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Virginia State Delegate Moves to Defend Farmer and Private Property Rights

Good News for the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia!  A state delegate is proposing legislation to address local government abuses of power with respect to small farms and private property rights.

Joel Salatin will be among those attending a news conference today to discuss the legislation, named the ‘Boneta Bill’, after Martha Boneta who suffered from abuse at the hands of county officials.

 

For Immediate Release:
January 2nd, 2013

Contact:
Andrew Clark
(703) 580-8774
Aclark@scottforva.com

Delegate Scott Lingamfelter Introduces “The Boneta Bill” In Response To Property Rights Infringements By Government

– Legislation will address actions by local government to fine farmer for hosting birthday party and selling produce and crafts on private property-

Please sign up here to receive periodic updates as House Bill 1430 moves through the Virginia General Assembly!

WOODBRIDGE – Today, Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Prince William and Fauquier) announced that he will be holding a press conference on Tuesday, January 8th at 11AM in House Room 1 located in the Virginia State Capitol, 1000 Bank Street, Richmond, Virginia, to discuss his introduction of House Bill 1430, also known as “The Boneta Bill”.

The press conference will feature several high profile property rights advocates including constitutional lawyer and co-author of The Law That Governs Government, Mark Fitzgibbons and Virginia farmer and lecturer Joel Salatin, whose many books include Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front. “Our farm has been featured in numerous documentaries like FOOD INC., New York Times bestsellers like Omnivore’s Dilemma, and countless media from ABC News to National Geographic, but what most people don’t know is that if state and local food and farm regulators had their way, we would not exist,” said Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farm.

“The Boneta Bill” is named after Martha Boneta, a local farmer in Fauquier County who has been in a legal dispute with the county as a result of several zoning ordinances and permits imposed by local government officials. Martha’s dispute and the “Pitchfork Protest” in her support in August were the focus of national press coverage and grassroots support. In Lingamfelter’s estimate, the actions taken by her locality violate fundamental rights and unfairly restrict her property rights.

Lingamfelter commented, “Property rights are one of the most fundamental rights in a free society. In the United States, we the people are the sovereign. We the people have the right to farm just as our Founders envisioned with what they called the pursuit of happiness. Since being elected to the House of Delegates in 2001, I have been a steadfast advocate for the protection of property rights in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Martha Boneta’s rights have been wrongly challenged. I am bringing legislation in the 2013 Session of the General Assembly to improve the Right to Farm Act here in Virginia so small farmers like Martha will enjoy fully their property rights. It’s not about demonizing anyone in this controversy. It’s about standing by property rights and our Founder’s vision.”

Background:

Martha Boneta owns “Paris Barns”, a small historic working farm in Fauquier County, Virginia that produces farm fresh seasonal vegetables, fresh and dried herbs, honey bee products, a variety of eggs, hand-made soaps, and wool crafts made from alpaca, llama, and sheep. All of which are produced on Martha’s farm by volunteer help. Visitors to Martha’s farm are given the opportunity to actively participate in the historic tradition of farming. Unfortunately, Martha has had to close down her doors and put a disclaimer on her website that visitors are no longer welcome and that they are no longer able to purchase her farm fresh produce or handmade crafts.

What her website does not say is that the closure of her farm is due to local government actions that have made it impossible for her to remain open as she intends.

In August of 2012, Martha received national media attention after she held a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls, one of whom was the daughter of a close friend. County government officials informed Martha that local ordinances required a permit to be obtained prior to hosting such an event and that she would be fined $5,000 for doing so. Martha was also charged with two additional violations with up to $5,000 fines apiece – one for advertising a pumpkin carving and another for operating a small shop on her property that Martha used to sell her fresh produce and handmade crafts. County officials made these claims and levied fines without ever stepping foot on her property to actually see her operations.

When Martha informed the county that she had obtained a business license to operate her farm store, local bureaucrats told her that the county regulations had been recently changed to require additional permits to sell items like handspun yarns and birdhouses.

In a sign of solidarity, nearly 100 of Martha’s supporters protested an August meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals carrying pitchforks and questioning why the government is mandating permits to host small gatherings on private property. This “Pitchfork Protest” was reported on Fox & Friends, The Washington Examiner, The Blaze and dozens of national and Virginia news sources. Additionally, Martha’s struggle with overreaching and overregulating local government has gotten the attention of property rights advocates and constitutional scholars from across the country.

