This past weekend I attended the state meeting of VICFA, the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association.
Hosted at Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms, this casual potluck held under a shade tree included a gathering of, as Salatin put it, “fierce loose canons” all of whom hold passionate convictions about his or her God given right to choose what to eat, what to produce and how to buy and sell such foods.
The mission of the organization is to, “promote and preserve unregulated direct farmer to consumer trade that fosters availability of locally grown or home-produced food products.”
While that sounds a bit wonky, the organization’s brochure harkens back to the words of Founding Father and favorite Virginia son Thomas Jefferson who once said,
If people let governments decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.
Yet look how far we’ve come in our corporate plutocratic state from the ideals of liberty and freedom expressed in Jefferson’s urgent warning.
I feel this personally, every day, since my husband and I began research into the SAD standard American diet. With his wildly popular review of Dr. Weston A. Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and our experiments into fermentation and increased home food production, we’ve only grown more passionate about taking control of our diet to improve our health. And we’ve become more aware of the issue of food freedom.
Surely implied in the Declaration of Independence, food freedom is the very definition of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” And food freedom activists aren’t bothered that the right to choose what you eat is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution either because they take comfort in the Ninth Amendment‘s protection of all natural freedoms: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Of this, the right to eat what we choose is paramount, as it has been throughout human history, whatever Monsanto might say.
But beyond the lofty and treasured claims of the laws of this land, plenty of folks simply see food freedom as basic common sense. In other words, it don’t take no fancy book learnin’ to expect to eat what you want and to think that big nanny government doesn’t get a voice in the matter, except at the industrial level.
Bringing it all back home
The average citizen and consumer can conclude that raw milk straight from a cow is as God or nature intended. And, given that human consumption of said milk (along with the more widespread goat’s milk) has happened for millennia without pasteurization, it’s not likely that the fall of the human race will result from having a glass of fresh, grass fed cow’s milk, even without Uncle Sam’s approval.
Yet in my state at least, dairy farmers are prohibited from selling and consumers prohibited from buying raw milk except under the convoluted relationship called herd shares wherein I buy “stock,” if you will, in a cow. Therefore, as part owner, I’m entitled to a regular yield of milk.
Democracy at the end of a fork
Organizations like VICFA fight for the right to drink raw milk, to eat pickles and other fermented foods, and to buy them directly from a farmer or home producer without an FDA-approved middleman. They fight for other issues too, such as labeling freedoms appropriate to their scale of production.
One chapter of the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association — 19 other states have chapters (you should support yours with a membership) — VICFA lobbies the Virginia General Assembly for these rights which, as far as I can tell, are “retained by the people” in the most essential sense of human sovereignty. The problem is these rights have been denied, disparaged and encroached upon by a corporatocracy of lackey legislators more beholden to corporate dollars than to people.
Interestingly, the VICFA potluck and annual meeting included vocal Tea Party adherents and Occupy-sympathizers alike, both of whom met squarely and unequivocally together on the issue of food freedom. In its unique ability to bridge partisan divides, food may just be the sleeping giant of the 2012 presidential race.
Growth, business, war, hurrah!
Sure, Washington insiders who hold forth as the punditocracy of the nation in big city newspapers, on NPR, talk radio and cable news would probably find my view of a potential groundswell for food freedoms naive, imagining as pollsters and pundits assure them, that voters are in rapt devotion to either anti-abortion stances or healthcare guarantees.
But let’s remember that these are the same talking heads and writers who refuse to admit that the nation is in decline even as the Fed reports a 40% decrease in family wealth in recent years.
Instead, politicos regularly claim that the people are as hopeful as the Wall Street class that, despite the coming of peak oil, GDP will one day be as vigorous as the fossil fuel age allowed. Or that industrial growth, however cancerous, is more important to Americans than their true health and happiness or their children’s future access to the ancient commons of breathable air, fresh water and fertile soil.
Washington politicians and myopic inside commentators are so wholly and completely out of touch, so pervasively corrupted by the system, lost in the incestuous relationships between corporate lobbyists and money-grubbing politicians, and slaves to its set of implied untruths, that they have neither interest in nor awareness about what really matters to Americans, surface polling notwithstanding.
But the people are not long going to put up with a corrupt federal government repeatedly robbing us while operating in collusion with disloyal multinationals that have no state allegiance but nonetheless exercise state dominance. Americans will not always allow the political-industrial complex to loot the country, export our jobs, and bring about the Chinafication of America.
At some point — very soon I think — the public is going to stop believing the pablum analyses of career pundits who leave the gaping holes in the system largely unquestioned, and who tacitly support a corrupt system through their own “banality of evil.”
And with all that refusal to buy in anymore we’re surely not going to be obliged to eat processed and GMO foods and adhere to corporate dictates on what we are allowed to buy, sell, eat and grow ourselves.
Campaign food is about more than corndogs and pancakes
I think we all know that in the GOP there’s no such thing as a true conservative — one who truly wants smaller government for the people and therefore works to guarantee personal liberties. Instead, we have a so-called conservative party that doesn’t walk their talk, voting time and again with corporations over people.
Similarly, so-called liberal Democrats purport to act as intermediaries on the part of the people to ensure that the sacred rights of the commons are protected. Yet time and again they too fall under the spell of a corrupt system, voting overwhelmingly with the ruling class of corporate raiders and betraying the public trust by failing to prosecute the banksters who crashed the economy in 2008 or continuing to expand the Homeland Security state.
Yet there’s always that hope that the weight of necessary change will provide a shift.
My thesis: If either of the presidential candidates were to utter the words “food freedom” and then show that they mean it, we could see a game changer.
Advancing the common-sense notion that Big Ag and food factories certainly require big health regulation but that small, local producers may be just fine with a much less burdensome level of oversight and red tape, the candidates would be injecting into the national conversation a restoration of blighted inalienable rights. They’d also open a clear avenue for relocalized economic growth in regions as the smart man’s buffer against trenchant national and globalized decline — a decline that will never, in the face of peak fossil fuels, ever return to the bubblicious euphoric growth patterns of the past with any real sticking power.
It is not lost on me that the two presidential candidates and their respective parties currently lack the courage to make such a shift or to lead their campaigns on anything other than the predictable tropes of mainstream news-speak rhetoric. Statesmen of the ages they are not. The entire spectacle is but a charade.
Still, one can hope.
Swords into ploughshares
But there are stakes — more for the people than for the parties — since it is we who will inherit whatever disaster the 1% continues to trickle down on us.
Meantime, organizations such as VICFA fight the good fight, working within the legislative body and tirelessly remaining at the table of negotiation in order to win common sense advances in food freedom so that producers can make and consumers can purchase healthy, local, non-corporate food without the nanny state’s overweaning interference (or is it corporate protectionism?) that blights freedom and growth where it’s most needed.
The force of time and circumstances in a country facing undeniable decline will make the issue of food freedom central, whether now or later. The sleeping giant will awake — if only from its own hunger pangs — if food freedom is not first addressed as a matter of American dignity and natural right by lawmakers.
If not, we will see the pitchforks. After all, they’ll be the tools of the trade.
–Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice