Small diversified farming and the lawgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
One of the things we've been talking about on my homestead mailing lists is the need for a change in the level of restrictions upon the small diversified farmer. I have suggested that small farmers get together to push our congressman to do something about stopping the steady downward spiral of the small diversified family farm. There are some major factors involved here. The first one is that over the years as corporate farming has become the norm, the small farmer has allowed them to set the standards for farming. As a result, many of the laws put in place over the years negatively affect the diversified small farmer. Unfortunately this has also directly affected the entire nation, as it is the small farmer that is the salvation of a nation in hard times. This has also affected the consumer in that the quality of his food is declining in nutrition and freshness. This leads to large increases in nutritional diseases, most notably Diabetes, Cancer and heart disease. Back in the nineteen thirties just as the nation was beginning to feel some relief from the depression there was suddenly an outcry from farmers that they should treat farming more as a business. Because of advancements in the technology of farming it suddenly became easy for one man to farm huge amounts of land. This is how corporate farming began. Unfortunately we've had way too much of a good thing. As corporate farming has grown we have ignored the very backbone of our nation considering it to be outmoded. The small family farm needs to be protected. If we spent half as much time protecting the small farmer as we do saveing sand flies in San Bernadino California or Kangaroo Rats in Riverside California, this nation would be stronger and more able to handle the future. The way for us to do this is to petition our government representative to reduce or eliminate restrictions for small farmers when it comes to milk, meat, vegetable, grain, and egg production. I propose new laws that put the responsibilties of this into the hands of small farm guilds across America. The guilds are responsible for making their own rules and can build reputations in their communities for quality food products. The only time the government can step in is when there are problems that guild members have refused to resolve. This opens a brand new option for those who wish to farm. It gives them the ability to provide quality food to the public and to farm without government interference. The guilds could run similar to CSA products where consumers can get supplied with food by subscribing or through direct sales. This puts the responsibility of product into the hands of the farmer and his neighbors and puts the pressure on the farmer from the consumer demanding high quality. This can make small farming profitable for those who would attempt it and make it possible for farmers to make a living from their farms. Imagine that. It also gives the consumer an option other than grocery stores. Just something for all of you to think about.
Little Bit Farm
-- Little bit Farm (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 15, 2000
You got about 25 farmers from Craig county Virginia reading your post---count us in !!! make that 33
-- Joel Rosen (Joel681@webtv.net), April 15, 2000.
I agree in spirit with what youre saying and the essence of what you're trying to get done, however as a cranky curmudgeon type when it comes to any kind of political situation (ie membership to the proposed political body) I wonder if it too wouldn't get out of hand.
An example---the idea of certifying organic produce as such. A good idea in theory. There are several certifying organizations, all of whom use slightly different criteria and some of which are rediculous in their zealous attempt to preserve their percieved definition of the word. I might even call some of them organazis.
It seems like most of my life I've been swimming upstream, going against the established norms in one way or another. I'd be concerned about a rerun of the same old thing but thats just me.
-- john leake (email@example.com), April 15, 2000.
I think there is definitely an interest among homesteaders and farmers for an idea like this. Many of the current laws prohibit farmers from selling their own produce on the farm if they send it off the farm to slaughter and then bring it back. I have heard Joel Salatin talk about this and also Sally Fallon who is the author of several books primarily involved with nutrition and how processing foods including pasteurizing milk is removing nourishment which we need. I personally would love to see some kind of co-op set up in cities where farmers bring their beef, chicken, produce, milk, honey or whatever that they have produced and have it sold to people who are looking for food that is raised in a healthy environment not in confinement and feedlots. It would be similar to a farmers market but it would include meat. Or I would love to be able to go to a local farm and just buy it directly from them. But a lot of that is prohibited at least in Virginia unless the animal is slaughtered on the premises. I would love to do away with the middle man. I'm willing to help anyone with trying to get laws changed along these lines. I can write, I can type and I can speak. I also live near Washington, DC so it also means I can lobby. But I don't know enough about what is needed to do anything without some advice. Maybe this forum can be a catalyst to get some laws changed. I don't mind taking on the big guys.
-- Colleen (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 15, 2000.
