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Ocheesee Dairy will appeal “skim milk” ruling in federal court

Ocheesee Dairy will appeal “skim milk” ruling in federal court Photo From Ocheesee Creamery Website: www.ocheeseecreamery.com

It usually doesn’t pay to fight the Florida Department of Agriculture on a food labeling issue, but don’t try to tell that to Ocheesee Dairy.  Mennonite dairy farmer Mary Lou Wesselhoeft tried to argue her case based on the core meaning of “skim milk” but federal Judge Robert Hinkle disagreed with them last week, ruling in favor of FDAG.  Ocheesee Creamery, located south of Grand Ridge on State Road 69, has the option of filing an appeal but the case already has taken more than three years during which time Ocheesee has been prevented from selling its product. According to a press release issued March 31, an appeal will be filed.  

The Creamery is being represented in court by the Institute for Justice, the non-profit Libertarian law firm headquartered in Arlington, Va.  Hinkle’s ruling was handed down on Wednesday, March 30, and IJ came out with their news release the next day.  “In a setback for free speech,” Assistant Communications Director Shira Rawlinson wrote, “the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida rejected a challenge to Florida’s skim milk labeling law.  The Institute for Justice plans to appeal the ruling.”

Ocheesee Creamery wants to sell all-natural, pasteurized skim milk that contains literally one ingredient, Rawlinson said, and that is skim milk and labeled as such.  But four years ago, she received an order from FDAG that said ‘either inject your pasteurized skim milk with artificial vitamin A or stop calling it pasteurized skim milk.’  However, FDAG says the vitamins give it the same nutritional value as whole milk and that is the purpose of the labeling law. They asked her to print “imitation skim milk” on the label but the Mennonites say that would be telling the public a lie. 

“I just want to tell the truth,” Wesselhoeft said last week.  “Our skim milk was pure skim milk and nobody was ever confused when we called it skim milk.  I refuse to lie to my customers so I have stopped selling skim milk until I am allowed to tell the truth again.”  

“Businesses have the right to tell the truth and the government does not have the power to change the dictionary,” said IJ Florida Office Managing Attorney Justin Pearson.  “We look forward to continuing this fight at the Court of Appeals.”   

Historic Greenwood School property sold for $150,000

The Greenwood School was built in 1943 but ultimately shuttered a few decades later as schools were consolidated to Malone or Marianna. The Jackson County School District sold the 4181 Applewhite St. property to the non-profit Life Management Center of Northwest Florida in 2001 for $2,700, according to public records at the Property Appraiser’s office.  The 22,320 square foot property on the one-acre lot entered the private sector and the paying tax rolls in 2001 when Life Management sold it to investor Tom Evans of Albany, Ga., for $17,500. 

Evans converted the historic building still admired by alumni scattered all over the county into an apartment complex but never completed renovations, according to real estate websites.  It consists of three wings including about 4,000 square feet each and a central unit about the same size that was the school’s auditorium or assembly room. It reportedly has the potential for a total of nine residential units and that may be the intention of the latest buyer.

The property was sold last week for $150,000 to Rafael Baragas, of Sebring, Fla., according to public records doing business as Old School Town Homes Inc.  The property is located in Greenwood off County Road 162 (Fort Road) a few blocks to the west of the CR 162 intersection with State Road 71 North.

For dorm makeover and chiller plant - Chipola College gets $4.5 million from Legislature

There are about 35 buildings on the 130-acre Chipola College campus in Marianna.  Most all will be connected to an improved and capacity-increased centralized chiller system, Chipola’s Bryan Craven said Monday afternoon.  This will involve a lot of additional pipes being buried underground, as a tour of the campus shows this week, since the project actually was begun months ago.  But this and other improvements will be continued thanks to the help of state Rep. Brad Drake, who helped guide a $4.5 million appropriation through the 2016 session of the state Legislature, the regular session which just ended. 

“The end result will be more efficiency in the heating and cooling of our buildings,” Craven said.  “And if we can save money on utility bills, the more money we will have for the college and the students.” The chiller plant was built decades ago but the improvements will allow it to extend throughout the campus.  Money also is being spent from the appropriation on redoing utility lines such as the sewer system and putting electrical lines underground, Craven added. 

A large portion of the money from the 2016 Legislature, $1.9 million, is being used to complete renovations at the college’s single dormitory complex, Craven said.  There are about 48 rooms that house about 100 students, most of whom are athletes, Craven explained.  The contractor on that job is Ram Construction of Midway and the architect was Bret Parrish Architects of Dothan.  The dorm makeover is expected to be complete in July or August.

Historic Marianna train depot becomes insurance office again

Rusty Johnson and his family bought the historic Marianna train depot on Caledonia Street in 1998 from George Simmons.  They opened it as an Allstate Insurance office and worked there until they sold that agency in 2009. Agents kept the Allstate agency there and leased the depot from Johnson who moved back to Panama City, Johnson said Monday afternoon at the depot.  When Greta Langley moved the Allstate agency to the east end a few years ago, the depot was leased to a shopkeeper who sold restoration paints and other artistic materials but closed several weeks ago.  However, all the tenants kept the 1870s structure in pristine condition—even improving it.

But now the building’s owner, Rusty Johnson, is back and this time with a new insurance franchise.  He opened the Marianna location of a Florida insurance business known as “We Insure” on March 7.  “We sell everything,” he said, “home, auto, business, life and health insurance.” We Insure has two locations in Panama City and one in Tallahassee.  Officials of the company expressed to him a desire to expand into the Marianna area, Johnson said, and he was happy to do it himself.  

“I invite my former customers to come in for a quote,” Johnson said, “as well as any new customers that may be interested.”  We Insure is open M-F from 9-5 and the telephone is 850-394-9705.

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