Double O Farms

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This article is part of the Food Rights Network, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy. Find out more here.

Double O Farms is a farm in Kentucky owned by Gary and Dawn Oaks.

Raw Milk Sales

As of 2006, the Oaks had 15 dairy cows. They sold herd shares to local consumers who paid $75 per share plus a monthly maintenance fee. Shareholders received their shares in the form of one gallon of raw milk each week. Oaks, whose farm is located in Kentucky, delivered the milk to "various drop-off points in the Cincinnati area."[1]

Government Action Against Double O Farms

March 2006 Milk Seizure

On March 6, 2006, Oaks was met by police during a routine milk delivery in Cincinnati. The government agents included several unmarked cars with men in plain clothes. Miller estimates there were about eight agents plus four Cincinnati police. The agents were from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), the Kentucy Public Helath Department, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Shareholder Joanne Miller recalls:[2]

"I was placing empty bottles in carriers when I noticed a Cincinnati police cruiser moving through the parking lot slowly toward the trailer. Another cruiser followed. Officers moved toward the cow-share owners and told them not to pick up the milk that had already been set out, and actually moved in to prevent members from picking up the milk."

David Gumpert recorded Miller's and Oaks' recollections of the incident as follows:[3]

"As the agents began confiscating the milk both from the truck and from a few shareholders, and loading it into an ODA van, she says, they told objecting shareholders, "What's happening here is not your concern."
"This upset the shareholders, who began shouting that the milk belonged to them, that the agents had no right to it. One of the shareholders stood on the trailer's tailgate and waved her shareholder documents at the agents, who ignored her.
"Sensing the situation might be getting out of hand, the Cincinnati cops called for reinforcements, and two additional cruisers arrived. In the meantime, several plainclothes agents moved to separate Gary Oaks from his shareholders. For the soft-spoken 43-year-old, who grew up on a Mississippi farm and had only once in his life even been stopped for speeding, it was all becoming a terrifying blur. They moved him toward one of the unmarked cars and ordered him in. "They asked me what I was doing. One said, 'You're in a lot of trouble. You've broken all kinds of laws.'"
"Oaks didn't know what to say. "I was ignorant. I didn't know it was illegal to drink milk. I hate to sound ignorant."
"Then they moved him from that car into a second car, and the routine started over again, except more intensively. One agent was shouting from the back, and another in the front was demanding that he write something that sounded to him like a confession that he was selling unpasteurized milk. He began feeling ill. "They were telling me what to write, that I wouldn't sell milk." He believes he started to write something, but can't remember what."

Shareholders noticed Oaks was ill and asked the officers to call 911. One officer replied, "We are 911."[4] A shareholder called 911. Oaks, who told the agents he was "feeling awful," was too ill to stand. An ambulance arrived and took him to the hospital, where his blood pressure was recorded as more than 200/156. Oaks said, "They were shocked I wasn't dead.[5]

When asked about the incident by Gumpert,[6]

"An ODA spokesperson says, "Our officials questioned Mr. Oaks, so did federal officials. They were trying to learn about what he was doing, what the substance was, and why it was being brought into Ohio." Officials from the Kentucky Public Health Dept. didn't respond to questions."

Health Impacts of Government Raid

As noted above, Gary Oaks became ill during the raid but was released from the hospital without staying overnight. Oaks continued to feel ill for several days afterward and, when brought back to the hospital by his wife, was kept there for a few days to recover. He was hospitalized twice more and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As his family did not have health insurance, his medical bills nearly reached $50,000 by the end of spring 2006. Oaks was not well enough to resume farm work until the summer of 2006, and he was able to negotiate a reduction in his medical bills.[7]

Changes on the Farm Following Government Raid

Following the government raid, Oaks' health interfered with farm duties and the government's demands interfered with delivering raw milk across the state line to Ohio. More than 100 shareholders met a few days after the March 6 raid. Shareholders who lived near the farm and knew how to milk cows volunteered to milk the cows twice a day. Other shareholders who had backgrounds in psychology provided Oaks with counseling. Shareholder Kimberly Gelhaus coordinated shareholder carpools to pick up and deliver milk for 160 families. Other shareholders helped with bottling and other farm chores. Shareholders also helped pay for Oaks' legal bills, which exceeded $10,000. Even after Oaks was well enough to no longer need help on the farm, he continues to need help from shareholders to deliver milk to Ohio, as he is not allowed to transport it over state lines.

June 2006 Warning Letter

On June 7, 2006, Oaks received a warning letter signed by Carol A. Heppe, the District Director of the Cincinnati District of the Food and Drug Administration, warning Oaks to cease selling raw milk over state lines.[8] The letter stated (in part):

"A joint investigation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and the Kentucky Department for Public Health, and a subsequent sample of your milk product, collected on 03/06/2006, has documented violations of the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act) and a Federal regulation promulgated under the PHS Act.
"Our investigation determined that your firm distributes unpasteurized milk in interstate commerce, in finished form for human consumption. Such distribution is a violation of the PHS Act, 42 U.S.C. § 271(a), and the regulation codified in Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), section 1240.61(a). The regulation prohibits the delivery into interstate commerce of milk and milk products in final package form for direct human consumption unless they have been pasteurized. Your milk, shipped directly to customers for consumption, is in final package form for direct human consumption. For your information, we have enclosed a copy of the regulation as it was. published in the Federal Register, 52 FR 29,509 (Aug 10, 1987)."

Resolution

Oaks faced legal problems from two states (Kentucky and Ohio) as well as the federal government. The Kentucky Milk Safety Board held an informal hearing but the state filed no charges.[9] The FDA sent the letter noted above but did not (as of November 2006) take further action). Ohio, on the other hand, did file charges "accusing Gary of illegally selling raw milk and an unlabeled product."[10]

Due to the stress and cost a long legal fight would cause, the Oaks family decided not to fight. "On November 2, Gary went to a county municipal court in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and pleaded no contest to violating the state's dairy licensing and labeling laws. He was fined $415, along with an additional $85 in court costs."[11]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. A Raw-Milk Raid Leads to a Special Thanksgiving, Business Week, November 27, 2006, Accessed July 12, 2011.
  2. A Raw-Milk Raid Leads to a Special Thanksgiving, Business Week, November 27, 2006, Accessed July 12, 2011.
  3. A Raw-Milk Raid Leads to a Special Thanksgiving, Business Week, November 27, 2006, Accessed July 12, 2011.
  4. A Raw-Milk Raid Leads to a Special Thanksgiving, Business Week, November 27, 2006, Accessed July 12, 2011.
  5. A Raw-Milk Raid Leads to a Special Thanksgiving, Business Week, November 27, 2006, Accessed July 12, 2011.
  6. A Raw-Milk Raid Leads to a Special Thanksgiving, Business Week, November 27, 2006, Accessed July 12, 2011.
  7. A Raw-Milk Raid Leads to a Special Thanksgiving, Business Week, November 27, 2006, Accessed July 12, 2011.
  8. FDA Warning Letter to Double O Farms 07-Jun-06, Food and Drug Administration]], June 7, 2006, Accessed July 12, 2011.
  9. A Raw-Milk Raid Leads to a Special Thanksgiving, Business Week, November 27, 2006, Accessed July 12, 2011.
  10. A Raw-Milk Raid Leads to a Special Thanksgiving, Business Week, November 27, 2006, Accessed July 12, 2011.
  11. A Raw-Milk Raid Leads to a Special Thanksgiving, Business Week, November 27, 2006, Accessed July 12, 2011.

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