I know that there could be drawbacks to this system also, but the reality today is we either have to go completely back and get rid of food safety laws all together or we have to come up with some kind of compromise. It is important to the future of this country that something change or family farming is going to be a thing of the past. The facts are that a small diversified farm just can't afford to comply with all the laws that have been put in place in order to protect consumers from the diseases associated with the mass production of food. Nor should he. The simple truth is that on most small farms these things aren't all necessary. A guild idea could work and it could be constructed not to leave people out in the cold as the organic industry has done. I think this needs to be a grassroots campaign that needs to come from the guys growing the grass. The simple truth is this country can't get along without the farmer and I think it is time to use that to our advantage. I think we need to write up a bill containing what we feel is necessary to the cause and then petition the government to make it happen. It is time for freedom in the most basic area of our lives. What we eat. The reason there are so many one crop huge farms is because the little guy hasn't been able to make it. You know he who controls the food controls the country. It is time to take some of what made this country what it is back. I think it could be constructed so that each guild comes up with a charter and guidelines. It would require that the farmer agree to meet certain standards, but it would be more localized and there would be some recourse for special considerations. I think it really could give enough assurance that it might be pulled off, but this will require a lot of work to get it through. It will also require farmers to get involved with the political process which many are loathe to do. The guilds could be set up only to service diversified small farms, meaning that there would be limits on how big these farms could be. The point is to bring back the farm where the consumer could go to get everything. This would also make sure that big corporate farms couldn't come take over the guilds and bend things to their direction again.
Little Bit Farm
-- Little bit Farm (email@example.com), April 15, 2000.
In 1931 almost all of Iowa went on strike--farm products became non-existant within a week. Result--federal troops arrived,shot farmers and forced them to hand over their stores and go back to work. In exchange they received electricity to every farmhouse and a gravel road every mile. If we keep pouring the chemicals on at the present rate, you won't need food--you'll need a family undertaker !
-- Joel Rosen (Joel681@webtv.net), April 15, 2000.
The problem is, that the government has no interest in keeping small farmers in business, quite the contrary. Why do you think they're all so gung-ho about genetic engineering with it's terminator seed technology? Monsanto,Cargill, and other agribiz companies, have a lot of clout with the government, and they write the laws. An example would be the noxious weed laws, which force people to control every single weed of certain species, or the government can, if informed that you have a patch of thistles,or knapweed, come in an spay toxic chemicals all over your land and bill you for it. I agree that I'd like to see farming go back into the small farmers hands. There are still small farmers out there, practicing sustainable agriculture, but they can't stay in business unless we put our money where our mouth is and buy their products, even if they cost more.The only area that I can see where regulations make it nearly impossible for the small farmer, is in the dairy industry. There is some rationale for the strict regulations with milk- if one of my goats had listeriosis, a pregnant woman drinking the milk would miscarry, and other people would get pretty sick.Without the testing, nobody would know that the milk was not safe until it was too late. Bacteria laden milk that hasn't been cooled properly looks just as white as clean,properly handled milk, it just doesn't keep as long and can taste bad. Since I can't legally sell our milk, I have to make soap out of it and sell that, which seems a bit wasteful to me, but it's not illegal.One solution would be to rent out the goats but take care of them here, so that people would come and buy milk from the goat they rented for the year. If it was in writing, that they were to make rental payments of $3.00 per gallon,and that they'd allow me to handle their milk,I think it might work. My husband says the other way to help small farmers would be if there was a law to require specific labeling of the chemical use and growing conditions of every food in the store. Can you imagine someone going in to but Tyson chicken, and reading the chemicals list,including side effects of ingesting that chemical,and the hormones used, and buying it? Most people would not knowingly buy genetically engineered food, if it was so labeled.
For what it's worth, the kosher meat label means more than that it has been blessed by a Rabbi. It means that the animal has been butchered humanely,that all the blood has been drained,there are no blood products in kosher processed meat, and if an animal is diseased or sick, it cannot be kosher. With storebought meat, if a chicken has cancer, they cut that part off for dog food, and the rest gets sold for human food. Bruises the size of a quarter or smaller are OK on poultry. With kosher meat, if an animal has cancer, it cannot be used at all. The organs of the animal are inspected, and if it's not healthy, it's not kosher. Also, the animal has to be killed while it is calm,with a single,swift stroke. If it takes two strokes of the knife, the animal is not kosher, the death must be instantaneous.It cannot be tortured-there is none of this business of the chickens hanging upside down and having their heads pulled off on a conveyor belt.It might be intersting to you to know, that religious jews do not eat the hindquarters of the animals such as beef and lamb. That means that if you could find a kosher butcher in your area, you could buy the hindquarters,which are of the same quality as the rest of the animal, and would otherwise go into the main meat market. I think that to truly make a difference for the small farmer,we need to educate the consumer as to the quality and cotent of their food, and to convince them that for example, they could be buying apples that really taste good and are not coated with chemicals. Most people have no idea that there is anything else but red and golden delicious. They don't have any idea what they're missing! The same goes for eggs,meat,tomatoes,and most other storebought food. The other thing we can do,aside from buying food from thses small farmers whenever we can, and encouraging them to grow more, because we will buy it, is to grow good food ourselves, and sell it, and educate people about it. Maybe put up a booth at the county fair where people can read about and sample better products.I can't do that with milk, but you could with apples or tomatoes, and hand out flyers listing growers numbers and what they produce. I like the idea of the guilds,we have thought about the CSA option, but the prospect of growing enough veggies for 50 families is a bit daunting.It would be better if each farmer could concentrate on just a few crops, spinach,strawberries, and apples, for example, and if between a group of them there was a well rounded selection of veggies. You might like to read ACRES,USA, a newspaper about small,sustainable agriculture.
