The Politics of Farm and Table

 

FFFMeme309pixelsLast 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.

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  1. robertm7575@gmail.com Inactive
    robertm7575@gmail.com
    @RobertMcReynolds

    I must say, that it is beyond ridiculous that in the United States I cannot go to someone who produces raw milk and purchase it without breaking the law.  If that alone is not a testament of how dictatorial our government is then I don’t know what else it might take.

    • #1
  2. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: The attendees were people from widely varying backgrounds who just want to be left alone.

    I’d like to test that theory by polling the attendees to find out what percentage believes there should be no government restrictions on the use of pesticides, hormones, steroids, antibiotics, and genetic modification by corporate food producers.

    • #2
  3. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Great post, and Misthiocracy has got a good point. 

    But it is a unifying issue in many ways for those of us who want freedom to eat as we choose.

    The root of the GMO food labeling movement, for instance, is simple knowledge.  They’d like to know what they’re eating.

    • #3
  4. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    BTW, I’ll note that I saw Joel Salatin speak a few years ago, and I’ve visited his farm.  (I got to meet the chickens and his family, he wasn’t around. 

    He’s a Christian and a Libertarian, and an inspiring speaker.  He has a terrific book titled Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front.

    • #4
  5. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Thanks, Jon.  This is a good and fascinating movement of which I am a supporter.  

    Misthiocracy and Tuck, you might be interested to know that while some and maybe most of the supporters and attendees would want restrictions, Joel Salatin, who is a leader in this movement, is opposed even to mandated GMO labeling, even though he is strongly opposed to genetically modified food. His friend and debating partner, Dr. Joe Mercola, who supports labeling, has called himself a libertarian and admirer of the Pauls.  It’s an interesting group with, as Jon points out, people from widely varying backgrounds, and the issues they face do cut across party lines.  Things are not always what they seem.

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Sandy: Misthiocracy and Tuck, you might be interested to know that …  Joel Salatin, … Dr. Joe Mercola, …

     Well, that’s two people. Better than nothing, I suppose…

    I kid! I kid!

    • #6
  7. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    The food freedom movement is gaining steam, especially with millennials and apolitical types conservatives and libertarians are trying to win over. I wrote about these issues a few times last year:

    http://www.exjon.com/blog/the-grassroots-are-getting-more-organic

    http://www.exjon.com/blog/raisin-hell

    http://www.exjon.com/blog/swat-team-raids-texas-organic-farm

    • #7
  8. Lady Randolph Inactive
    Lady Randolph
    @LadyRandolph

    Almost all of the “crunchy” people I know are also conservatives. In fact, their tendency towards “natural” living (however one might define that) stems directly from their conservatism, rather than clashing with it.

    • #8
  9. user_129539 Member
    user_129539
    @BrianClendinen

    Raw milk is nasty, skin raw milk is like drinking really thick store bought whole milk. Now the pasteurization process destroys really good tasting cheese. So you are never going to get real Mexican in America unless you eat it at someone house who is buying cheese from the Amish and aging their own meat (or buying it at like 40 or 50 dollars a pound).

    Food safety, destroying good tasting food one regulation at a time.

    • #9
  10. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Raw milk is very dangerous . It has been proven time and again to  carry TB. This fact alone makes it a very high risk vs reward. There are now forms of TB that are incurable, many in India were raw milk is common.

    • #10
  11. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    I have to correct PHCheese’s comment.  Raw milk is dangerous and can carry bovine tuberculosis, which can infect humans with much the same symptoms as human TB, but that is mostly not the problem.  Dairy herds in the US are tested for TB and reactive animals culled.  Drug -resistant TB in India, as is the case everywhere, is transmitted among humans. 

    Again: raw milk is dangerous.  But the pathogens most likely to be carried and cause illness are Listeria (which can cause stillbirths and death) and Salmonella.  E. coli, too, including the kind that can cause kidney failure and death (type O157).  Bovine TB has been seen in humans drinking unpasteurized milk in the UK, and it can happen here, too. 

    This is such an obnoxiously first world luddite issue.  We have succeeded in lifting the burden of infectious disease from our populations thanks to vaccines, antibiotics, and, yes, pasteurization.  From that position of safety, comes the childish whine: “I want my raw milk! I think it tastes better.  Don’t tell me what to do.  Wah, wah, wah.”  And when you’re sick?  Blame the docs (and drug companies) for not making you “all better.” 

