This a story about freedom. In the quest for freedom, there are those that fight the system. We call them rebels, heroes, or both. Then are those that go along with the system, buying every propaganda and half-truth mixed with a lie. We called those conformists at best, but we usually have other nasty cultural epithets as well.
And then there are those that don’t even acknowledge the system. They just go about their merry way, as if the system didn’t exist. We call those people free. Unfortunately, those are the people who end up crushed by the weight of their own ignorance. This is one of those stories.
It begins in Lexington, Kentucky with Samuel Girod, a 68 year-old Amish farmer. Girod lives on a farm in Bath County, Kentucky with his wife, 12 children, and 25 grandchildren. He created a healing salve from elements on his farm—namely rosemary, beeswax, peppermint, chickweed, eucalyptus oil, olive oil, lavender oil, and comfrey. He’s been selling it for the last twenty years.
When a friend told him it helped cure his skin cancer, he named it, “Healing Chickweed Salve,” and claimed it cured cancer. He received legal backlash, and was forced to change the name to “Original Chickweed Salve.” He distributed pamphlets to this effect and sold them around the community. The pamphlets called the ointment a drug, but tests confirm there are no drugs in the product—only natural herbs.
But then in 2013, someone from Missouri turned him into the FDA, saying an Amish man was claiming he had a balm that could cure cancer.
This would seem an innocuous claim to an average consumer, because who, when buying an ointment from an Amish man on a street corner, would believe it had the solitary power for curing cancer? No one in their right mind.
But a federal judge in Missouri told him he could no longer make his products until the FDA approved them. The FDA was not amused by the incident at all. First, they told him he could no longer claim that it cured cancer. Because even if it did, the product would have to go through lengthy testing, research, and approvals.
All of which takes so much time and money, that a single Amish farmer could never expect to survive the process. To get a product FDA approved can cost millions and take years–especially with a controversial product that would put the entire cancer research industry out of business. Secondly, they explained he would have to go through several levels of approval. This included inspecting the farm where the product was produced.
But, being Amish, and distrustful of outsiders, he refused to allow the inspectors into the facility. Not only that, he continued to sell the products even though he was under investigation.
Of course he would. What sort of independent-minded person, without our socialist training that the government must give you permission to breathe, wouldn’t keep selling their product?
In October of 2015 he was arrested for not complying with the FDA’s requirements. The official charges include conspiracy, distributing misbranded drugs, and threatening a witness. Amish beliefs prohibit speaking to reporters, but many people in the community have expressed outrage at this situation.
“I can’t even figure out what he has done wrong,” Bath County resident Suza Moody told WKYT. “They live at the foot of the cross and the thought of one of them intentionally doing something wrong is outrageous.”
Because he is Amish and doesn’t understand outsiders, he dismissed his court-appointed attorney and is now representing himself. Unfamiliar with the legal process, he understood his request to appear at a hearing as voluntary. He was arrested on Failure to Appear charges, after he was considered a fugitive for five months.
“Sam is a very literal person. This hearing didn’t say, ‘Hey Sam you’ve got to be here.’ It just said there’s a status hearing in your case and he thought he didn’t have to show up. It was a mistake on his part, but because he is not an attorney, he just doesn’t understand,” said family friend, Sally Oh.
Even the Bath County Sheriff thinks the situation is outrageous, writing in a statement that it was an “ongoing ruthless and relentless attack against one of his constituents.”
Sam is now in jail without bond until his trial at the end of February.
“I feel like jail is for criminals. He might have done something wrong by the word of the law, but he is a far cry from a criminal,” said Moody. “I mean do you go to jail because you’ve messed up a label on a product? I thought you went to jail because you did something bad. I mean he mislabeled something? I doubt he knew any better.”
She believes they are targeting the Amish. : “They are targeting the Amish because they don’t threaten. They don’t fight back, and they don’t like lawyers.”
However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says the story is not true, and stated, “”In cases like this, our interests are ensuring that drugs that are made available to the public are safe for consumption and ensuring the integrity of the judicial process.”
Absolutely. So that Joe Farmer can’t make money off a homemade ointment without owing half his soul to corporate sponsors. He is now facing 12 counts of federal charges and prison time. His trial is February 27.