-- Rebekah (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 15, 2000.
I'm thinking about this, and typing slowly . . . something definitely needs to be done, and your idea sounds workable, but there would have to be a lot of care taken to make sure that if a farmer wanted in the guild and didn't meet health standards/construction standards, or whatever, that he/she would be helped and educated if necessary, rather than being shut down or pushed out of the markets. I'm thinking of the guilds in the middle ages. They were good in that they ensured a craftsman was properly trained for his trade, and held him to high standards, but they also got very exclusive, like monopolies, and wouldn't let anyone outside their tight little club do whatever sort of work their guild did. You know, a total break- down of the transportation system would solve the problem (no, I'm not advocating shutting down the transportation system :-); then people would HAVE to buy food from their local farmers:-). Only thing is, a lot would starve before things got straightened around. And there are places where it just wouldn't be very feasible for all the community's food to be grown locally -- I'm thinking of places in the bush in Alaska that are pretty far out, and not the best climate or soils. But there are other places where farming would be difficult. Also, you were talking about eliminating restrictions on small farmers. I remember reading about some small dairy farmers (Mennonite or Amish, I think) who were selling their milk to a cheese plant, and it was tested for bacteria, and proved to be way LOWER than even the grade-A dairies. Why couldn't there be a regular testing/inspection program in place for things, like milk and meat, that are at high risk of disease-causing organisms? If the tests showed everything was clean, the farmer could sell his stuff, if not,he couldn't? Rather than insisting on certain equipment or types of construction that may or may not actually affect how clean the product is (a factor that depends more on the hygeine of the people handling the product, and could be improved with education).
-- Kathleen Sanderson (email@example.com), April 15, 2000.
I think the answer is in the past. Try bartering for everything ! It takes a lot of handshaking and baby kissing also but it yields goods without government or taxes and you receive fair wages for your goods ! Say I need 300 bales of hay to make winter stores--so--I cut,bale,and stack your 65 acres of hay for half the product. You pay for my laborers or my machinery and u get to pick which one.(they are about the same anyway,but you might have 4 strong sons) No money changed hands, I got what I need and you got what you wanted. This is totally legal until I sell the hay--so--never sell anything. Trade,Trade,Trade
-- Joel Rosen (Joel681@webtv.net), April 15, 2000.
Ok, I got off the computer to do dishes and as I was doing them I was thinking about this more. I think that there has to be a plan in place in order to take this from just the idea stage to the actually doing something stage. First of all I agree with above letter that there should be some help available to new farmers and those who might not know what it takes to produce clean food. Second, I think that if this were to really become more than just a nice way to stretch our minds on a Saturday afternoon we should take some steps to make it a reality. How about forming local guilds first. How about each and every person who thinks that there has to be a viable way to make things better starting a guild in their local area. This is actually better than starting with a national organization right away, because we all know people who farm who just might trust us. Nobody is going to trust some lady on the internet. I was thinking I could start a mailing list over at egroups/onelist and maybe really get things started. The new mailing lists over there have chat rooms that run along with every list. This could facilitate dialog and give others who are interested one place to reference. It is also free. I look at it like this, I want to do something about this problem and the only way to do it, is to do it. By starting local guilds we could build a constituency. We can talk with consumers in our area and make it more than a few farmers gone crazy again(He He). I know this sounds like an impossible dream, but if the NRA can put pressure on Washington why can't we? It could go nowhere or it could go somewhere. I am going to start the list now. You'll find it under Diversified Small Family Farmer's Guild of America (DSFFA).
Little Bit Farm
-- Little bit Farm (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 15, 2000.
There is a parrallel here to the homeschooling movement. When the movement began in the late 70's. There were very few laws, most of them bad, concerning parent's rights to homeschool. Homeschoolers had been out of the "system" too long and had not been involved in making the laws. But now they have banded together, are working hard and involved in the lawmaking process so they can get and keep what they want. The same can happen in the small farming arena. It will take dedication, involvement, a central group to organize everyone, AND patience. It has taken the homeschooling community twenty years to get where they are and they're not done yet. So expect a LONG HAUL. But I say go for it!!!!!!!!!!!We can all write, call, email and maybe visit our representatives so let's do it.
-- Vaughn (email@example.com), April 15, 2000.