    See here, too.

    • #11
  12. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Caryn:This is such an obnoxiously first world luddite issue. We have succeeded in lifting the burden of infectious disease from our populations thanks to vaccines, antibiotics, and, yes, pasteurization. From that position of safety, comes the childish whine: “I want my raw milk! I think it tastes better. Don’t tell me what to do. Wah, wah, wah.” And when you’re sick? Blame the docs (and drug companies) for not making you “all better.”

    See here, too.

     I’ve read some of the arguments pro and con and I haven’t seen anything about taste, which is not to say that taste isn’t an issue for someone.  The primary arguments are about health.  

    • #12
  13. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    PHCheese: Raw milk is very dangerous . It has been proven time and again to carry TB. This fact alone makes it a very high risk vs reward. There are now forms of TB that are incurable, many in India were raw milk is common.

     This is largely propaganda, I’m afraid.  Propagated by the dairy industry, which does not like to have to compete against local farmers selling raw milk, and the regulators, who of course want more regulations.

    I live in Connecticut, where raw milk is legal, and I’ve looked into the matter as far as European regulations.  “Farm milk” is sold throughout Europe.  In France, like in CT, raw milk must meet the same microbe contamination standards as pasteurized milk.

    So the statement that raw milk is inherently “very dangerous” is simply false as a matter of science and law.  Raw milk is slightly more likely than pasteurized milk to have high levels of microbes, and therefore is slightly more dangerous. 

    Given that dairy’s one of the safest food categories, you’d be wiser to worry about your lettuce.

    As far as the tuberculosis thing goes, that’s also not a real risk.  I had to look into this because our doctor was briefly concerned that my wife might have either bovine tuberculosis or the bubonic plague, due to symptoms she had that could have been either.  Bovine tuberculosis is very rare the in the US, and there hadn’t been a case in CT for a very long time.  We quickly ruled that out.  Happily the Mrs. also did not have plague. ;)

    • #13
  14. Lee Inactive
    Lee
    @Lee

    Caryn:

    This is such an obnoxiously first world luddite issue. We have succeeded in lifting the burden of infectious disease from our populations thanks to vaccines, antibiotics, and, yes, pasteurization. From that position of safety, comes the childish whine: “I want my raw milk! I think it tastes better. Don’t tell me what to do. Wah, wah, wah.” And when you’re sick? Blame the docs (and drug companies) for not making you “all better.”

    Not to quibble but I said “Boo hoo”, not “wah, wah, wah”; otherwise, your characterization totally nails the prevailing attitude of people who seek out raw milk. 

    • #14
  15. Lee Inactive
    Lee
    @Lee

    I actually visited a raw milk dairy, not for the milk, but because they raised chickens too, though I took the farm tour to see their process. I’d heard about the health benefits and the superior taste but not being much of a milk drinker, I didn’t care. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that I’d encounter a bunch of hippie freaks with a death wish, so when the farmer handed me a glass, I hesitated, but then thought, what the heck? I eat sushi and rare steak and have been known to enjoy the occasional undercooked egg, so, throwing caution to the wind, I drank a full half cup and then waited for my horrific death.

    To my utter surprise, nothing happened except that I discovered that raw milk is freaking delicious. It’s as though I never tasted milk before. I don’t know what that white stuff in the refrigerated section of the grocery is, but it ain’t milk as our ancestors knew it. I’m pretty sure our species would never have taken to dairy if they were forced to drink the crap approved by the govt.

    • #15
  16. Lee Inactive
    Lee
    @Lee

    Adults ought to have the right to decide what level of risk they are comfortable with and choose to drink raw milk, or steak tartare, or sushi, or not. Doing a little research should lead anyone to the information they need to make an informed decision. 

    The people concerned about the safety of raw milk have an excellent point, but based on the farm I visited, the producers take the risks very, very seriously. They gain no benefit if they poison their customers and you can be sure that if an outbreak occurred because of their negligence, their customers would leave and the state would shut them down immediately. 

    Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter if people choose raw milk, or any other “weird” food, based on health, environmental concerns, New Age or taste preferences—all are valid reasons. Adults ought to have the choice.

    Raw milk is potentially dangerous, but so is the ground beef, spinach, and cantaloupe found in the supermarket. I certainly wouldn’t laugh at someone who got sick from those things, although there’s plenty of evidence to convince consumers to steer clear of them. Maybe we should mock vegetarians who get sick from bagged spinach?

