Stearns County, MN—(August 19, 2013)— Long-time farmer, Alvin Schlangen, was convicted by a jury of 6 on five charges related to feeding his community. The conviction came on August 15 after a 3-day trial.
Schlangen offered members of the private buying club, Freedom Farms Co-op, the benefit of his volunteer delivery service as he picked up members’ food items, including raw milk, from other farms and delivered it along with products from his Freeport farm.
The criminal charges brought against Schlangen in Stearns County included operating without a food handler’s license, storing eggs at temperatures above the mandated 45 degrees, distributing adulterated or misbranded food, violating a food embargo, and selling custom processed meat. Alvin was facing up to $5,000 in fines and up to 15 months in jail.
During the trial, the prosecution spent the first day calling witnesses, including the state veterinarian, who testified about different foodborne illnesses to associate Schlangen with a foodborne illness, yet the state did not present a shred of evidence that food delivered by Schlangen has ever made anyone sick.
Attorney Nathan Hansen represented Schlangen with the support of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Sentenced only on the charge of handling food without a license, Schlangen was fined $1,000 ($700 of the fine was suspended) and given a 90-day jail term which was also suspended with one year on probation; if he violates probation, he will be sent to jail and be required to pay the balance of $700 in fines.
“It’s a sad day when a hardworking farmer who has dedicated his life to feeding his community quality food and benefited the health of hundreds of families is judged to be a criminal,” says attorney and president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF), Pete Kennedy. “The Minnesota Department of Agriculture did not have this case brought against Alvin to protect the public health; the department’s purpose was to get control over the private distribution of food, denying Minnesota residents their right to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice.”
In September 2012, Schlangen was acquitted in Hennepin County on three charges alleging violations of the state food and dairy code, including a charge of operating without a food handlers license.