The Lexus crowd will assemble for a society soiree in exclusive Bethesda, Md., later this month to benefit a horse-and-buggy Mennonite farmer.
The announcement comes from Lyn Rales, whose invitation offers the opportunity to “Spread a little Sunshine into the lives of the [Mark] Nolt family.”
He was one of the Mennonite farmers who produced raw milk and other products and sold them directly to friends. Then came a raid by state officials.
The connection? Many individuals in the Bethesda crowd are Nolt’s customers, and have been infuriated by state efforts to shut him down.
According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, which works on behalf of farmers and other producers, the $100-per-person fundraiser on June 21 will generate contributions that will go directly to the Nolt family.
“Nolt argues that he has a constitutional right to direct farm-to-consumer sales without permission from the state. During several raids officials confiscated almost $50,000 worth of equipment and food, including food Nolt needs to feed his family of 10 children. The farmer also faces thousands of dollars in fines and an uncertain future,” the organization said.
WND reported earlier when Nolt, a Mt. Holly Springs farmer, was fined $4,000 by the state for dealing in raw milk in violation of the state’s bureaucracy that demands he hold a permit to sell his natural products.
WND also reported earlier on the SWAT team-like raid on Nolt’s farm, the government’s confiscation of tens of thousands of dollars worth of his products as well as pieces of machinery he used for his milk handling and sales.
Supporters told WND Nolt’s case is just an example of what the government is trying to do to those who believe – based on medical results – that raw milk is better for them than the processed milk available in most grocery stores.
Processed milk, evidence indicates, could lead to clogged arteries, strokes and heart attacks.
According to reports published by the Price Foundation, results of a study by the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom revealed only 1 percent of the subjects in an ongoing lifestyle study of 5,000 men suffered heart attacks – if they drank full-fat milk and ate butter rather than margarine.
An announcement from the Price Foundation said the Mennonite community long has had a “tradition of safe, legal raw milk sales.” However, of late, the “Pennsylvania Health and Agriculture authorities have taken an aggressive anti-raw milk stance, going so far as to send out press releases warning consumers it is not safe to drink raw milk, harassing farmers who sell the product and making it increasingly difficult for farmers to secure and keep raw milk permits,” the foundation said.
Such products, however, are key to a small sustainable farm’s success, the foundation said.
“The Mark Nolt situation is galvanizing consumers who want to see our nation transition to more a sustainable farming system. His case highlights the difficulties posed by the state and federal regulations designed to control abuses of big agribusiness but then inappropriately applied to the independent small farm,” the foundation said.
The unlikely link between Nolt and the Bethesda jet-set started when Rales’ son was working on a degree in environmental studies at Middlebury College. He contacted Nolt as part of his research and they spent time together.
As a result, Rales now gets much of the food for her household from the Nolt farm.
Speakers at the garden party featuring drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be Joel Salatin, who has created a model of sustainability at his Virginia farm and has written several books, as well as Sally Fallon-Morell, founder of the foundation.
The food will be obtained from Nolt and other farmers.
Fallon’s organization also runs a Real Milk campaign, and she told WND earlier the Pennsylvania case will affect the raw milk situation across the nation.
She said the first raid on Nolt’s farm was Aug. 10, 2007, when the state Department of Agriculture seized more than $25,000 worth of product, packaging equipment and supplies.
“In the second raid, (April 25), the agents descended on the quiet farm, ‘like Vikings,’ according to Mark, in six police cars and at least five unmarked cars, presumably belonging to PDA officials. The agents were personally led by Bill Chirdon, director of PDA’s Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services. Mark tried asking one policeman what the state’s authority was for being on the property but the policeman kept cutting him off, seemingly trying to provoke a confrontation. The police threatened to arrest anyone who attempted to set foot on Nolt’s property; even Nolt’s father and brother who live on the same lane were denied access,” she said.
Then Nolt was taken away in handcuffs, she said.
At the time, the New York Daily News reported the farmer’s customers were enraged.
“My heart is pounding. I can’t believe what a … police state this is,” one Brooklyn customer told the newspaper. “I gave him $100 last week for a huge delivery of stuff, including raw cream that I planned on using to make cream puffs.”
Taaron Meikle, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, said Nolt’s case has the highest profile right now because of his arrest and court action.