Martha has filed a lawsuit in Fauquier Circuit Court to prove that zoning officials and local bureaucrats have overstepped their legal authority and have violated her constitutional rights. Michelle Rosati, Martha’s lawyer and member of the Federalist Society, is also claiming that the county has violated Martha’s due process rights and her rights under the Freedom of Information and Right to Farm Acts.

 

House Bill 1430- The Boneta Bill

In response to Martha’s story, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter has introduced legislation for the upcoming 2013 General Assembly Session to strengthen Virginia’s Right to Farm Act (VRFA) and protect farmers against future encroachments by local government.

The original intention of the VRFA was to protect the rights of Virginians to engage in a tradition and way of life that has been fundamental to the citizens since the founding of the nation. Despite the VRFA, the ordinances enacted in Fauquier have restricted the traditional citizens’ ability to farm and run a small business, which has its roots in the Commonwealth’s founding.

House Bill 1430 will strengthen the VRFA and ensure that the heritage and traditions of farming in the Commonwealth of Virginia are respected at all levels of government. By amending the defining section of the VRFA to include the byproducts of farm produce and the sale of items incidental to farming, House Bill 1430 ensures that government officials cannot take action to restrict or prevent the citizens from engaging in commerce. The bill also expressly sets forth that any county ordinance is void if it were to violate constitutional rights on agricultural property, such as speech, assembly, religion, and other freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights.

“In November of this year, over 74% of Virginians voted to strengthen property rights by amending the Constitution of Virginia. Just as that amendment will protect Virginian’s against overreaching governments, House Bill 1430 will ensure that no government official, elected or appointed, will restrict the right to property that our Founding Fathers, many of whom were Virginia farmers, held as inherent and sacred. The Boneta Bill adds teeth to the Virginia Right to Farm Act to protect property rights and individual liberties.I am looking forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly and with local government in asking them to stand with me to protect farmers, small businesses, and our Virginia way”, said Lingamfelter.

The original Press Release was posted here.

 

There’s a Food Crisis and You are the Solution

 

Food is not what it used to be, at least not the food found at the supermarket. The modern world boasts of a bountiful harvest provided by technology – the wonders of industrialization applied to agriculture.  But the result of this production system has largely become one of turning a few crops into commodities and engineering a vast new sea of “foods” from them.  The modern western (and especially U.S.) diet largely consists of highly processed food products, far removed in form and nutrition from the original life form that they came from.

 

The Industrialization of Food

This commoditization of food has been greatly aided by government subsidies for corn and soy, to the benefit of the food processing and fast food/junk food industries.  The creation of very cheap inputs into factory foods by government policy is a foundational contributor to the change in the nature of food in America over the past several decades.  This, combined with the cultural changes valuing mobility and convenience over family time and traditional cooking, have led the sea change in the way that Americans interact with food.

The results have been devastating.  We now have widespread (if not epidemic) rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer of all kinds, food allergies, and behavioral problems linked to poor digestion and gut health.  It is not coincidental that these changes have come with the change in the American diet and lifestyle.  Causal is a better term to describe it.

Industrial Agriculture
Industrial farming has leveraged economies of scale to produce for the mass market through factory farming, but the land, animals, and humans have suffered the consequences in falling nutritional quality and illness caused by chemical farming techniques.  And industrial farming is petroleum based farming, turning oil into food.

 

The era of cheap food is over. 

Even before the great American drought of 2012, rising oil prices have combined with third world nations’ rising incomes and increasing demand for more meat and other higher-cost food, to drive food commodity prices ever-higher.  Food has traditionally gone down in price, at least the trend had been that way for the last 100 years. According to Global Financial Data, food prices have dropped over the last 100 years by 82%, and looking at the economic business cycle for food, it would seem this would just be another “bust.”

FAO food price chart Oct 2012

But two important factors reveal that this may be a more long term trend. First, oil is now more than ever a critical input to commodity crops, and therefore food production. According to a study by Cornell University, it takes 140 gallons of fossil fuel to grow and harvest one acre of corn. This fuel is not just for the tractor; this includes all the petroleum used to make the pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, and this number does not include the cost of transporting the corn to a market, or the petroleum used in the packaging of the food. As volatile geopolitical situations arise, and as sources of oil continue to diminish, the price of food will rise regardless of regional food price differences. Ill-conceived government subsidies for ethanol that is turning food crops into fuel have only exacerbated this trend.