    • #16
  17. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    PHCheese:

    Raw milk is very dangerous . It has been proven time and again to carry TB. This fact alone makes it a very high risk vs reward. There are now forms of TB that are incurable, many in India were raw milk is common.

    Don’t buy your raw milk from India. Problem solved. Next problem, please.

    ;-)

    • #17
  18. Lee Inactive
    Lee
    @Lee

    As to Jon’s point, the food freedom movement is very interesting in the wide variety of motivations and world-views present in its members. I’ve long thought that it could be a stepping stone to getting people thinking about freedom and responsibility in all realms, not just the foodie world. 

    Some members advocate more govt intervention vis-a-vis GMOs, but there are many others who advocate free market solutions in that area and others. Overall, I’ve found the movement to be very friendly to conservative and libertarian ideals and look forward to watching how it influences otherwise liberal people to questioning their assumptions.

    • #18
  19. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Lee:

    As to Jon’s point, the food freedom movement is very interesting in the wide variety of motivations and world-views present in its members. I’ve long thought that it could be a stepping stone to getting people thinking about freedom and responsibility in all realms, not just the foodie world.

    Some members advocate more govt intervention vis-a-vis GMOs, but there are many others who advocate free market solutions in that area and others. Overall, I’ve found the movement to be very friendly to conservative and libertarian ideals and look forward to watching how it influences otherwise liberal people to questioning their assumptions.

      I find that when that great big fuzzy old benevolent government enters one’s own world, suddenly it looks mighty different, and I like to use this particular issue with my liberal, foodie friends.  Indeed food politics are about the only thing we can talk about without my having a stroke, although come to think of it the Gibson guitar raid and the confiscation of old instruments at the border are on the list, too.

    • #19
  20. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    Interesting post there John.  Although my wife and I aren’t typically the “crunchy” type people who seek out raw milk and similar, we have friends that are and have thus been exposed to these issues via them.  As a result of these friends I have been able to see the government intrusion into things I would not have been aware of otherwise, and in some cases have helped them to avoid it and get the products they desired, legally.  I can certainly make common cause with them in the plight to either get government out of places it shouldn’t be or to craft legislation that considers the right of people to take their own justified risks.

    • #20
  21. Lee Inactive
    Lee
    @Lee

    Sandy:

    I find that when that great big fuzzy old benevolent government enters one’s own world, suddenly it looks mighty different, and I like to use this particular issue with my liberal, foodie friends. Indeed food politics are about the only thing we can talk about without my having a stroke, although come to think of it the Gibson guitar raid and the confiscation of old instruments at the border are on the list, too.

    I’m happy to find common ground with liberals whenever possible (you never know when something will click with them) and this is a very fruitful topic.

    • #21
  22. S Inactive
    S
    @S

    Jon,

    You were 30 minutes from my house! I’ve spent many a paycheck at Joel Salatin’s retail store, but as he encourages, I have started buying more stuff even closer to my home (in Lexington, VA) at our local farmer’s market. I agree this is an area where the GOP could make inroads, but we are the party of Chuck Grassley and big agriculture! My wife and I would have gladly hosted you in our home – an offer I’ve extended to Dave Carter, too, since we are so close to the interstate.

    • #22
  23. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    S: You were 30 minutes from my house! I’ve spent many a paycheck at Joel Salatin’s retail store, but as he encourages, I have started buying more stuff even closer to my home (in Lexington, VA) at our local farmer’s market. I agree this is an area where the GOP could make inroads, but we are the party of Chuck Grassley and big agriculture! My wife and I would have gladly hosted you in our home – an offer I’ve extended to Dave Carter, too, since we are so close to the interstate.

    A missed connection! I had never visited that area of the state, but after this trip I’m eager to get back. If I can lure the missus back east I’ll let you know.

    • #23
  24. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Sandy:

    Caryn:This is such an obnoxiously first world luddite issue. We have succeeded in lifting the burden of infectious disease from our populations thanks to vaccines, antibiotics, and, yes, pasteurization. From that position of safety, comes the childish whine: “I want my raw milk! I think it tastes better. Don’t tell me what to do. Wah, wah, wah.” And when you’re sick? Blame the docs (and drug companies) for not making you “all better.”

    See here, too.

    I’ve read some of the arguments pro and con and I haven’t seen anything about taste, which is not to say that taste isn’t an issue for someone. The primary arguments are about health.

