The cows are still grazing in the field. Inside of the small family farm shop, the shelves are still stocked with organic chocolate chips, natural rice, and spices straight from the ground.
It’s just how Vernon Hershberger wanted it to turn out, back to normal on his farm.
“I was kind of surprised at the verdict, but still I was ready for anything,” Hershberger said.
After four hours of deliberation into the early morning hours Saturday, jurors acquitted Hershberger on three charges that he didn’t have proper state licensing to sell retail food, produce milk, and operate a dairy plant.
They found him guilty of violating a holding order placed on products at his farm after a 2010 raid. Hershberger faces up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. Sentencing has not been set.
Regardless of the outcome, Hershberger said his case could help other farmers set up similar cooperative operations, like his Grazin’ Acres.
Hershberger said the community’s support was crucial to his success in court.
“They understand what's going on here,” Hershberger said. “We're just feeding our neighbors, our family, our community.”
Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman agreed that the public doesn’t want more time spent enforcing the current raw milk law, which is why he plans to pitch new legislation to allow for the sale of raw milk products.
“We're going to introduce a bill that has some regulations,” Grothman explained, “and quite frankly Vernon Hershberger wouldn't be happy with the bill proposed because he doesn’t want regulations we're proposing.”
Grothman said under the bill, the state would not be held accountable for any illness related to the dairy. He added the products would likely have to be sold at a grade-A level, and more testing will be needed to ensure the items for sale are safe for consumption.
Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition Spokesperson Shawn Pfaff said his group will continue to talk to lawmakers about the dangers of raw milk, both to the dairy industry’s economy and consumer health.
“A trial by Mr. Hershberger in Baraboo did not change that,” Pfaff said. “Doctors overwhelmingly in this state oppose the sale of raw milk, and we hope lawmakers will still follow their warning and caution.”
Hershberger has a warning posted right around the freezer that is still filled with raw milk products. He said there’s room for all schools of thought when it comes to the issue, but this time, his view prevailed.
“I think it's definitely a victory toward raw milk,” Hershberger said. “It's a victory for raw milk, and it's also a victory for vegetables or whatever it might entail. A victory of just feeding our neighbor, of you know, bartering food, or whatever it could entail.”