Hello there podcast listeners, and thanks for pulling up The ‘Steadcast, the homestead and farmstead podcast you listen to instead of making the mistakes yourself.
One of the primary figures in the small scale agriculture world is Joel Salatin. He owns Polyface Farm in Virginia, wrote many of what are considered the go-to bibles for pastured poultry and beef, and is a regular fixture in movies like Food Inc and outlets like Ted Talks, permaculture voices, etc etc.
One of his key rallying cries is “Folks, this ain’t normal.” Finishing cattle on grain ‘aint normal’ because that’s not what their stomachs are built for. Confined or even the woefully misleading “cage free” laying operations ‘aint normal’ because chickens are omnivores and need bugs as much as sunshine and green plant matter. Kids touring a farm asking where The Salsa Tree is because they are that far removed from where their food really comes from “aint normal.”
But his other rallying cry is “everything I want to do is illegal.”
The USDA and the Virginia Dept of Ag tried to shut down his chicken processing operation for being unsanitary despite independent lab tests showing his chicken being several orders of magnitude cleaner than grocery chicken. He had inspectors tell him his eggs absolutely had to be rinsed or sprayed with chlorine. Things that the entire purpose of hyper-local, know-your-farmer buying is supposed to save you from!
There are a few nationwide issues I want to bring to your attention, as well as local laws for Colorado and California, where many of our listeners hang their hat for the moment.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in 2011, but like many other such laws, it’s the rulemaking process at the agency level that is where the rubber really hits the road. The FDA decided that farms that have less than half a million in GROSS sales AND sell their food direct-to-consumer or retail food establishment within 275 miles. Well, that’s fine and sounds good. But if we want to sell microgreens by e-commerce and ship them to folks in California, then the sales cap falls to $30,000. At that point we’d be subject to all these rules in here, including
- having our compost tested by the USDA before using it on our gardens
- needing to test our well water FIVE TIMES A YEAR – right now we do it yearly since it’s the same well we use for drinking water, and that’s just good personal health sense.
- A 9 month waiting period between having chickens or other animals in an area and planting crops in it – which would make nearly all rotational grazing / cropping systems illegal.
A bill that’s working its way through committee in Congress, but doesn’t really have an awesome shot at passing, is the PRIME act, or Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption act. I wrote about the PRIME act for The New Falcon Herald this month, and had the chance to talk with Pete Kennedy, the president of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund and the spokesperson for Jared Polis, the congressman from Boulder who we talked about in previous episodes who has been working to defend products like kombucha.
Check out my article about the PRIME Act at The New Falcon Herald.