Sunday, May 09, 2010

What A Book

I've been reading a book (okay, several of them, but I want to discuss one in particular) lately, and it's really one of those I wish everyone would read.  The perspective isn't one that many of us have, yet we should really all be aware of it.

It's by Joel Salatin, Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal; War Stories From the Local Food Front.

Blogger's photo upload isn't working, else I'd post a picture of the book.  It's worth a look; a tank emblazoned with "USDA" has run a farmer and his wares off the road, and he stands with hands up before the chickens, pigs, and cows.

After reading of his experiences, I'd say that isn't too far off.

This is not like his 'how to' farming books, more a testament to how the system (both left and right!) oppresses 'the little guy,' the real innovators, and hinders both opportunity and progress.  Collusion with big business favors no one but big business (and their politicians) and his is a call to end this.  Everyone should read this book, whether you are into farming, food, politics, or just the American Way of life.

Many are the stories like this:  Joel would like to sell a pound of hamburger to his next-door neighbor.  But, REGULATIONS REQUIRE that such a pound of beef come from a beef slaughtered and processed at a USDA-inspected facility - father away, more expensive, staffed with dozens of illegal aliens...  So let's say he does that, and is ready to sell this (now more expensive, possibly commingled with lesser-quality animals) hamburger to the neighbor.  Wait!  You can't bring that back to the farm!  It's now a value-added product, and a farm is not a retail site, you know?  Where's your dual-lane road from the highway?  Proper signage and commercial access?  Handicapped parking?  Restrooms?  Inspected buildings?  Business license?  The list goes on and on, until the small start-up farmer, who would sell superior, local food to his neighborhood would have to put $500,000 worth of infrastructure in before selling the first T-bone steak.  No wonder the big guys, with their centralized production and processing have all the advantages.

Joel is libertarian in his philosophy here.  And I must say, after reading, I lean that way a little more now myself.  What business is it of the government's if I want to buy beef from my neighbor?  Am I not a big enough girl to choose that for myself?  Lest you think "no one really cares," read about the heavy-handed bureaucrats who have (time and time again) harassed Joel and his family about "compliance" with everything from their own milled lumber (to build their own house), chicken processing, eggs, zoning... it's unbelievable.

Joel touches on the above, calls for changes, addresses the illegal immigration issue, labor laws, housing, organic certification, taxes, bioterrorism, mad cow/bird flu, NAIS, endangered species, and more.

Read it.  Request it from your library.  Buy it and let your neighbor borrow it.

The fact that Joel, and others like him, have had the success they've had in the face of such tyranny is a testament to the product they offer, and to the character of the farmer, persevering in spite of it all.

I come away from this, somewhat surprisingly, feeling like, "I want to do that!"  I was puzzled by this, considering I was reading about ALL the roadblocks to such a thing, until I realized it was more a reaction of wanting to "opt out" of The Government's Food System.  Be done with it!  And I'm ever grateful for my little Black Marketeer who is still under-the-radar enough that I brought home a bag of "Not For Sale" labeled hamburger the other day. :)

Can you imagine?  It's not poisonous (it's fine if she were to give it to me free, or host a barbecue and feed my children with it), in fact it was processed by the same guy we hire when we buy a whole beef.  But it's illegal.  Unbelievable.

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