We’ve stayed in touch with the farmers featured in Farmageddon. Some have become very good friends – like family to us. One of the farmers, Tim Wightman, now runs our new farm in New Hampshire.
Many fans of the film tell us these farmers feel like family to them, too. People they came to know and care about. Since we couldn’t arrange a family reunion, we decided to do a virtual homecoming – one family at a time.
The first family that appears in the film is Linda and Larry Faillace – Vermont sheep farmers who’s family farm, Three Shepherds Farm, was raided by 42 Federal Agents.
Linda Faillace holds a lamb as federal agents confiscate her herd.
Linda and Larry’s legal case with the USDA actually began prior to the raid. The USDA met with the Faillaces and a team of scientists and researchers from both the US and Europe. Larry has a PhD in animal physiology from Virginia Tech. The experts presented comprehensive evidence to the USDA that there was no such thing as mad cow disease in sheep, no sheep had been put to death in Europe, and that every sheep in the Faillace herd was certified disease free. The USDA officials nodded, then told the Faillaces that the Agency was under political pressure and therefore Linda and Larry had to surrender their animals.
Seeking relief through the courts, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted a hearing based on Larry and Linda’s assertion that USDA claims of disease were unsubstantiated. Without warning, seventeen days prior to the court hearing that would force the USDA to reveal their evidence, forty-two armed agents arrived at the Faillace family farm. Holding the family at gunpoint, the agents seized the entire herd, and subsequently slaughtered every sheep. The USDA further imposed a five-year quarantine on the farm – robbing the family of its ability to earn a living as farmers.
As part of their depositions during the Faillace’s lawsuit, USDA officials testified that there was, in fact, no evidence that the Faillace’s sheep were infected and, in fact, the USDA was aware that all tests were negative.
The Write Stuff
Linda’s book, “Mad Sheep” tells the riveting story of the years her family was under siege by a corrupt government agency that falsified, withheld or destroyed evidence to courts and to Congress, and spent millions of dollars spying on her children! Their tale is such a frightening and touching thriller that Linda adapted her book into a screenplay. She just finished her final draft and is about to submit it to major movie studios for consideration as a feature film.
Smile and Say Cheese
For all their courage and determination, Linda and Larry don’t consider themselves movie stars or heroes. “We’re cheesemakers,” Linda insists. “Been making it and teaching it for eighteen years.”
The Faillace’s teach 30 to 35 classes every year. Some of those classes are held on their farm in Vermont. But they also bring their hands-on classes and workshops to locations across the country. “A growing number of people are becoming more interested in where their food comes from,” Linda says. “They are fascinated to know what’s in their food, and how it’s made.” So far, Linda and Larry have taught over 3,000 people the joy of making cheese. Check out their website for a class near you.
The Faillace Family
The three Faillace children, Francis, Heather, and Jackie, are also featured in the film. They’ve grown up a lot since then – and all have made their parents very proud. Francis went on to do an internship at the Harvard Center for Human Rights. An accomplished craftsman, he opened Vermont Construction and Paint. Take a peek at his website to see his amazing work. http://vermontpainting.blogspot.com/
Heather, who helped to edit Linda’s book, is also a gifted artist. This is one of her mosaic/tile pieces. You can see more of her work at http://www.frostedfernmosaics.com/
Jackie is now married and has two beautiful children. She has my dream job, managing the local Lake Champlain Chocolates store.
“We Are Still Smiling.”
Linda and Larry survived what many people consider a nightmare. Amazingly, they consider themselves lucky. “We are always being contacted and approached by people who saw Farmageddon, read my book, or came across our story on the internet,” Linda nods. “There are hundreds of farmers and ranchers – good, family people who are being driven out of business – whose lives have been thrown into turmoil by our government. People whose stories are NOT being told. That’s why I wrote the book and now the screenplay. To help bring about positive change.”
Linda insists that harassment by the government has got to stop and that mid-level government bureaucrats must be held accountable for their actions and compelled to act based on facts instead of political agendas. In spite of the fact that all the scientific evidence has concluded that mad cow does not exist in sheep, USDA regulations specifically prohibit importing sheep – due to the danger of mad cow disease. However, it IS LEGAL to import cattle.
“We have to get these agencies back on track – back on their real mission: to help all farmers. Not to hurt them,” Linda says hopefully. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could restore our faith and trust in the U.S. Government.”