A second factor at play is the diminishing amount of farmland. The demographic trend continues to be individuals gravitating towards large urban population centers, and not out to the farmland. The American Farmland Trust estimates that American farmland is disappearing at the rate of 2 acres per minute. As farmers and their land become more scarce through industrialization, the system becomes more susceptible to shocks and rising food prices.

With a severe global economic downturn setting in and millions of families worldwide facing difficulty in figuring out how to feed their families, we have now entered a global Food Crisis.  The “Arab Spring” was one of the many indications that the global food system is precariously balanced at the edge of a cliff.

But the crisis caused for millions due to the increasing price of food is a lagging indicator. More fundamental is the drastic way that food production, distribution, and consumption has changed over the past few decades.  With increasing urbanization has come the loss of productive farmland and the decline of family farming around the globe.  This makes the modern food system much more susceptible to risks of various sorts, everything from weather and crop failures, to market conditions in oil markets and global geopolitical events.  The 2012 drought in America’s heartland – the worst ever – is an important recent example.  Even local disasters can produce serious problems with respect to food availability due to the long supply lines in modern food systems.

 

What is the Solution?

With so many systemic problems in our food system, what is the solution?  The solution to all of these problems – to our depleted soil, shrinking and aging farmer population, our toxic environment, diminishing nutrition, chronic health problems, and rising prices – is YOU. You are the solution!

Learning early
As much as you are able, grow your own food.  Being productive with what you have is an essential first step.  Buy fresh and buy local. Know your farmer and support your local economy.  Buy from a farmer you can trust, one whose farm is not entrenched in the factory farm system.  Join a CSA or community garden.  Localization is a key to transforming the food system.

Top Tomato receiving from Farmer Matt

Know the risks associated with buying chemically-produced food, and choose to buy organic and sustainable products.  Self-education is a critical foundation for transforming the way your family deals with food.  Don’t rely on someone else to do it all for you.  Further, research and implement traditional food preparation methods, which will help you maximize the nutrition that your family receives and keep them healthy.

Plan ahead and buy in bulk from trusted suppliers.  Join a food co-op or buying club to get better deals on whole foods, buying in bulk  to utilize aggregated purchasing power.  Build up a food storage supply – the larder of olden days – to be prepared for emergencies and ready to share with neighbors in need.  Forward thinking is required to get out of the rat race that comes with “convenience”.

 

Is It Really That Simple?

With such huge challenges facing us with our broken modern food system, could it really be that simple?  Yes, it is that simple.  You are the Solution.  It requires action by individuals and families to change the system, because food choices are what support the system.  It was, in fact, only because people changed the way they acquired, prepared, and ate food – adopting “convenience” and price as determining factors – that our current system became what it is.  Stop feeding the beast with your purchases – opt out, as much as you are able.  Change what you are demanding, and the market will change to accommodate you.  In fact, it already has begun to do so.

Grow a garden.  Know and support your local farmers.  Join a buying club.  Build your food storage.  Grow community around food.  It really is that simple.  It starts and ends with you.  You are the Solution.

 

 

Why We Farm! Or a guide to relational farming…

Farm fresh produce

The ritual begins during a fading Texas evening. I open the rear hatch of my van, and pull two picnic-worn coolers out onto the chapped pavement. I clear the beads of sweat from my forehead before opening the big white cooler and pick out a healthy specimen of cantaloupe. Behind me stands a small gathering: two newlywed couples, a gurgling baby in a baby carrier, a father and daughter, and a doting grandmother perched over the infant. Their task in this ritual is to watch.

“These were picked this morning,” I say, carefully handing my charges to the first couple in line. The husband flips the fruit around in his hand, inspecting the tiny ridges, and nestles his nose into the plant’s navel. He sniffs in the aromatic perfume with pleasure and satisfactorily deposits the fruit in his wife’s handbag.

I move onto the blue cooler, pulling out a crinkling store-labeled grocery sack stuffed with purple pea snaps, bell peppers, okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers, basil, and oregano.

“Eighteen dollars and fifty-eight cents.” I recite from the yellow receipt, and the husband hands me a crisp twenty.

“I hope you have change,” he states, subtly reminding me of my lack of change the previous week.

