An Oct. 20 Page One article about small farms incorrectly identified Elaine Lidholm as a spokeswoman for the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association. She is a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
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Bitter Harvest for Small Farms
Bean and other farmers advocate unregulated direct sales of locally grown foods. "What we would like to see is an exemption from government intrusion in direct farmer-to-consumer food transactions," said Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farm in nearby Swoope, a pioneer of the local food movement and author of "Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front." "In other words, if you want to come to my farm, look and smell around, and make an informed decision to opt out of Wal-Mart, you should have the freedom to do so."
Bean and Rinaldi founded the Double H Farm in 2000. They grew vegetables that were certified organic -- a federal designation that requires foods to be grown without chemicals and pesticides -- until last year, when Bean decided to let the designation lapse because of cost and hassle and "because local was more important."
The Double H also followed organic principles when raising pigs, giving them a diet of non-genetically modified grain, soybeans and corn, an outdoor pen, and no antibiotics or hormones. But Bean never obtained federal certification that would have required him to submit a plan that, among other things, documents practices and substances used in production and allows annual on-site inspections. The cost of certification for a small farm is about $500 a year.
In the beginning, Bean had his hogs slaughtered in a federally inspected plant in Lynchburg, a 40-minute drive away. But in 2002, he began killing the pigs in his barn. "We were set up to do it, and I knew how, so it just made sense," Bean said.
In May 2006, Bean and Rinaldi were visited at a Charlottesville market by F.C. Lamneck, a state meat and poultry compliance officer. Bean said Lamneck told him that his meat should be slaughtered in a federally inspected facility. That June, Bean received a letter from state agriculture officials saying that he was in violation of the Federal Meat Inspection Act but that legal action would not be taken based on his desire to comply with the statute.
Still, Bean said, he did not immediately begin taking his pigs to an inspected slaughterhouse. The Lynchburg facility had closed, and Bean's only other option was more than two hours away, which he said adds $300 per hog. He complied for a short time in the spring, but, Bean said, the expense and effort made it "easy to fall back into our old ways. We had pigs ready, customers ready, and it's a very busy time of year."
Lamneck next visited the couple in July at the Charlottesville market. Bean said Lamneck asked for documentation that Bean was following the rules. Bean showed him an invoice for two pigs that were killed at the inspected facility. But, Bean said, he had gone there only once.
Then the legal action started: On Aug. 18, Bean and Rinaldi were charged with two misdemeanors in both Nelson and Albemarle counties in the alleged sale of meat that was not killed in a federally inspected facility. On Sept. 6, officials visited a Charlottesville restaurant and requested that staff pour bleach on a roasting pig that Bean had delivered that day, to render it inedible, Bean said.
On Sept. 8, inspectors arrived at the Charlottesville market and put a "detain" sticker on Bean's meat, preventing him from legally selling it. Some of that pork -- about 10 percent, Rinaldi said -- had "certified organic" stickers even though it was not certified.
"Had I known it was a criminal offense to put that sticker on those packages, they would have been in the fire barrel the next day. But he never told us that," Rinaldi said of Lamneck. "They have this thing for us. They are going to raise the notch every time we comply with something."
Lamneck declined to comment, referring questions to the state agriculture department.
On Sept. 21, Bean and Rinaldi were arrested and charged with intent to defraud their customers.