Grassway Organics

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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.

Grassway Organics

Grassway Organics is a 247-acre certified organic family farm owned and operated by Kay and Wayne Craig and their children in New Holstein in eastern Wisconsin. The farm practices "managed rotational grazing" of its cows and chickens. Grassway milks about 100 cows and "pasture-raise[s] chickens for eggs and meat, dairy steers for meat, and use[s] hogs to aerate bedded packs," according to the farm website.[1]

Lawsuit against DATCP

In December 2009, Kay and Wayne Craig, Grassway Organics Association, Grassway Organics Farm Store LLC (see below) and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) filed a "complaint for declaratory judgment on behalf of Wisconsin farmers Kay and Wayne Craig and related entities" against the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). According to the FTCLDF, "The complaint seeks declarations that the Craigs, the farm store they operate (GrassWay Organics Farm Store LLC), and GrassWay Organics Association and its members who have invested in the LLC are not engaging in the illegal sale of raw milk in violation of Wisconsin laws, and that the farm store does not need to obtain a 'retail food establishment' license in order to operate."[2]

According to the FTCLDF's Pete Kennedy in the press release accompanying the filing, "Kay and Wayne Craig, their LLC and their Association members have been harassed long enough by DATCP. We are asking the court to declare that the Craigs, the LLC, and the Association are operating within the law. . . . We hope the Court issues an injunction that will prevent DATCP from taking enforcement action against what we believe to be lawful activity."[3]

"The complaint alleges that DATCP, over a period of several years, has been changing its interpretation of what constitutes an 'incidental' sale of raw milk, which are legal under Wisconsin law. The complaint also alleges that the LLC operated by the Craigs (the farm store) is not a 'retail food establishment' because it does not sell to the general public. The farm store is open only to members of the Association that has purchased an interest in the LLC."[3]

“In Wisconsin, it is legal for an entity that holds a Grade A permit to sell interests or shares in the entity. This is a legal arrangement that is lawful in all respects, yet it is being threatened by DATCP,” said FTCLDF General Counsel, Gary Cox. “We hope the court agrees that DATCP cannot be arbitrary and capricious in their interpretation and enforcement of the law against law-abiding citizens, and try to force them out of business."[3]

Motion to Consolidate

In June 2010, the defendant, DATCP, filed a motion to consolidate the Craigs' case with that of "Mark and Petra Zinniker, Nourished by Nature, LLC, Gayle Loiselle and Robert Karp, formerly before the Walworth County Circuit Court, as Case No. 10-CV-302."[4]

The FTCLDF "opposed DATCP’s motion to consolidate, arguing that the facts and legal issues of the two cases are completely different."[5] However, in October 2010, the motion was granted and the two cases were consolidated.[2]

Judgement Against

In August 2011, Judge Patrick Fiedler ruled against all plaintiffs on all counts.[6]

In his decision, Judge Fiedler broadly rejected the claims of both farmers and their patrons that "they have a fundamental right to privacy to consume the food of their choice for themselves and their families and therefore have a fundamental right to consume unpasteurized milk from their cows," declaring that "plaintiffs' arguments are wholly without merit." The DATCP interpretation of the applicable state statute, he said, "does not affect or interfere with a fundamental right and therefore is not subject to strict scrutiny" of the regulation, a legal standard which would make it difficult for the regulation to be upheld."[6]

The Craigs and FTCLDF filed a motion to reconsider.[7]

Similarity to Other Declarations Against Rights

In February 2010, the FTCLDF filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its bans on interstate sales of raw milk.[8]

The FDA filed a brief in support of the United States' motion to dismiss the complaint, saying, in part:

"The interest claimed by plaintiffs could be framed more narrowly as a right to 'provid[e] them[selves] and their families with the foods of their own choice.' Am. Compl. ¶ 120. But there is no 'deeply rooted' historical tradition of unfettered access to food of all kinds. See Glucksberg, 521 U.S. at 721. To the contrary, society's long history of food regulation stretches back to the dietary laws of biblical times. ... [P]laintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish."[9]

Products and Farm Systems

Pastured Broiler Chickens

Kay Craig "has been raising broilers on pasture for several years." In 2009, her broiler production was "about 500 birds, down from a typical year of 1,100 to 1,400, due to predator problems and backstock from last season. She likes to keep about 300 active laying hens," according to the Organic Broadcaster.[10]

