The Fisher family farm, a source of healthy local food in Virginia, was raided by the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.
Amish Farmer Gets Meat Siezed By Dept. of Agriculture
Samuel B. Fisher, who runs Golden Valley Farms, lost his livestock and meat-processing facility as the state condemned and seized his property.
The act has resulted in not just loss of income but also a crisis of trust in a community that prides itself on independence and sustainable farming.
Golden Valley Farms has served around 500 consumers through its farm’s membership program.
The state came knocking. In June, an inspector with the Virginia Department of Agriculture came to Golden Valley unannounced. “Then the state came in and asked us what we’re doing, and I told them exactly what we’re doing. We’re selling meat to our customers,” Fisher said. “You can’t do that,” Fisher recalls the inspector telling him. When they asked permission to enter the facilities, Fisher declined.
“They came with a search warrant,” softly spoke Samuel B. Fisher, a mild-mannered cattle farmer operating a 100-acre farm tucked away in Virginia’s heartland. Fisher’s bread-and-butter, Golden Valley Farms, carves out the scenic countryside that’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from historic Farmville, a postcard-perfect small Southern town with classical Main Street charm.
“Then, they tagged the meat, so that we can’t touch it; we can’t sell it; we can’t feed our family with it,” Fisher told Townhall.
Fisher processes—an industry euphemism for butchering—his farm-raised meat on-site and sells it directly to his customers, feeding about 500 consumers and their families, who are part of a buying club. As members enrolled in the Golden Valley Farms membership program, they’ve bought into Fisher’s herd of 100% grass-fed golden Guernsey cows.
“We had all this meat. We worked hard to get it in the freezer, process it, package it, stack it in there to sell and bring income. And, here comes the state, puts everything in their truck, and takes it to the dump, pays us nothing for it, so that definitely affects our income. We do have a big struggle to pay our bills right at the moment,” Fisher reflected, citing a temporary stoppage of cash flow when his meat sales were shut down and the dumping of inventory, evaluated to have been worth thousands of dollars.
The ordeal began on June 14 when a VDACS inspector made an unannounced visit to Fisher’s 100-acre farm. Fisher claims he had “no idea” what prompted the inspection.
The next day, officials returned with a sheriff’s deputy to conduct a thorough search of the farm. Fisher’s meat was tagged under “administrative detention,” leaving him unable to sell or even consume his produce.
Fisher estimates that about $10,000 worth of products were seized and dumped.
After deciding that anyone could raise animals on their own for their family to eat, he crossed the government line, fed his family, and sold the meat. Afterward, the state came back and saw what they did, gave him a mouthful, and escalated the preliminary detainment to a court-ordered seizure.
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The next day, on June 15, the VDACS inspector did, indeed, return—this time with a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy to serve Fisher a search warrant. “They went through everything, house, every building, in the barn. They just raided through everything, put their nose in everything, and wanted to know every detail of everything. They went out back, trying to find all the failure they can find on a farm, which, of course, some of their stuff, which they think is wrong, is just normal stuff on a farm,” Fisher stated.
“I wasn’t on the farm at the time” of the full-scale raid that lasted approximately three to four hours, Fisher added.
Then, the state slapped a tag on Fisher’s walk-in freezer, placing the meat under “administrative detention” and declaring that he wasn’t supposed to take any meat out of his own storage room. By the weekend, his kids were crying for scrapple, a mush of pork scraps and trimmings characteristic of Amish country, that sat behind the door on Fisher’s property that should, otherwise, be open and easily accessible. The following Monday, Fisher “even made a special phone call,” asking again, “if that’s the way it is.” And, as Fisher recounted, the VDACS inspector replied, “Yes, cannot feed your family with it, cannot do anything with it.”
Mindy Hartbecke, the farm’s office manager, pointed out the irony. “Amish people—They don’t follow the rules. That’s the point. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to somebody that an Amish person is not following the rules. They opt out of everything. They don’t send their kids to school. They don’t have to be involved in the [military] draft. They don’t pay into the Social Security system and they don’t receive money from the Social Security system. Why would anybody think it’d be a stretch that he wasn’t getting his meat inspected by the government, too?”
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