The Loss of Food Rights: How the Government Is Fighting Local Farms

From urban farmers' markets to charitable lemonade stands, small-scale food sources are being shut down in what can best be described as a loss of our food rights.


| June 2013


Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013), by David E. Gumpert, takes readers on a disturbing cross-country journey from Maine to California through a netherworld of Amish farmers paying big fees to questionable advisers to avoid the quagmire of America's legal system, secret food police lurking in vans at farmers markets, cultish activists preaching the benefits of pathogens, and suburban moms worried enough about the dangers of supermarket food that they'll risk fines and jail to feed their children unprocessed, and unregulated, foods of their choosing. Out of the intensity of this unprecedented crackdown, and the creative and spirited opposition that is rising to meet it, a new rallying cry for food rights is emerging. The following excerpt comes from chapter two, “Is There Such a Thing as Private Food?” 

At 9:40 on the morning of February 4, 2010, two FDA agents in an SUV pulled up the long driveway of Daniel Allgyer’s farm in Kinzers, Pennsylvania. The agents, Joshua Schafer and Deborah Haney, were from the FDA’s Delaware office to do an inspection, they told Allgyer.

Allgyer objected. “This is a private farm. I do not sell anything to the public.”

One of the agents replied, “You sell milk to the public, therefore we have jurisdiction.” When Allgyer said he wasn’t going to cooperate, the agents said he would be reported to their superiors for his “refusal to have an investigation,” as Allgyer recalls it.

Less than three months later, the agents followed through on their threat. At 5:00 a.m. on April 20th, two FDA agents showed up again—this time accompanied by two U.S. Marshals and a Pennsylvania state trooper. As if to justify the accompanying armed officers, one of the FDA agents took a photo of the signs on several farm building doors: Warning: no trespassing . . . Attn: government employees, inspectors, and others: this is a private area, not a public area. Warning to ALL state and federal officials and informants: you must have an appointment and permission from the owner to enter this land/farm/property or building.

As Allgyer recalled the situation: “They drove past my two Private Property signs, up to where my coolers were, with their headlights shining right on them. They all got out of their vehicles—five men altogether—with big bright flashlights they were shining all around. My wife and family were still asleep. When they couldn’t find anybody, they prepared to knock on the door of my darkened house. Just before they got to the house I stepped out of the barn and hollered at them, then they came up to me and introduced themselves. Two were from the FDA, agent Joshua C. Schafer who had been there in February, and another [David Pearce]. They showed me identification, but I was too flustered to ask for their cards. I remember being told that two were deputy U.S. Marshals and one a state trooper.