“Yeah, I do,” I say, quickly shuffling through the stuffed envelope of coins and cash until I find the right amount. After he is done, the couple stands there and admires their food while I move onto the next couple’s order. The wife occasionally glances back to her mother-in-law and infant and smiles.

“My baby girl just loves the squash you gave us last week. I mashed it up, and she just took it right down.” I turn my head far enough so she can see me smile, and reply, “I’m not sure if anymore will come this season.”

“Really?” 

“But I’ll check to see if any will be here by next week.” My brother, Gerred, owns and runs the farm, I just run the business side of the operation. I often find myself telling customers that I must check, since he keeps a constant check on the farm's pulse.

“Thank you! I like using it as her baby food.” I listen as she describes how long the produce has been lasting in their fridge, longer than any produce they could purchase in a store. I listen on as her mother-in-law, a woman whose eyes light up at the red beefsteak tomatoes, describes just how good the cucumbers were last week. 

“Best cucumbers I’ve tasted in my life,” she states and goes on to describe the thin skins and moving down to the rich, succulent meat of the vegetable. Having eaten some earlier that day, my own mouth revisits the textures and flavors. One by one, I finish the orders, finally passing off cantaloupes to the father and daughter; the former sniffs the fruit without saying a word, while the latter chuckles, “I think he’s really going to enjoy himself tonight.” Everyone trickles off except for the newlywed couple with the infant, who now sleeps soundly in the growing dusk.

“You know, this coming growing season we’d love it if you would grow some acorn squash,” the husband requests, “I can eat that all day! Oh, and we love spaghetti squash.”

“Do you think you could give me an estimate of how much you’d eat in a month?” I ask. They provide me an answer and I mentally log the numbers for my brother to consider.

“We’ve enjoyed your produce,” are their parting words, “I don’t think I could ever find better produce at the store.” They scurry to their car, and the ritual ends, and I watch my charge, my food, become another item in someone's fridge. As I drive home, my mind wanders to the farm work, keeping communication with our various buyers, trying to determine what they will want next growing season, and all the feedback I need to get back to my brother. It’s that time of year, a transition from summer to fall, zucchinis and cucumbers will dissipate to allow in cabbages, lettuces, pumpkins, and squash; as I calculate the figures of how much we can make on our small plot of land, I consider the grand scheme that has brought me to this most basic of professions.

* * * * *

Where does your food come from?

Why farm? Why choose a profession and lifestyle that runs against a cultural tide of sharply dressed, well groomed talking heads, who preach the advantages offered by fancier, cleaner, and more lucrative careers? American culture may claim to romanticize agrarian life, but the love is less than legitimate. USDA statistics show small farms and their farmers have been declining in size since the 1940s, even though number of large farms producing single crops have grown. Yes, the dirt and grime attend to the farmer as an occupational certainty, but any college management class will inform you that “employees” are more motivated more by “intrinsic rewards” than “extrinsic rewards,” or, more simply, workers want to feel as if their work has lasting value. What greater reward could be given than the foreknowledge that one is satisfying the hunger of humanity and your community? The answer lies with the changing idea of American food philosophy, what I would call a purpose-driven understanding of the role of food and American food suppliers in culture.

In an age when food has cheapened with advances in science and technology, we have allowed the doctrines of food and food production to shift, even from my grandfathers’ time to my own, when he grew apples in Washington state during the 1960s. He lived under the philosophy touted by the US Department of Agriculture, which made the US farmer out to be a national hero. He says to have grown food to supplement his teacher’s salary, but the country also saw a national icon and international competitor for American interests, and the American farmer had an built in intrinsic value that extended beyond profits.  

My grandfather’s generation of men sat in darkened movie theaters and watched Frank Capra's classic series, “Why We Fight!,” which taught them why the nation’s role in World War II was necessitated. My grandfather went on to rivet B-17 wings for the war effort, and when he was done, he found that his country needed him in a new capacity. The Government had gifted my grandfather and all American farmers with a new vision: The farmer could forget about the people and the land, and see only a machine, carefully oiled, static, and prosperous for the faithful user. For farmers like my grandfather, any affects that the land experienced were of no concern to him. The system made him more money as long as he kept improving the “machine,” and the food appeared unchanged. If the soil was affected, he could believe that a fix would be over the horizon. The miracle workers of World War II had made a new miracle. 

