A cooperative of several small southwest Michigan farms is fighting back after the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recently seized $90,000 worth of raw dairy products.

The Whitmer administration raided Nourish Cooperative on May 28 over the sale of raw dairy products, seizing $90,000 worth of milk and butter the government deemed dangerous for human consumption.

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In a video of the seizure posted online, two overweight bureaucrats from MDARD watched with clipboards in hand as employees filled a dumpster with the products.

“The two Michigan Department of Agriculture employees watched on since they were unwilling to do the raid themselves,” Harry Gray posted to X with the video.

The co-op is owned by Ashley and Sarah Armstrong, known online as the Strong Sistas, who have led a movement of folks to raw foods that helped them both overcome a lifetime of health struggles. Critics of the processed food industry argue pasteurization kills important nutrients the body needs.

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The Nourish website notes 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).”

In Michigan and some other states, consuming raw milk is illegal, but the sisters sidestepped the law by selling their products to co-op members as a pet food supplement.

“While these members are buying raw dairy for their pets, they obviously can do as they please with these products,” the sisters wrote in a Substack post cited by the Daily Dot. “It is not up to us to decide what someone does with their dairy.”

MDARD officials now contend selling raw dairy for pets is also illegal, and Nourish is raising funds to take the department to court.

“Several of Nourish Cooperative’s partner farms rely solely on Nourish as a market for their dairy products. The wellbeing and livelihood of these small family farms are in jeopardy as Nourish is currently unable to source and sell these products,” according to a GiveSendGo page that had raised $76,395 as of Monday afternoon.

A separate Nourish fundraiser on Custom Ink that had raised $13,550 offers T-shirts for sale to “fight for your right for nourishment.”

The money raised will go toward the legal fight against MDARD and to “support the small family farms that rely on Nourish to purchase their products, help Nourish pay employees and keep them from going out of business.”

The overarching goal is “to protect our right to food freedom, and stop big food corporations from maintaining control of the food system.”

The Whitmer administration, meanwhile, maintains that selling raw milk products directly to consumers is dangerous, and officials are leveraging the bird flu impacting the state’s commercial poultry flocks and dairy cows to demonize raw products.

“People can get ill from the same source and product of raw milk they drank previously – milk that someone consumes from the same farm over a duration of time may not always be safe,” according to a MDHHS press release cited by WDIV. “Raw milk can get contaminated in many ways. While good safety practices can reduce the chance of germs getting in raw milk, they cannot eliminate risk.”

Others seem to disagree.

“If the government was so concerned about our safety, they’d let ppl wear parachutes on planes,” state Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Milford, posted to X in May. “Why won’t they let us drink raw milk from a farm?”

Maddock introduced House Bill 5603 on March 20 to allow for the sale of raw milk and related products for human consumption if specific safety precautions are taken.

The precautions include keeping milk below 45 degrees, testing for bacteria and other germs, and testing of animals for brucellosis and tuberculosis.

The legislation would further require a label that reads, “WARNING: unpasteurized milk and dairy products may contain disease-causing microorganisms. Individuals at the highest risk of disease from these microorganisms include newborns and infants; the elderly; pregnant women; individuals taking corticosteroids, antibiotics, or antacids; and individuals with a chronic illness or another condition that weakens immunity.”

Democrats who control the Michigan Legislature on March 20 parked HB 5603 in the House Committee on Government Operations, where it has remained ever since.