to sell packaged meat, the carcass must be cut and wrapped at a USDA facility such as Sonoma Direct. If you want further processing (like sausages) it has to go to a USDA facility as well.

All the regulatory hoops is the main reason we don’t actively look for local customers of our lambs. It’s much easier to take them to Panizzerra ( a USDA inspected sheep/goat slaughter house in downtown Occidental) and have them continue their journey on south to restaurants in San Francisco rather then us having to deal with the carcasses being shipped to Sonoma Direct and the meat brought back to Mendo.

We only have the stomach for so much rebelliousness. Bucking the trend and going for the midscale diverse farming operation is enough for us to handle. We won’t put ourselves into the position of running afoul of the Food Police. So yeah, unless something happens like loosening of regulations (highly unlikely) or the building of some sort of USDA inspected facilities here in Mendo, we will continue to look to the Bay Area to absorb the increase in our farms production.

Adam, let me see if I get this right, “It’s much easier to take them to Panizzerra” correct?
Then “what if” locally those that wanted to eat your meat did the background work and did for you what you could do, if you had time and rebellious fortitude?

I see a niche for us to come forward and finally know what part of the production of our food we can effectively participate in, there’s work to be done and hanging on to our food rights is where we the people can come together . Welcome one and all we have arrived at the edge, FOOD this primal stand is where our senses kick in.

In the mean time while we are getting our butts kicked into place, I hope Adam and Sara that you will continue holding space for us, thank you to all who are forging the path.



They have to go to Panizerra whether we sell to restaurants or to local people (legally at least). What’s easier is for them to continue their journey south because the restaurant we sell to is willing to go to Panizerra to pick up the carcasses. Otherwise, they would have to be sent to Sonoma Direct, the cut and wrap facility, then we’d have to pick it up from there and bring it back. Eventually, we’ll be at a scale of about 150-200 ewes/200+ lambs that we would be going to Panizerra consistently enough that we could be dropping off lambs and picking up cut and wrapped meat to bring back. In the meantime, as we build up, we have to be working uo to build to that scale and be selling lambs. Once we do get there, we aren’t going to turn around and throw the restaurant that has helped us get there under the bus. Besides, I’m not so sure we’d have the demand locally to sell all those lambs. We sure don’t now as the other local lamb producer (Owen Family Farm) sells up Farmer’s Market’s in Sonoma besides our local market’s. It doesn’t make sense to try and cut in on an already meager market.

As for the rebellious fortitude, I just don’t feel like throwing myself under the bulldozer. I feel like our time and energy is better spent developing the farm and scaling up our food production rather than fighting something that is killing itself anyways. The biggest way local people could support local farms is pretty simple- buy our food. When it really comes down to it, that’s the most important. There are other important things like equitable access to land, developing new farmers, community financing for local farms and industry etc etc but really, people need to purchase our food. Otherwise, the other things don’t matter even if they are there.

And maybe I’m a bit cynical, but I’m not so sure food will be such a drive that our senses will kick in pushing us to act in our collective self interest. I think for most people what will kick in is a sense of fear, bringing out the worst in humanity. I’d like to think otherwise but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.