Monday, April 12, 2010
I've always been off the grid, with just about everything I've done. My parents had a large organic garden in the back yard and we grew up eating fresh veggies and tofu and brown rice stir-fry. My lunch bag was usually filled with a sandwich of whole wheat bread, sprouts and avocado with perhaps some fresh fruit. I used to look longingly at the fluff and peanut-butter, white bread sandwiches my friends had.
As I got older I began to appreciate being "weird" and even to embrace it. For a long time I avoided shaving my legs and considered myself a feminist, "not to be controlled by any man" (I grew out of that one). With my children I went even more radical and had home-births, breastfed for years on end and never let a needle come within 10 feet of them. Now I eat in a way that makes some people think I'm too extreme. You know; real food, no processed food, lots of raw animal protein and fresh veggies. But all the while, even though I mistrusted government and big businesses I still had a naive belief in their inherent relative benevolence and a quiet acceptance of their necessity. So I suppose you could say I was a fluffy radical; going about my business but not truly questioning the gravity of the matters at hand.
The gravity of the situation truly hit home this past weekend, when I spent a whole day at The 2nd Annual Raw Milk Symposium sponsored by the Farm-To-Consumer-Foundation. It may sound silly to those who have never gone out of their way to drink real milk on a regular basis, but this type of gathering can make profound changes in the hearts and minds of those who take the time to attend. When listening to the deeply moving words of the likes of Michael Schmidt and the intensely motivating words of Mark McAfee one cannot help but be outraged and motivated.
When you look at what is going on with raw milk farmers, the true intent of our government, at the behest of corporate interests, becomes painfully obvious. The government is kicking the butts of raw milk producers; raiding, confiscating, harassing, manipulating, threatening and flat-out wasting wads of dollars in destroyed product (and government money). All in the name of public safety. Well, I hate to point out the obvious, and pretty much any relatively informed consumer can figure this out, but if the government were truly concerned with our safety, wouldn't they be doing these very same things to factory farms and mega-sized slaughter-houses? It is well-established that these are the source of the vast majority of food-borne illness outbreaks and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. But this is what we only see on the surface. As infuriating as it is, it is not the core issue. The real issue is that raw milk represents a kind of food freedom statement that those in power do not want to hear. The very simple ideas;"I can eat what I choose" coupled with; "As an informed consumer I choose to eat real food that is produced locally with minimal processing", scare the living daylights out of those who would control every morsel that enters our mouths.
Everything I knew in my heart to be true about corporate greed and government's inability to do their job was staring me in the face this weekend. And one cannot turn away from that. My comfortable illusions have been shattered! They (meaning the greedy and power-hungry who control our food supply) are truly intent on making as much money as possible and they really, really don't care that it is slowly killing many Americans. They really don't care that our rural countryside has turned into a desolate and depressed endless sea of corn fields, factory farms and mega grain-processing plants. They truly, really don't care that that our country is filled with overweight, drug-dependent, tired, stressed-out, sick people! Really, they don't. And the scary part is that not only do they not care, the continuation of this status quo is in their best financial interest and they know it. They will stop at nothing to maintain it. And this is easy for them because usually a nice, shocking smear campaign, like highlighting how raw milk will kill you, is all the ammunition they need. Fear is a powerful weapon, but fear and total control of almost every public outlet of information is pretty much unstoppable.
So what hit home is that raw milk issues are not just about raw milk and the warm and fuzzy notion of drinking this nourishing liquid in its unadulterated form. What the fight over raw milk is about is food freedom. Every time a governmental bureaucrat enters the private property of a farm, harasses them (and often their children), confiscates their products, forces them to dump their products (for months upon months) and essentially forces them to choose between bankruptcy and giving up their many years of blood, sweat and tears, they are infringing upon our rights, as consumers! The reality of our food production and distribution system in this country is so eloquently and violently displayed when you look at what is going on with raw milk farmers. Raw milk is the poster child for food freedom!! Even if you never have the good luck to sip a glass of fresh raw milk from happy, healthy grass-fed cows, raw milk is important to you. And I mean it.
If this has in any way motivated you to step up your game and to really fight back against corporate interests in what you put in your mouth, here are some things you can do today and beyond to help in the fight for food freedom:
1. Call your local and federal legislators and tell them what you think. S.510 is up right now in the Senate. Call your senators and tell them you support the amendments being proposed to this bill by Senator Testor that will protect small-scale farmers and food artisans from the more onerous requirements. More detailed info about the bill and what to say to your senator here.
2. Join the Farm-To-Consumer-Legal-Defense-Fund and/or the Farm-To-Consumer-Foundation. These organizations are dedicated to helping farmers fight back and they're doing an excellent job!
3. Most important of all, buy local!! Support your local farmers with your dollars, stop feeding the greedy bellies of mega-corporations. This means eating little or no highly processed food and completely avoiding conventional meat and dairy. No crackers, chips, pasta, soda, fast food, (where do you think all that corn goes?) etc. I know, I know, it sounds totally radical. But that food is bad for you anyway. You'll feel much better without all that junk and the joy of buying directly from someone you know who has worked hard to bring you the best quality food they can, is unmatched in shopping experiences.
4. Always be on alert to help out by attending meetings and rallies, calling elected officials, giving donations, even just sending a letter of support to a farmer who has been beaten down.
I'm not sure if food can fully cure but I do know that junk food can kill. I refuse to let anyone tell me what I can and cannot eat but without real farmers there won't be much of a choice. Please, please let's all support our local farmers who are giving their hearts and souls to provide us with real food!!