State Suing Blue Hill Farmer – Community Rallies In His Defense

Updated 3 years ago

A Blue Hill farmer is being sued by the state for selling food and milk without having a state license. Friday, hundreds of people rallied in support of the man they call “Farmer Brown.”Farmer Brown is Dan Brown, of Gravelwood Farms in Blue Hill. He owns five cows and only uses one for milk. Brown sells his products at local farmers markets and at his own farm stand. The state and Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb are suing Brown for selling non-pasteurized milk and other food from his farm without a license. “It is the law that you get a license to sell raw milk for public distribution,” Whitcomb said earlier this week. “It’s been a number of months and he’s chosen not to comply with the law. So this is the action that the Attorney General’s Office and the county prosecutor felt was necessary to take.” Even though the town of Blue Hill is one of five Maine towns to have passed the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance, allowing farmers like Brown to sell his milk, Whitcomb says state law supercedes that ordinance. Dan Brown’s argument is simple. “It’s foolishness that I can’t have a cow. Put milk in a bottle and you can’t come to my farm and buy that milk,” he said after the rally on Friday.Whitcomb argues this is a matter of public safety. “It is the law but there is a very important reason for the law. Raw milk can be a dangerous product.”Hundreds showed up in front of the town hall in Blue Hill waving signs and cheering in support of Brown. The crowd included people from all over Maine as well as customers and colleagues of Dan Brown like Heather Retberg a Penobscot Farmer. “Suing a farmer in an ordinance protected town is not an answer to food safety,” Retberg told the crowd. “Suing Dan Brown is not acceptable in our towns here in western Hancock County.”Many of the folks gathered at the rally argue that these are the types of government regulations that Governor LePage and his staff have said they’re opposed to. “One of the fundamental tenants of agricultural marketing is the public has to be convinced the food is safe,” Commissioner Whitcomb said in response to that argument. “Conservative business practice says the customer has to have confidence in your product. You cannot make people sick and expect people to buy your product. That crosses any political boundaries whatsoever and it’s just plain common sense.”The 7 page complaint filed against Brown by the Attorney General’s office states that in July an inspector from Department of Agriculture took a sample of milk, butter, and cottage cheese from Brown’s farm stand. A state laboratory performed tests on Brown’s products and determined the level of bacteria was higher than the law allows. “It exceeds the tolerance by 10 times,” Whitcomb said. “It has the potential to be a dangerous product.” That’s a claim Brown vehemently denies. “My milk is good,” Brown said. “I drink it every day, my family drinks it every day, Emily drinks it every day. There’s nothing wrong with my milk. I don’t know where this sample came from that they’re saying is bad.”The complaint also says that on July 26 and again in September Brown was selling milk in plastic “Ocean Spray” bottles without labeling the milk non-pasteurized.Brown and his customers at the rally say his products are safe. Brown is adamant he’s done nothing wrong and has no plans to change. “I’m not stopping. I’m not going anywhere. You want to stop me? Arrest me. I’m not stopping.”


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