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Deplatformed: Nourish Cooperative’s raw milk saga

Why are a group of farms in Michigan supposedly under siege? It all comes down to raw milk.

 

David Covucci

Tech

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Nourish Cooperative, a small collection of farms in Michigan, is under siege.

Or so they say.

The business, which sells farm-fresh products—was founded by sisters Ashley and Sarah Armstrong (Strong Sistas)—who became food system evangelists and influencers thanks to their health struggles.

One overcame “autoimmunity, hypothyroidism, 6+ years of amenorrhea and PCOS” and another battled “constipation & gut issues, PCOS, severe insomnia, orthorexia, iron overload, hirsutism, self-doubt and estrogen imbalance.”

But they’ve found their solution in diet, placing the blame squarely on agribusiness.

“[The sisters] got sick at an early age, and learning more and more about how broken our food system is helped them better understand WHY they got sick. Both regained health with REAL food—which is unnecessarily hard to source these days. (So they wanted to change that),” Nourish’s about page reads.

The companies that control our food supply have recently come under scrutiny—especially by right-wingers—who worry chemicals used in the process are making people sick.

The most recent manifestation of this concern comes in the form of the raw milk movement, with conservatives believing that pasteurization, the process by which harmful chemicals are removed from dairy products, destroys the good nutrients within.

Strong Sistas are part of that movement. They have over 90,000 followers on Instagram where they share exploits from their farm, discuss agriculture and toxicity in food and … sell raw milk.

Except they don’t sell raw milk for you to drink, though.

Michigan was the first state to require pasteurization of milk and still has strict laws against selling it. As such, the sisters don’t (and they definitely don’t have their fingers crossed behind their back when they’re saying this.)

So what would just be a few back-to-the land trad influencers following the laws took a turn recently when they said they were raided by the government.

In an announcement on a fundraiser the two launched, they wrote that “Nourish Cooperative was raided by the government due to the sale of raw dairy. Over $90,000 worth of product was placed under seizure.”

They also noted that because of a cease and desist issued by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) countless orders needed to be canceled.

But why, if they don’t sell raw milk for humans to drink, would the government raid them over it?

The two immediately went on a fundraising blitz, painting their efforts and fight as existential.

It’s not just about lost profits and an inability to provide for their customers, they wrote “the main goal of the court proceedings will be to protect our right to food freedom, and stop big food corporations from maintaining control of the food system.”

On GiveSendGo, the two have brought in $55,000 of their $500,000 goal. Most commenters with their donation have endorsed their crusade against Big Brother.

“Please fight this govt overreach and protect our rights to food freedom,” wrote one, donating $1,000.

“The State of Michigan is exercising overt, so called administrative actions against you to keep you in line by harassing,” said another.

The Sistas also dropped a merchandise line in order to “Fight for Your Right for Nourishment.”

Almost 400 T-shirts with the slogan have been sold, bringing in over $13,000, and the same cursing language peppers the comments.

“I am tired of gov’t control over how we eat. The same thing is happening in Canada. We want to be able to grow our own food, raise our own animals the right way – and nourish our bodies as God intended – not with all the junk they are feeding us,” wrote one who purchased a shirt.

The news of the co-op raid, while not mainstream yet, sparked viral breathless defenses on YouTube and Instagram calling out the government and riling up commenters.

The posts about the raid seem to no longer be up on their site, but a lengthy explanation circulating on Substack goes more in-depth and might explain what exactly was going on

We reached out to the sisters but did not hear back before publication.

According to the post, inspectors took issue with their raw cheese labels, claiming a plant number was not identifiable.

In an update, the cheese situation had been resolved just a week later and the cheese had been released back to the farm. All good, but not great.

But as for the milk, while Michigan does have a law against the sale of raw milk, some farms have found workarounds.

“Most of us in the health space are familiar with the troubling laws around raw dairy,” they wrote, noting how consumers can purchase a share in a cow and get raw milk that way…. “Another option in Michigan is to sell your raw dairy as a pet food supplement, which is the route we decided to take.”

According to the sisters, they started selling raw milk as “pet food.”

They claimed that the state originally took issue with the fact that they weren’t specifying what pet the milk was for. (For example, for dogs, feed two tablespoons) but then the state said that after resubmitting the labels for approval, the state said it is “illegal to sell raw dairy as pet food.”

The sisters go on to say they’ve seen goat milk sold at stores, but don’t specifically mention if they’ve seen cow’s milk—which they are selling— being sold.

And the real issue seems to be that everyone knows this is a workaround. The Sistas even mention it in their Substack decrying the government.

“While these members are buying the raw dairy for their pets, they obviously can do as they please with these products,” the Sistas wrote. “It is not up to us to decide what someone does with their dairy.”

But while Strong Sistas seemed confident their workaround was legal when they launched it, in a recent update they noted it wasn’t so sure.

“MDARD is trying to tell Nourish Cooperative that it is illegal to sell other raw dairy products (like raw milk and raw butter) for pet consumption. We have lawyers actively researching this, and preparing for a court hearing.”

But if you are wondering if the state is cracking down on dairy across farms over fears of bird flu, which can live and be transmitted in raw milk, well they are

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As for whether the raid has truly hurt the business, a banner on the site says that due to high demand, the farm’s co-op is closed to new subscriptions.


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