July 16, 2015

Randy Sowers was born in Frederick County, Md., and he still lives there today in a house overlooking the dairy farm that he has owned and operated since 1981. Every day, Randy gets up just before midnight to begin milking the cows, and he works straight through to 4:30 or 5 in the morning before returning to bed. Since cows never take off weekends, Randy works seven days a week.

For years, Randy has been selling his milk at farmer’s markets—at one point, visiting as many as seven markets a week. Randy began selling at farmer’s markets because he was tired of selling through a generic middleman. Randy likes that his customers know where their milk has come from, and he likes that they can come out to visit the farm to see how well he treats the animals. In 2011 the farm was certified humane by Humane Farm Animal Care.

In February 2012, two government agents came to Randy’s farm. The IRS, they told him, had seized the farm’s entire bank account, containing more than $60,000. When Randy sold milk at farmer’s markets, customers often paid him in cash, and he and his wife, Karen, deposited those cash payments in the account. The government seized the account because the Sowers deposited the cash in amounts under $10,000.

The agents assured Randy they didn’t believe he was a criminal. But they told him it didn’t matter; the government was taking his money regardless.

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