On Wednesday, October 10, I spoke with Double H farmer Richard Bean, now a local celebrity both for his produce and for his recent arrest for selling uninspected meat at the Charlottesville City and Nelson County farmers’ markets. I had called the farmer to see if he had acquired legal representation yet—he has, Steve Rosenfield—and to make sure that his Nelson County court date originally scheduled for that day had indeed been pushed back (it has).
The Nelson County Board of Supervisors showed support for Double H farmers Jean Rinaldi and Richard Bean by offering to write a letter to encourage changes to state legislation.
Every time I talk to Bean or his partner Jean Rinaldi, it seems there is a new development in their situation and yesterday was no exception. According to Bean, he had attended a Nelson County Board of Supervisors meeting the previous night because he had been contacted by two different supervisors the week before to express their outrage at his arrest. One of those, Allen Hale, represents Bean and Rinaldi, and on Tuesday night as the meeting neared its end, Hale initiated a discussion of Double H.
So I decided to give the supervisor a call. As a small businessman himself (the owner of a bookstore that specializes in ornithology), Hale seems acutely aware of the financial struggles a business like Double H goes through.
"I’m concerned that a small farmer, such as Richard and Jean, is confronted with these kinds of problems," he told me. "The future of agriculture in a rural area such as ours really is going to be small farming if it is to succeed at all. Otherwise there won’t be any farming."
As a result of his concern, Hale recommended to the supervisors that they draft a letter to their local state representation requesting that they offer legislation to the General Assembly, proposing some sort of "two-tiered type of system," he said.
At the same time, Hale mentioned what I’ve heard a few times now in talking with different people about the farmers’ arrest. "It’s ironic that the Topps Company in New Jersey had the second largest recall of frozen hamburger in the same week that charges were brought against Double H," said Hale of the massive meat processing plant that had to eventually recall 22 million pounds of meat and went bankrupt five days later. It’s a point worth considering. Is it a good use of Department of Agriculture time to track a farm the size of Double H that only raises around a 100 hogs at a time, or should they be spending their time making sure the big companies are doing their job correctly?
Of course, when it comes down to it, Richard and Jean were selling uninspected meat, which is illegal—hence Hale’s idea to draft a letter to spur General Assembly action. "Personally, they could stamp the meat uninspected and that would suit me just fine," said Hale. "It was more an expression of concern about the difficulty facing a small farm operation such as his. If there was something we as a county could do beyond stating our support of this type of this activity…" His voice trailed off.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Hale also brought up the idea that Nelson County somehow could build a processing plant. Right now, to comply with state regulations, Double H is forced to transport their pigs to a plant in Fauquier County, a two-and-a-half hour drive one way. "Clearly there’s a market for local meat and it’s a market that’s very hard to serve," the supervisor said. Of course, that type of solution is only a far-off concept at this point, and in the meantime a letter is frustratingly about the only option the county has. "We recognize there’s a problem," Hale said, "but what else we can do about it I don’t know."
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