Advocates For Edible Controversies

By Gretchen Morfogen

The food news of late has reason for concern. There is no arguing that our leaders in Washington are failing miserably at getting their act together and finding a cohesive balance in order to attain results of any kind that benefit the common man.       That being said the focus that seems more like a distraction is the invasive attention being given to the treatment of our friends at small family farms. Americans’ right to access fresh, healthy foods of their choice is under attack. These family farms are providing safe, healthy foods to their communities and have been forced to stop, sometimes aggressively, by the foolish bureaucracy. Their argument: public safety. It may seem easier to control a large agency like the USDA instead of monitoring the smaller farms but communities are rebuilding and healing the bigger problem on their own and the gargantuan agencies are running interference. There is such an utter disconnect between the two it’s inexcusable.

Clearly films such as Food Inc., Farmeggedon, & Fresh have brought some real issues to a small portion of the public, but only the public that is paying attention. For example: Recent raids on farms selling raw milk not only threaten the people who believe in the freedom to choose but having to succumb to misguided government agencies with tunnel vision if not completely blind.  Policies are in place that favor agribusiness and factory farms over small family-operated farms selling fresh foods within their communities. Instead of focusing on the source of food safety problems  most often the industrial food chain policymakers and regulators implement and enforce solutions that target and often drive out of business small farms that have proven themselves more than capable of producing safe, healthy food. However, the small farms often crumble under the crushing weight of regulations and excessive enforcement.

Where are these agencies when a factory farm releases tainted food to the masses, sickening and killing the public for profit? Where is the responsibility and accountability for those established behaviors? Well, some of the entities that are doing something about it for the better are gaining speed and influence through their educated and forthright actions.

One of these entities: The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. Their vision of agriculture is one where a safe, nutritious, ample, and affordable food supply is produced by a legion of family farmers who make a decent living pursuing their trade, while protecting the environment, and contributing to the strength and stability of their communities. Members advance common positions to support small and mid-size family farms, protect natural resources, promote healthy rural communities, and ensure access to healthy, nutritious foods by everyone.  By bringing grassroots perspectives to the table normally dominated by big business, they attempt to level the playing field and gives voice to sustainable and organic farmers.  To do this work, NSAC:

• gathers input from sustainable and organic farmers and ranchers, and from a diverse group of grassroots farm, food, rural, and conservation organizations that work directly with farmers;

• develops policy through participatory issue committees that involve NSAC member organizations and allies;

• provides direct representation in Washington, D.C. on behalf of its membership to members of Congress and federal administrative offices, such as USDA and EPA; and

• builds the power of the sustainable agriculture movement by strengthening the capacity of its member groups to promote citizen engagement in the policy process.

Simply defined: “Sustainable agriculture” as legally defined in U.S. Code Title 7, Section 3103 means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long term:

• Satisfy human food and fiber needs.

• Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends.

• Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.

• Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.

• Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole

The urgency of food freedom is upon us, we need to encourage farmers and consumers to take charge in order preserve our rights to food of choice and farmers’ rights to grow safely and liberated from arduous restrictions. Time to put policymakers on notice that there is a budding movement of people aware that their freedom to choose the foods they want is in danger, a revolution that is growing exponentially as the concern for future food sources continues. Policy reformation is overdue.

“First we eat, then we do everything else”

M.F.K. Fischer

Educate yourself, your friends and your family. There are many excellent sources of information about food freedom, local foods, and food policy.

• The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and protects consumer access to raw milk and nutrient dense foods.

• The Weston A Price Foundation is dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the human diet through education, research and activism.

• National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association promotes and preserves unregulated direct farmer-to-consumer trade that fosters availability of locally grown or home-produced food products.

• The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance works to save family farms and individuals from expensive and unnecessary government regulation.

• The Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) is a membership organization of more than 5,000 farmers, gardeners and consumers working to promote health food, organic farming practices and a cleaner environment.

• The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities.

Gretchen Morfogen is a regular culinary writer for The Healthy Planet magazine.