* * * * *

Industrial farming has taken the heart out of our food

The USDA produced films that showed the miracle of modern food production: thousands of individual farms brought together in a large corporate system to supply supermarkets with a cornucopia of produce, meat, dairy, and canned goods from disjointed regions of the US; the laboratory extending into the field, making larger, more nutritious, and better tasting crops; and the consumer, offered the convenience of this food, enjoyed the prosperity of American ingenuity. The purpose for growing food was simple: Be a part of a new miracle and make more food with less land using whatever means suited that end. It was a system that begat success, so long as the system’s management was carefully regulated. Our food philosophy had shifted, and despite this growth, one factor from previous generations of farmers remained: The community knew the farmer, and the farmer had a social accountability to that community which the government could not override. Even as farms began to cannibalize each other to remain in the system, the farmers were still “independent agents," able to still create life-filled nutritious food, instead of merely "safe food."

The USDA first began to preach this system during World War II, praising farmers for working alongside the government to slowly bring this massive food supply system to being, accepting the government’s aid, and producing what they needed for the war quotas. In one film titled, “Henry Browne, Farmer,” the farmer was described as a “soldier of production” who must produce the right amount of "oil and fats" to combat the Japanese agricultural production. Government had a reason for centralizing farming, out command the marketplace. The farmer’s duty would not be divided between field and national duty.

The national audience grew accustomed to this changing view of farming. Originally, our former food doctrines allowed for a collection of decentralized family farms that occupied the 1910s and 20s, and these businesses had not satisfied the nation's stomach during the depression. Food had lost its plentifulness in the land of plenty, and the government was determined to make ordinary food into something it could have never been on its own, and for a broader use in the world stage. The farmer still had his local connection, he still provided food for his neighbors, but the marketplace was making a way for him in the world, a way that my grandfather would fill, and now, a way my brother and I could fill: the way of mass production, yielding a greater world, filled with complacency toward the simplest action of our humanity. 

The modern world driving home I see different farms as I drive home from my delivery run. These farms are still run by grandfathers, with some migrant workers that drift through. Some have families who work together, but most do not. The crops I see are one of three: Corn, Sorghum, or soybeans, grown to fill the stomachs of cows and humans as cheaply as possible, while the farmer remains accountable to state regulations only. And what a world those regulations have built. The fields are still alive with food, but the food is empty, plastered together with an assortment of chemicals, pesticides, and other toxins that render the life still imagined in the soil a hopeless corpse; at least they can say our food is safe, free from the bacteria that harms us. The plants grow as they are supposed to, guided by their genetic modification, but they remain merely signposts set against the sky of what this world has become. Vastly rich, but hollow-shelled, flavorless, and impotent. The modern farmer can assert he has the same reason for growing food as his predecessors, for although he still feeds that masses, his food has no heart left to give to the table. That's why we don't farm anymore. The life that was found in the fields, is no longer life to us. It doesn't provide substance to our bodies, it doesn't even provide a bottom line for the farmer, it just replicates mindlessly, without thought.

* * * * * 

The beauty of the harvest

I return to the farm after the delivery run and help my brother plant the fall crops. I think about the series "Why We Fight!," and wonder, if I made a documentary entitled, "Why We Farm!" what would it try and communicate to an audience. The answer slowly comes to me among the rows of peppers and tomatoes. I mentioned in the beginning of this piece that I consider my work a ritual. This ritual is the familiar way to be a farmer, or the way I have found familiar. For far too long, farmers have become familiar with growing food better, but I want to be familiar with growing food right.

In "Why We Farm," I would say I grow food because I imagine myself being a part of the world that takes longer to mature, to achieve success, but remains a work in progress. I grow food so it becomes rich again, full of life, and containing the DNA it was supposed to contain. I grow food because I imagine one day, when I have kids, I will want them to grow as they were intended to grow, at a slow, steady pace, ready at the right season to accomplish what they are supposed to accomplish. I grow because a mother sees her child starting that journey, and believes the food I am growing will yield an abundance for the body. I hope that people will see the value in the food, the richness of nutrition, the communities that knew the seminal work that made any table look like a feast. The joy of the God-given command to, “Be fruitful.” I grow food, and the reasons why sprout up to say hello without fail every season.

