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Local Food Advocates Protest in Santa Cruz against Crackdown on Small Dairy Farms

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BONNY DOON - As far as goat farmers go, Mali McGee counts herself among the militants.

"We are out of the barn and willing to talk about it," said McGee, who runs Milk Mama Goat Farm, a small goat and sheep farm in a remote corner of Bonny Doon.

With three goats and two sheep, Milk Mama is a herd share program. Members buy 1/54th of a share, which pencils out to about half a gallon of goat milk a week. Members can also contract with the farm to turn the milk into cheese, yogurt or other diary products.

While shares in fruit and vegetable farms have been a popular part of the local food movement, a new trend is buying shares of animals. But this new trend disturbs authorities, so much so that prosecutors have sent cease-and-desist letters to small herd share cooperatives across the state - including Evergreen Acres in Santa Clara County - and even staged an armed raid on a Ventura operation.

In this climate, local herd share operators, many of whom prefer anonymity, are coming out of the shadows next week. They are planning a downtown Santa Cruz "milk-in" to raise awareness about what they say is a misuse of taxpayer funds and government resources.

"We have seen what has happened in other parts of the country, and we're trying to prevent it," McGee said. "We want to highlight the inappropriate use of funds and the mistreatment of people."

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