***!!! I just lost what I spent 20 minutes keying in. Oh well, probably just more drivel, like I usually post.
I wanted to say that this is maybe THE most critical issue I have yet seen on this forum. Thank you Little Bit Farm.
King County, Washington State is doing a lot to promote small farming and I go to a lot of their meetings ( I don't live there). I find the issues interesting and stimulating, and a lot of folk interested.....sort of the WTO protests in the agribusiness contra mode...
Monsanto, Cargill, and whoever can always justify what they do based on the fact that according to current crop yields and distribution, we are not meeting the minimal nutritional needs of this planet. We have an enormous population liability, folks!!! Aye, that is the rub!! We can talk politics until we are blue (bleu, azul, however you chose)in the face, but until we get people to stop breeding like rabbits, this will always be the issue.
Again, I am strongly for working locally, and thinking globally, so let's hear what we can do.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 15, 2000.
Joel, there's a place you have to report bartering/trades on your federal taxes. It stinks, and most don't. Just be cautious.
-- Anne (HealthyTouch01@hotmail.com), April 16, 2000.
Thank You--Anne I believe the question on the tax form is for making a profit off a barter. That would imply --I made currency. You cannot put hay, diesel fuel or similar items in the bank, therefore the word "profit" is a mute term until I sell something. This is legal and generally accepted by the IRS--they fiqure they will get theirs win you sell something ! Therefore, never buy and never sell. Trade, Trade, Trade
-- Joel Rosen (Joel681@webtv.net), April 16, 2000.
I noticed the number of VA. farmers who posted a message. I too live and farm in VA> and want to mention my 2 cents worth here. I am disgusted with the laws and the prohibitions placed on my rights to sell my farm products. I am also disgusted with our local politicians who cannot see themselves clear nor detach themselves from big campaign bucks from big industralized farms! I am tired of being harrassed by the st. dept of Ag when it comes to regs to sell our products and constant policing of farmer markets. If you say there are 23 farmers in Craig County.... then lets start to do something to lobby and change all this. I want to sell my cheese, meat and eggs. plus our other products without harrassment and stupid disabling regs. I am not selling our cheese this yr. for fear of being arrested as Christine Solomon was last yr. I should not have to fear that at all. Christine has been in court for 20 yrs. trying to change the blame stupid regs. If anyone is interested in organizing lets try to get together to begin to change things.
-- Bernice (email@example.com), April 16, 2000.
I may be wrong, but I think that The Grange started out as an organization intended to do much of what you describe. Recently, I contacted them, thinking about joining. But, I had one major question: what is their position on GE crops? Their reply is that they are pro-GE and against the labeling of such crops for the consumer. I strongly believe that GE crops are not in the best interest of the environment, the small farmer, nor the consumer, so I won't join them. Perhaps what we need to do is to start a new small farm organization.
-- Gloria (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 17, 2000.
Maybe this is already in the answers somewhere - reading fast and pretty tired... One other idea would be to lobby the gov to stop the federal hand-outs to big farmers; ie: quit paying people not to grow crops. Dump the other farm programs too. Waste of tax $$, most of them.
-- Polly (email@example.com), April 17, 2000.
This is in reply to the person that said we need to stop people "breeding like rabbits". That's not the problem (though I know there are people with an agenda who would like us all to think it is). There is plenty of food in the world to feed everyone; it doesn't get distributed properly for a number of reasons (corrupt governments being the main one, I think). Something I read a while back said that all the people of the world, if divided into families of four and each given a quarter of an acre, would all fit in Texas (or maybe Australia -- it's been a while since I read it). And the governments that force "family planning" on their populations STINK (re: China). People need to make their own decisions about how many children they have, or you've got tyranny.
-- Kathleen Sanderson (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 17, 2000.
Little Bit Farm, I agree with you about trying to get organized and the internet is definitely an excellent way to do it. One of the difficulties to overcome in these kinds of things is getting educated on how to go about making changes. If we can get loosely organized we can start having some people do some research with organizations that are doing similar things for their causes such as the homeschoolers that someone mentioned. Then as we learn what to do we can share it with the people on the internet and get more structure and direction to what we are doing. One of the main things to remember is that it is important to change laws not defy them. Trying to change things by going to court after you broke the law is not the answer. It creates negative publicity and hurts the cause. Instead, we need to lobby our local representatives and eventually our federal reps to have the laws changed. I think we can do this. It is just going to take some work and organization. I'm willing to get involved. I'm in Virginia. I wasn't sure where to find the internet forum you were going to set up so could you clarify that so I can start using it? Thanks.
-- Colleen (email@example.com), April 19, 2000.
Everyone can get to the new Diversifiedsmallfarmguild mailing list by going to the following addy. Upon doing this you will automatically be added.
Address your e-mails to:
Little Bit Farm
-- Little bit Farm (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 19, 2000.