Pork bust: Local farmers arrested
The owners of the Double H Farm in Nelson County, Richard Bean, 62, and Jean Rinaldi, 60, were arrested last Friday, September 21 for violating FDA regulations regarding the processing and labeling of their pork products. In addition, Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services agents seized Double H pork products from area restaurants last week, including an entire roasting pig from the South African restaurant Shebeen, which was "denatured" (made inedible) on the spot using a bleach solution, according to Rinaldi. Bean and Rinaldi are scheduled to appear in Charlottesville District Court tomorrow at 9am to learn when their case will be heard.
The news came as a shock to many local restaurant owners, City Market goers, and supporters of the local food movement– often called the "slow food" movement– who have eaten or used Double H products and believe that communities are better served by local farmers like Bean and Rinaldi, who have been selling their products locally since 2001.
"These charges, to my knowledge, do not arise from any complaints on the part of people who have purchased and eaten Double H products," writes Erika Howsare, a special section editor for C-Ville Weekly, in an email to fellow members of the EAT LOCAL forum. "They represent a decision on the part of the state of Virginia to target two people who happen to be outspoken advocates of small farmers' rights."
However, no one appears more shocked than Bean and Rinaldi.
"I never would have dreamed that the government was so controlling," says Rinaldi, who describes 10 VDACS agents, one state trooper, and a Nelson County sheriff showing up at her farm, arresting her and Bean, seizing their computers, and placing them in separate cars. "It was terrifying," she says.
Indeed, according to Rinaldi, VDACS agents have been "harassing" them for year and she describes the arrests as "overkill."
The charge? "Using the wrong labels as price tags," says Rinaldi, admitting the labels say "certified organic" even though the pork isn't "officially" certified. "We just hadn't got the new ones in yet. They just don't like that we were processing the pigs ourselves," she says.
Indeed, transporting un-inspected pork, goat, and sheep products is illegal in Virginia. The two farmers were attempting to comply, says Rinaldi, driving their pigs to a processing plant in Fauquier County, but the process was costing as much as $1300 for four pigs. "We're not rich," she says.
"Seems to me, as soon as you comply with one regulation, they come up with another," she says. "We've recently been told we can't sell our homemade bread or watermelons at the City Market, either. When was the last time you heard about a case of salmonella poisoning from a bag of watermelon at a city market?"
"Its a miserable situation," says Rinaldi, "...an assault on small farmers, being forced upon us by a bureaucracy."