Archive for the ‘food fight’ Category

What Commercials Teach Us (hint: NO YOU CAN’T FEED YOURSELF)

So I’m binge watching Hulu these days. Signed up for the service to watch The Handmaid’s Tale and have been cruising through the other offerings when I have time. I am frugal (read cheap) so I signed up for the level of service where you have to watch commercials. Which would be a pain except I have noticed a couple of things. First, and the more minor of the two, all the ads in the first episode of Handmaid were for the armed forces. Air Force, Marines, etc. Now think about that for a minute. This dystopian tale about fascist military men co-opting women and their uteruses, meant to appeal to liberal-minded, tinfoil-hat-wearers like me, being sponsored by the military industrial complex. Is this what is meant by irony? I think so.

Eventually the commercials changed and then came the one that really pissed me off. It is a Hormel ad, and as much as I hate giving them more bandwidth I need to talk about it. In it a new age guru is having his retreat guests (?) share what food they have foraged from the wild. As he goes around the table each person is more and more disheveled and beaten up by this supposedly horribly difficult task of producing their own food. Watch it and see:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=086KVrtI2I8I

The message being: don’t you dare even try to think about producing your own food. It is just too hard! And the cult like “join us, you know you want to” from the actress at the end of the scene is just plain blood curdling.

So let’s talk about feeding yourself versus buying mass produced crap from CAFOs. (CAFOs are Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, what used to be stockyards and are now inhuman holding pens, for livestock while they are feed hormone laced grain in preparation for slaughter. They are producers of vast amounts of fecal waste, a noxious stew of mud and urine and shit, that contaminates not only that land but the waters and land around it.) They tried in North Carolina recently to protect the surrounding area from these nasty operations. The Governor vetoed the bill and the Senate overrode his veto saying essentially, “this is just a bunch of out of state crybabies and sleazy lawyers. Our industrial farmers have a right to be as obnoxious as they want and especially if they contribute to our campaigns.” To quote the article: “the twenty-six federal lawsuits at the heart of much of the debate were filed by a North Carolina-based law firm against a $14 billion Chinese-owned multinational corporation on behalf of mostly low-income African-American plaintiffs.” There is no protecting of the small family farm going on here. It is straight up corporate greed. The kind that the Hormel ad is promoting. Don’t you dare think you can feed yourself!

But we must remember what Fannie Lou Hamer said: “You can give a man some food, and he’ll eat it,” she liked to say, in a paraphrase of the common proverb. “Then he’ll only get hungry again. But give a man some ground of his own and a hoe, and he’ll never go hungry again.” and from the same article “If we have that land,….can’t anybody starve us out.”

I just learned this about Fannie Lou. I had always known of her as a voting rights activist but DAMN she was a food sovereignty activist before there was even a word for it. “In the late 1960s, as the civil rights movement shifted to address economic injustice, Ms. Hamer conceived agricultural solutions to the plight of her fellow Americans, including a communal farm and livestock share program in Sunflower County in the Mississippi Delta. That work set the stage for the progressive agricultural policies and practices of today, with their focus on food sovereignty and their reliance on community farms.”

Go read the whole article and then (and it is the season for it) go plant some food!

Right to Food Constitutional Amendment

  
Submission for February 4, 2016 Work Session Hendrik D. Gideonse, 
LD 783 calls for a constitutional amendment addressing the right of Maine citizens to food. My support remains the same, however, the evolving context has only underscored the need for adoption. Last year I analyzed the existing provisions of Maine’s Declaration of Rights in the light of the social, political, and economic context of the times when they were written. The original drafters were more concerned about the rights of protection against arbitrary authority than they were in fully articulating all the elements requisite to the pursuit of life and liberty. Everywhere they were surrounded by nature – farms, fish, timber, and so on. It just never occurred to them that access to food as part of the natural rights of humanity needed explicit expression in our constitution, not only to protect the nourished, but the farms as well.

Adding language articulating the right to food is a needed extension of natural rights provisions already in the Declaration. Two factors have changed. The dramatically changed circumstance for contemporary food production has removed it far from our daily consciousness. Its former neighborly connection has been essentially replaced by a substantially removed, complex, and not-fully-accountable-to-the- consumer corporate overlay. Additionally, many families and individuals have become increasingly knowledgeable about where their food is coming from and what kind of food the current system generates, and their commitment to access nutrient-dense food from farms that are ecologically sound has deepened. Increasingly numbers of us are seeking real food that isn’t chemically or GMO laden from farms where we can see, touch, and smell the gardens where it is grown.
Therefore, the rights of citizens respecting food now require specific attention. At the same time that nutritional and environmental consciousness about food and farming is growing, it is also true that too many families have little idea how their food is grown or produced or should be. They don’t know where it comes from, how it is processed, how it is protected (or not!), and why and, furthermore, what role our own senses and understandings and trust play in making our food choices. No longer coming from farmer neighbors, food comes under the aegis of huge corporations from thousands of miles away, regulated by agencies seeking to deny our right or authority to the fundamental choices governing what we take into our bodies for nourishment. And despite all these changes, Maine now finds itself in the unenviable position of being the New England state with the highest incidence of food insecurity.

We are now much more acutely aware of the extent to which the position of corporations relative to individuals and even government continues to alter. Critical arguments, for example, against the soon-to-be-voted-on proposed TPP trade agreement have to do with the inexorable drift toward corporate control of everything. Indeed, NAFTA and the TPP explicitly turn over to extra-governmental tribunals corporate claims over profits they believe denied them by governmental actions in defense of people and the environment. 

