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Last weekend I had the privilege to talk about social media at the Food Freedom Fest held in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The event was a chance for farmers, foodies, entrepreneurs and activists to protect their right to grow the food they love and to enjoy it as they see fit.
In the present era of the personal as political, do-gooders and government bureaucrats are working overtime to regulate every aspect of your diet from the seed to the landfill. Unseen to most consumers is the effect this is having on our independent food producers. Mega agribusinesses can afford the lawyers and lobbyists required to navigate the growing mountain of rules and interpretations. But the people getting hurt are the farmers and artisans who make up the burgeoning Farm-to-Table movement.
At the same time our government praises sustainable, local, and healthy food, it is creating huge obstacles to the people trying to provide it. Just ask the vendors at your local farmer’s market or gathering of food trucks if you want to hear their deep frustration. Even lifelong progressives are noticing this disconnect and acting with a new appreciation for limited government.
The Virginia conference was organized by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. The non-profit was created to protect “the rights of the nation’s family farms, artisan food producers, consumers and affiliate communities to engage in direct commerce free of harassment by federal, state and local government interference.” Members get free legal assistance from specialized attorneys, including an emergency hotline for surprise inspections and even raids by federal or local officials.
Speakers at the Food Freedom Fest included libertarian farmer Joel Salatin, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) who sponsored two Raw Milk Freedom bills, and John Moody who won protections for farm-to-table buying clubs. “Our event shows how important the issue of food freedom is to everyone across the political spectrum,” said FTCLDF President Pete Kennedy. “From farmer to consumer to politician, this issue affects everyone.”
Like school choice, food freedom is an issue that cuts across political and ideological lines. If a stranger walked through the convention, he would probably notice more of a “hippie” vibe than anything that smacked of Republican politics. The movement naturally sides against crony capitalism since it is so focused on small businesses and producers.
The attendees were people from widely varying backgrounds who just want to be left alone. Not to accumulate riches or win a political fight, but so they can eat and drink what they think is healthy and delicious — for them and their families. If conservative politicos want to expand their base, they would be wise to listen carefully to this growing movement’s concerns.Published in