    The health arguments have been debunked.  My “here” link was to a long list of scientific journal articles, in context.  Here it is again.: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/BuyStoreServeSafeFood/ucm247991.htm  And, yes, it’s from the “evil governmental overlord,” the FDA.

    The raw milk thing is very much like the organic movement and anti vaccine movement and anti GMO movement, all from a very comfortable perch in the first world which has largely been cured of many of the ills that go with the “red in tooth and claw” of nature.   “Natural” is not inherently safer and it’s questionable whether it’s even tastier.

    • #24
  25. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    S: You were 30 minutes from my house! I’ve spent many a paycheck at Joel Salatin’s retail store, but as he encourages, I have started buying more stuff even closer to my home (in Lexington, VA) at our local farmer’s market. I agree this is an area where the GOP could make inroads, but we are the party of Chuck Grassley and big agriculture! My wife and I would have gladly hosted you in our home – an offer I’ve extended to Dave Carter, too, since we are so close to the interstate.

    A missed connection! I had never visited that area of the state, but after this trip I’m eager to get back. If I can lure the missus back east I’ll let you know.

    There are at least a couple of us Ricochetti down in Lynchburg about an hour from Lexington or Charlottesville.  If you find yourself over this way again let us know and it may be cause for a central Virginia meet up.

    • #25
  26. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Caryn: The raw milk thing is very much like the organic movement and anti vaccine movement and anti GMO movement, all from a very comfortable perch in the first world which has largely been cured of many of the ills that go with the “red in tooth and claw” of nature. “Natural” is not inherently safer and it’s questionable whether it’s even tastier.

    But should we let the people decide if they want to consume raw milk/artisanal cheeses/foie gras or should the government mandate all of these decisions. If someone wants to guzzle raw milk, I say go for it.

    • #26
  27. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Caryn:

    Sandy:

    Caryn:This is such an obnoxiously first world luddite issue. We have succeeded in lifting the burden of infectious disease from our populations thanks to vaccines, antibiotics, and, yes, pasteurization. From that position of safety, comes the childish whine: “I want my raw milk! I think it tastes better. Don’t tell me what to do. Wah, wah, wah.” And when you’re sick? Blame the docs (and drug companies) for not making you “all better.”

    See here, too.

    I’ve read some of the arguments pro and con and I haven’t seen anything about taste, which is not to say that taste isn’t an issue for someone. The primary arguments are about health.

    The health arguments have been debunked. My “here” link was to a long list of scientific journal articles, in context. Here it is again.: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/BuyStoreServeSafeFood/ucm247991.htm And, yes, it’s from the “evil governmental overlord,” the FDA.

    The raw milk thing is very much like the organic movement and anti vaccine movement and anti GMO movement, all from a very comfortable perch in the first world which has largely been cured of many of the ills that go with the “red in tooth and claw” of nature. “Natural” is not inherently safer and it’s questionable whether it’s even tastier.

    Caryn:

    Sandy:

    Caryn:This is such an obnoxiously first world luddite issue. We have succeeded in lifting the burden of infectious disease from our populations thanks to vaccines, antibiotics, and, yes, pasteurization. From that position of safety, comes the childish whine: “I want my raw milk! I think it tastes better. Don’t tell me what to do. Wah, wah, wah.” And when you’re sick? Blame the docs (and drug companies) for not making you “all better.”

    See here, too.

    I’ve read some of the arguments pro and con and I haven’t seen anything about taste, which is not to say that taste isn’t an issue for someone. The primary arguments are about health.

    The health arguments have been debunked. My “here” link was to a long list of scientific journal articles, in context. Here it is again.: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/BuyStoreServeSafeFood/ucm247991.htm And, yes, it’s from the “evil governmental overlord,” the FDA.

    The raw milk thing is very much like the organic movement and anti vaccine movement and anti GMO movement, all from a very comfortable perch in the first world which has largely been cured of many of the ills that go with the “red in tooth and claw” of nature. “Natural” is not inherently safer and it’s questionable whether it’s even tastier.

    Of course “natural” not inherently safer, but neither is denatured food inherently better.  I am skeptical of the FDA’s position and although we in the first world do have a comfortable perch, we also suffer from a wide range of diseases that could reasonably be charged to our distance from nature.  I worry a whole lot more about the consumption of soft drinks than about the consumption of raw milk.

    • #27
  28. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    I was unable to edit my comment.  Sorry for the double quotation.

    • #28
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