The Fisher family farm, a source of healthy food for local consumers in Virginia, was raided by the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS).
Samuel B. Fisher, who runs Golden Valley Farms, lost his livestock and meat-processing facility as the state condemned and seized his property. The act has resulted in not just loss of income but also a crisis of trust in a community that prides itself on independence and sustainable farming.
Golden Valley Farms has been serving around 500 consumers through its farm’s membership program.
From their website:
We are a family farm located in Farmville, Virginia in Cumberland County. Although we hail from generations of dairy and cattle farmers, our program was established in 2019. Our young children help gather, wipe & pack the chicken and duck eggs for you.
We produce 100% Grassfed Raw Milk from Golden Guernsey Cows & Goats. Our dairy herd comprises 100% registered and A2 Beta-Casein Guernsey Cows and LaMancha & Nubian Goats.
Golden Valley Farms operates a herd-share program. A herd share is a contractual agreement between a farmer and an owner of livestock – the shareholder or member – through which the shareholder is able to obtain raw milk, meat, or other profits of the livestock proportionate to the shareholder’s interest in the herd.
All of our products are organic, non-GMO, and soy free. The farmer produces food following Weston Price principles, including rotational grazing, no antibiotics or growth hormones, and farming beyond organic standards. We belong to a limited number of milk producers that do not resort to feeding grain to our cows. We believe in providing them with fresh pasture to graze on and chemical-free hay during winter.
The ordeal began on June 14 when a VDACS inspector made an unannounced visit to Fisher’s 100-acre farm. Fisher claims he had “no idea” what prompted the inspection.
“They came with a search warrant,” Fisher told Townhall, who later found himself embroiled in a legal battle for processing his meat onsite rather than using a USDA-inspected facility.
The next day, officials returned with a sheriff’s deputy to conduct a thorough search of the farm. Fisher’s meat was tagged under “administrative detention,” leaving him unable to sell or even consume his produce.
Fisher estimates that about $10,000 worth of products were seized and dumped.
More from Townhall:
What was clear: The state sought to penalize Fisher for selling meat that was not processed by a USDA-inspected facility (U.S. Department of Agriculture). Fisher processes—an industry euphemism for butchering—his farm-raised meat on-site and sells it directly to his customers, feeding about 500 consumers and their families, who are part of a buying club. As members enrolled in the Golden Valley Farms membership program, they’ve bought into Fisher’s herd of 100% grass-fed golden Guernsey cows.
“They own part of the business. They own some of the herd,” Fisher explained. “My thinking was […] We can butcher their cows, process it, and sell it to them. I told the state all of this, but they said, ‘No, there’s no way around that. You can’t do that.’ They asked permission to get in here” to search the farm, a request Fisher denied. “And, they told me, ‘We’ll be back,’ and left.”
The next day, on June 15, the VDACS inspector did, indeed, return—this time with a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy to serve Fisher a search warrant. “They went through everything, house, every building, in the barn. They just raided through everything, put their nose in everything, and wanted to know every detail of everything. They went out back, trying to find all the failure they can find on a farm, which, of course, some of their stuff, which they think is wrong, is just normal stuff on a farm,” Fisher stated.
“I wasn’t on the farm at the time” of the full-scale raid that lasted approximately three to four hours, Fisher added.
Then, the state slapped a tag on Fisher’s walk-in freezer, placing the meat under “administrative detention” and declaring that he wasn’t supposed to take any meat out of his own storage room. By the weekend, his kids were crying for scrapple, a mush of pork scraps and trimmings characteristic of Amish country, that sat behind the door on Fisher’s property that should, otherwise, be open and easily accessible. The following Monday, Fisher “even made a special phone call,” asking again, “if that’s the way it is.” And, as Fisher recounted, the VDACS inspector replied, “Yes, cannot feed your family with it, cannot do anything with it.”
In July, the Commonwealth of Virginia took Fisher to court, resulting in a judge-authorized seizure of his meat products, a move that Fisher described as an immediate blow to his income. On August 3, Fisher was criminally charged and found guilty of “unlawfully possessing, selling, and/or transporting animals,” a Class 3 misdemeanor, and was ordered to pay a fine.
The case has struck a nerve with advocates for small farms and food sovereignty. A customer survey conducted by Fisher showed that 92% prefer to have the meat processed on the farm without USDA inspection. Fisher’s situation parallels that of Amos Miller in Pennsylvania, another Amish farmer targeted by authorities for similar practices.
Mindy Hartbecke, the farm’s office manager, pointed out the irony. “Amish people—They don’t follow the rules. That’s the point. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to somebody that an Amish person is not following the rules. They opt out of everything. They don’t send their kids to school. They don’t have to be involved in the [military] draft. They don’t pay into the Social Security system and they don’t receive money from the Social Security system. Why would anybody think it’d be a stretch that he wasn’t getting his meat inspected by the government, too?”
Supporters of Fisher argue that consumers should have the right to decide where their meat comes from. They stress that traditional, small-scale farming practices are not just a way of life but also a form of resistance against industrial food systems known for their questionable health impacts.
As Fisher considers his next steps, which could include legal appeals, one thing is clear: this incident has ignited a broader debate about government overreach and interference, the rights of small farmers, and the choices consumers should be allowed to make about their food.
To aid the Fisher family in their time of need while they rebuild the farm the government of Virginia destroyed, Golden Valley Farms has started a GiveSendGo fundraising campaign. Donate HERE.