Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Moving on and West Virginia's Department of Agriculture's Stance on Herdshares in 2017
Raw milk. Shew.
This has been a heck of a journey. From finding sponsors, to writing the original language (sales and shares), from speaking continually at committees, to blogging, doing social media memes and newsletters, articles in the newspapers and interviews on the news for years on end. . .I meant to see this to where we are today.
It has actually been nearly a decade since I started what eventually would grow into Food Freedom activism.
It has been over 5 years since the first legislative efforts, and wow, what an experience this has been!
Folks across the state really become motivated and mostly united with a goal of allowing people to access to the foods they choose in a great way, in the end.
Oddly, one of my first lobby efforts was during a conversation during a fall festival a friend hosted many years ago where I spoke with a lady whose husband would eventually go onto be a senator who voted for the herdshare bill each time it came through the senate, and the man who eventually would win the position of the state's Agricultural Commissioner this past election, Kent Leonhardt. She told me then he supported raw milk, both sales and shares, and he has proven true to that position so many years later.
Today, Commissioner Leonhardt upheld the position that rules were not needed in Raw Milk Herdshare law in West Virginia during a small meeting of stakeholders at the Capitol. Of course, it was the position of the others in the meeting that rules were needed, but thankfully, freedom won out.
I fought very hard to keep this effort as free from government entanglements as possible, as that is what most producers and consumers wanted. It was also the right way for it to be. We succeeded. I've worked against a few other vocal farmers in the movement who accepted and even wanted the Health Department's influence in herdsharing when it was only a bill. I insisted they be kept out, and kept out they were, as well as most all of their requests and hopes for regulating producers to death. Today, I spoke at length against those same things today, but thankfully, we've reached a point, it was not nearly as needed today because we finally have a Commissioner with an eye to freedom in food and expanding the farming economic opportunities in West Virginia.
So I'm happy to tell the farmers of WV, as of today, the official position of the Department of Agriculture is that no further rules will be coming, so you can operate a herdshare and buy into a herdshare without concern that changes will be coming in the near future (or at all, except possibly sales in a few years if all goes well and folks work hard for it).
To follow the law, check here: http://www.wvherdshares.com/p/how-to-follow-herdshare-law.html
That being said, it has always been that I worked on this to see small farmers have opportunities, not for myself.
I've really not had the time to operate a formal share program due to the many other pans and pots in the fire, and that isn't likely to change. It was always for the "Farmer."
Moving forward, I hope the Food Freedom movement grows and raw milk sales off the farm becomes a reality one day here.
There is a lot of room for honest, knowledgeable education. Workshops and classes taught by awesome folks like Marilyn of Kickadee hill, for instance.
There is a lot of room for trial and error to see this law work well and allow small dairy farmers to flourish and local milk to become easily accessible.
I hope folks pick it up and continue to run with it wherever this food freedom friendly administration will let them take it. Man, come on, get out there. The time is much more friendly now than when I started years back.
I've worked on the ship a long time, so ya'll go sail it wherever it might go. I'll always be happy to answer questions, should anyone have them and help if I can, but that is where I leave it.
But as for me, I have taken it to where I wanted, and I'm bowing out. These past 8 years have been exhausting, dramatic and shew. . .cost me a fortune in gas driving to Charleston :)
It has been a heck of a ride.