"Cornish cross broilers are raised in, ideally, a day range system using a modified cattle panel pen. . . . The Craigs have expanded this pen to twice its length, with a footprint of about 20 ft by 10 ft, and one open end so the birds can roam in and out freely. They typically run two pens, about 10 feet apart. Kay likes to hook a tarp between the two pens with bungee cords to create extra shade for the birds. She has learned that it is worthwhile to keep the pens in open country, to discourage avian predators, but that the extra shade is really needed by the birds during the hot Wisconsin summers. The two pen setup is protected from ground predators by 2-160 foot and 2-80 foot lengths of electro netting fences, set in a large rectangle. . . . Birds are butchered at 8 weeks by a local butcher, who has vacuum sealing equipment. Although treated organically, they are not certified since the butcher is not certified for organic processing."[10]

Pastured Turkeys

"Broad breasted white turkeys are raised in a set up similar to the broilers, except the turkey pens were modified to a 12 foot height to discourage the flock from roosting on the top. . . . The broilers, hens and turkeys are all managed in a rotation with different groups of cattle."[10]

Pastured Egg Laying Hens

The Craigs' "laying hens enjoy an entirely free range system out in the pasture, following the dairy cows by about five days. The Craigs built a henhouse similar to Joel Salatin’s eggmobile, using an old hay bale carrier as the base. With roosts and nests inside, the wagon can comfortably house 300 hens during the summer season. . . . The wagon is pulled forward every day with a 4-wheeler. . . . Winter housing for the hens is a beautiful 50 x 22 foot hoophouse."[10]

Organic Raw Milk

In 2009, "one of the cornerstones of the Store [was] raw organic milk sales. About five years ago the Craigs began exploring the complex rules and exemptions within Wisconsin state law that govern milk sales, and decided to try to respond to the growing demand to provide raw milk to customers. They managed to overcome the numerous hurdles (Wisconsin, as the dairy state, has some of the toughest laws in the country regulating milk sales) and at peak production sell about 300 gallons of raw milk per week." In 2009, they were "only selling their raw fluid milk, and not doing any further processing."[10]

Farm Store

The Craigs also operate GrassWay Organics Farm Store, LLC, a members-only farm store. The store, "stocking a full range of organic products along with local organic pasture raised broilers, eggs, stewing hens, whole turkeys, turkey parts and jersey beef plus pastured pork and lamb from neighboring farms" and started in 2006, "gross[es] around $20,000 per month in sales."[10]

The Craigs developed the LLC as a separate business that "owns the farm’s milk handling license. In response to local zoning laws they were required to sell memberships to anyone who wishes to purchase products in the Store. They set a $10 fee for this life time membership, and must charge annual “dues” and have an annual membership meeting. Members can shop freely in the Store, and bring their own containers to purchase raw milk."[10]

Contact

GrassWay Organics LLC
N600 Plymouth Trail
New Holstein, WI 53061
Phone: 920-894-4201
Fax: 920-894-4185
Web: http://www.grasswayorganics.com/
Web Contact Form: http://www.grasswayorganics.com/contact/

Resources

Other SourceWatch Resources

PRWatch Articles

External Resources

References

  1. Grassway Organics, About Us, farm website, accessed November 26, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Wisconsin: GrassWay Organics Lawsuit against DATCP, defense fund litigation overview, accessed November 26, 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, FTCLDF Files Suit over Raw Milk in Wisconsin, organizational press release, December 18, 2009
  4. State of Wisconsin Circuit Branch 8 (Dane County), Notice of Motion and Motion to Consolidate, Craig & Zinniker v. DATCP, Case No. 09CV6313, June 14, 2010
  5. D. Gary Cox, Esq., Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Grassway Organics Lawsuit against Wisconsin DATCP, organizational case update, September 22, 2010
  6. 6.0 6.1 State of Wisconsin Circuit Branch 8 (Dane County), Decision and Order on Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment, Craig & Zinniker v. DATCP, Case No. 09CV6313 and Case No. 09CV3884, August 12, 2011
  7. State of Wisconsin Circuit Court 8 (Dane County), Grassway Plaintiffs Motion to Reconsider and Memorandum in Support, Grassway v. DATCP, Case No. 09CV6313, August 25, 2011
  8. United States District Court, Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, Plaintiffs' Complaint for Declaratory, Preliminary and Other Injunctive Relief, FTCLDF v. DHHS & FDA, Case No. 10-cv-04018-MWB, February 20, 2010
  9. U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Brief in Support of United States’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, United States District Court, Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, FTCLDF v. FDA, Case No. C 10-4018-MWB, April 26, 2010
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 Jody Padgham, Grassway Organics: Organic Poultry and Raw Milk, A Perfect Pair, Organic Broadcaster, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service bi-monthly periodical, July/Aug 2009, accessed November 26, 2011