New Haven, CT - Last Saturday, 70 people showed up on a beautiful late sunny afternoon at Barnard Environmental School to view the school garden, one of the best in New Haven, and to support the New Haven Bioregional Group while enjoying a delicious pot luck dinner and watching the film Farmageddon, a disturbing look at the U.S government’s recent and constant attacks on the small family farmer. The scenes become numbingly déjà vu – over and over we see armed government guards entering small family farms and food buying coops, often at 5am, with guns blazing, ordering shut downs of local business and demanding the turn-over of innocent animals who are put to death for a disease that the USDA could never prove existed.
Raw milk is the red flag for many government actions against the small family farmer. Before pasteurization was adopted as a standard practice in milk production, raw milk was drunk by all Americans for hundreds of years. Today, raw milk is considered by many as dangerous, potentially a carrier of the deadly E.coli bacteria and hence, much defensive regulation has ensued to protect Americans from themselves. As Weston A. Price Foundation President Sally Fallon Morell points out in the film, each state regulates its own raw milk sales which has caused a lot of confusion among dairy producers and consumers and that is where the government has found the wiggle room to step in and shut down many raw milk producers. [CT law allows the sale of raw milk in retail stores for instance whereas New York state allows only direct purchase at farms.]
A New York State farmer is shut down for producing raspberry yogurt. Vermont farmers have their East Friesian milking sheep confiscated and put down. Rawesome Foods, a local food coop in Venice, CA, is surrounded by a SWAT team and thousands of dollars of produce confiscated. This unwarranted and unreasonable government intervention is the reason why Kristin Canty, mother of four, made this film – one of her sons was severely afflicted with asthma and allergies and after trying many Western medicine remedies, heard that raw milk could get rid of the problem so she bought some and it worked. It worked so well her son went completely off the steroids. Kristin soon learned about these raids on family farms and decided to do something about it. And Farmageddon was born. Canty says this is her first AND only film.
Bill Duesing, executive director of CT NOFA was there to answer questions after the screening, along with Cob Carlson, editor of Farmageddon and former president of the Hartford Food Coop way back when [he also volunteers for Farm Aid back in his hometown of Boston.]
Many people in the audience asked “What can we do?” [With sales of the recently released DVD now putting Farmageddon at #5 on iTunes, many must be wondering the same thing.]
Bill Duesing offered up: “Get involved, support HR3286, the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, introduced by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree from Maine. She is a lone voice in Congress that is supporting the protection of the family farmer. We are hopeful that our Congresswoman Rosa De Lauro will sign it too.”
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree introduced to support the local-food movement. It has over 65 cosponsors in the House and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio has introduced a companion bill, S.1773, in the Senate.
Many of these farmers and food buying coop owners lives have been irrevocably changed and their businesses continue to suffer. Cob told us that Rawesome Foods in Venice never recovered from that raid and has been shut down completely. “And it was in business for years, it was a local staple.” The Vermont farmers who lost their sheep now teach cheesemaking using cows’ milk from neighboring farms.
Polyface Farm owner and sustainable agriculture guru Joel Salatin asks in the film Farmageddon, “What does the government have against freedom?” In response to that question, it seems that this Local Food, Farms and Jobs Act is good start to what ails the family farm business. Folks can also support the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund which seeks to defend the rights and broaden the freedom of family farms. Let’s hope for all our sakes that protection happens sooner than later. Or think about buying your own cow.