Now, I am hoping you will ask yourself a similar question to mine, “Why am I not farming, or at least growing food in a pot?” I think the answer is easily found. You only need to look in a mirror, and see a face that is packed full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and rub it until you know it’s real. Then, stand at the edge of your child’s room or find them in the yard and watch them play, see their muscles attached to tendons attached to bones moving back and forth; lastly, I go to the fridge, and take a stock of what is contained inside. Consider the value of that food, whether it was made to give you strength, or whether it was made just to fool an eater. I believe the answer to your question will come easily. 

A Battle Won! US Dept of Labor drops Draconian Rules on Family Farming

US Dept of Labor

In a late Thursday press release, the US Department of Labor announced that it was dropping proposed regulations of family farms related to children working on the farm.  From the announcement:

"the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations.

"The decision to withdraw this rule – including provisions to define the 'parental exemption' – was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.

"Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders – such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H – to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices."

This story, developing since 2011, and today's development demonstrates several important lessons:

  1. The overreaching federal government will try to regulate almost anything to the benefit of their large corporate clients, who seek domination of their marketplace by shutting down smaller competitors.  In this case, they were trying to regulate and be more able to destroy one of the most basic relationships and forms of work in human existence – that of children working with their parents in the production of food.
  2. An oppressive government bureaucracy, especially one as unaccountable and unresponsive as the federal executive agencies, will only expand and use their power to the extent that the people allow them to.  They will push until they feel enough resistance, and then will back off.
  3. This struggle for liberty and the freedom to work with our children and produce food is a long road.  It is a long war, in which there are many battles.  In this battle, the aggressor once again made a strong thrust into the heart of the American way of life, attempting to gain a tight grip on the aorta of productive American family farms, with which they cold later squeeze at will to weaken and eventually kill the heart of family farming forever.  They have failed this time, but they will be back to try again. 

In fact, they will likely try tomorrow – some small farmer somewhere in American will undoubtedly receive a visit tomorrow by an FDA or USDA bureaucrat, seeking to dictate to them how they must raise their animals or grow their produce, all in the name of "public safety".  It is in these small skirmishes that the battle must be joined and met with the force of numbers.

If you care about true food and the liberty to grow it, or want the ability to be able to choose whom you buy it from, then you need to connect with other likeminded Americans in your local area and be ready to rush to their aid when they are the next victim of this growing food police state.  We need to remember that our forebearers faced this same type of tyranny in different ways, and we should be ready to resurrect their immortal words from the Declaration of Independence and bring them to the fore when the next battle erupts and the food police ask what objection we have to their intrusion in our farming affairs:

[You have] erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

 

 

Joel Salatin talk to farmers and local food activists

Joel Salatin

 

The folks from Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply recently hosted a luncheon that featured Joel Salatin talking to farmers and local food activists.  His talk covers a wide range of issues, and in typical Joel Salatin style, he weaves a beautiful tapestry of agrarian and food related topics.  Listen to the speech here:

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Raw Milk Freedom Riders Ride Again

Raw Milk Freedom Riders

Some mothers take their role as parents very seriously, and their focus on local, nutrient-dense foods has been growing in popularity . They invest hours of time preparing special allergy-friendly meals for their children, labor tirelessly growing and preserving their own foods every season, and they diligently seek out foods with the most nutritional value for their families, an ancient practice that lingers still today.

That’s exactly what the first Raw Milk Freedom Ride on November 1st to FDA headquarters was about: Moms who want access to foods they believe to be beneficial to their children’s health. The consumer cannot have access to these foods if food club members and farmers continue to be criminalized by the Federal government. Whether or not you agree with their methods like cow shares, goat shares, or members-only clubs, you have to ask yourself, do you believe in their right to do it?

The Freedom Rider moms rode across the Maryland state line to Pennsylvania in mini-vans with windows covered in tiny handprint smudges and toys rolling around on the floor, and they broke Federal law. From there they drove to FDA headquarters and drank raw milk and ate cookies as close to the building as the Department of Homeland Security would let them. The moms want to be heard. Was the FDA listening? Not really.

Later that day the FDA issued a statement saying that they did not intend to arrest any consumer crossing state lines with milk, which sounds very agreeable to the untrained ear. What they failed to mention actually speaks volumes to those engaged in this behind-the-scenes battle for farm and food freedom. They failed to address their outlandish behavior that’s rarely the subject in the media, and until the recent screenings of the documentary film Farmageddon, the average person had no idea it was even happening.

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