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Trial begins for farmer accused of illegally selling raw milk

Published On: May 20 2013 03:46:45 PM CDT   Updated On: May 20 2013 09:24:48 PM CDT

BARABOO, Wis. -

The trial has begun for a Sauk County farmer accused of illegally selling raw milk. It's become the home base for "food freedom" advocates this week.

While some advocates have tried to make this case entirely about the right to drink or sell raw milk, the state is arguing the trial only has to do with licensing issues.

"The evidence will demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Hershberger operated a retail food establishment without a valid license," said Assiostant Attorney General Phillip Ferris.

Vernon Hershberger faces that charge, as well as charges of operating a dairy farm and dairy plant without a license and violating a holding order, all for selling raw milk and other products from his Loganville farm in 2010.

"He was packaging it, putting it in glass bottles and making it available for sale," said Ferris. "In addition he was manufacturing milk products using milk."

But Hershberger's attorneys argue his farm was rather a club, where customers bought memberships and were only taking home products from the cows they owned.

"This isn't, as the evidence will show, a retail store," said Glenn Reynolds, Hershberger's attorney. "This is a community. This is a family, and these are farmers basically."

Supporters of Hershberger have rented the nearby Ringling Theater, hoping for a verdict to bolster their movement.

"We are going to ask you to return a not guilty verdict on the holding order violation because the state just didn't have its act together and didn't do right by the Hershbergers," said Reynolds during opening statements. "This case will be revealed as going way too far."

The judge said a number of times during opening statements that he would ultimately instruct the jury to exactly what the law is in Wisconsin.

It's expected the trial will last through the week.

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