The articulation of the basic right to food is an important protection. It provides grounding for the development of sound agricultural and public policy. It would provide a means of protection when either governmental or corporate action should interfere with the right to food in individual cases. Passing this bill will provide constitutional support for increasing our attention to food and farming. It will foster economic growth and development by a much-needed restoration of smaller scale local farming. That will be good for employment and as a hedge against both the causes and consequences of climate destabilization. Natural rights to life and liberty are already in the very first section of Maine’s Constitutional Declaration, but addressing directly the right to food embraces our individual choices through the most fundamental kind of law. It will safeguard us against the actions of misguided corporations and government agencies which seek to keep us ill-informed about what we’re eating when they’re not actually staking untenable jurisdictional claim over our own bodily health.

Black Farmers Matter

This just in from the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association

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NC FARMER EDDIE WISE

For the last 40 years American Black farmers have lived a hellish nightmare deliberately orchestrated by the USDA and its local Farmers Home Administration (FmHA – now the Farm Service Agency, FSA) offices to confiscate Black owned land and homes. A review of the now historic Pigford v. Glickman Class Action by Black farmers will help one to understand the extremely vicious attack against black farmers. (For details on the Black Farmers Class Action, See https://www.blackfarmercase.com/Background.aspx or http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/pigfordmonitor/index.htm).

The story of this 67 year old military veteran and farmer Eddie Wise and his wife, Dorothy (to whom Eddie refers lovingly as (“my Brown Sugar”), is the latest example of the outrageous action by the U.S. government against a black farmer.
On Wednesday, January 20, 2015, around 7:30 a.m., at least fourteen (14) Federal Marshals in full military gear with full scale military guns drawn, along with several county sheriff officers, descended on the 106 acre farm in Nash County, N C, and forcibly escorted Eddie Wise and his wife, who was still in bed and suffers from a debilitating medical condition, out of their home and off the land that they have owned for more than 20 years.
Not only did the Federal Marshals render Eddie and Dorothy immediately homeless and landless, but did not allow them to take any of their belongings except the clothes on their backs. They also insisted on “securing” every firearm legally owned by Mr. Wise.

A Duke University Adjunct Professor, a friend of the Wises, took pictures (shown here) and acquired some sound, but was summarily put off the property also.
For the last few weeks media coverage has consistently covered visibly armed White militants who have illegally occupied federal land in Oregon. The response by the federal government and local law enforcement officers was a kindly appeal for the White militia to peacefully end their illegal occupation and leave, but until recently to no avail.
Yet, Mr. Wise and his wife have suffered the height of indignity and racist degradation. Which leads to the question, “Don’t Black farmer’s lives and possessions matter?”
Mr. Wise is in fear of his life and the life of his wife. “I believe if I had shown one ounce of resistance, the Federal Marshals would have killed me. I actually believe that’s what they came to do. I may as well live in Russia or Syria or North Korea,” said Mr. Wise, his eyes moist with tears.
Saving their land has been a long and exhaustive process for the Wise family. The ugliness of the one dimensional unfairness, racial characterization, and mental traps set for this family and thousands of other black farmers by USDA, and a corrupt legal system, defy reason and logic.
Black farmers are a racial minority and do not represent a large political power block, and therefore are unfairly treated like terrorized slave captives in their own country, a country they were vital in building.
The farm organization, Black Farmers and Agriculturist Association (BFAA) was organized in 1997 to protect, protest, raise much needed funds, and bring national attention to the plight of Black farmers. At the time Black farmers were losing 2,000 acres of farm land per day. BFAA has come to the aid of Black farmers with such needs as groceries, to pay light bills and tax bills, travel expenses, lawyer fees, and helped buy books for college students of farmers.

How can you help? We ask you to join with us in support of Eddie and Dorothy Wise by sharing this tragic story on Face Book, Twitter, and by Email. Help us get Eddie and Dorothy out of a motel which is costing too much per week just for bed and bath; and support the fundraising to help us get their home and farm back. Please contribute at gofundme.com/jgaaq4.

S O M E B A C K G R O U N D ON THE WISE CASE

1. “In 1993 Wise and his wife applied for a loan to purchase a 106-acre hog farm. Wise said that at first the FmHA County Loan Officer didn’t let him know that the farm had been “earmarked for minority farmers.” Then officials tried to reappraise the farm to increase the value, but the value actually dropped. Lastly, a White farmer who wanted the farm paid a Black woman to apply for him. She was one of the final two applicants whose names were drawn from a hat. “We won the draw,” Wise said with a smile.

Wise continued to face resistance from the county loan office, which is now demanding that he provide a production history going back five years and a production plan for the new farm.”

2. “Eddie and Dorothy Wise raise hogs on 106 acres near Whitakers, in east-central North Carolina. Eddie is a fourth-generation hog farmer but the first to own a farm; his father and grandfather were sharecroppers. During a 20 plus career in the military, and as an ROTC instructor at Howard and Georgetown Universities, Eddie raised hogs in his spare time. It was his dream to return home to North Carolina and farm full-time. When he retired from the Army in 1991 at the age of 48, that’s what he set out to do. Dorothy Wise grew up in Washington, D.C., but she too hoped to one day live on a farm. When she and Eddie met at Howard University in the 1980s and she discovered he was a farmer, it seemed that her wish had come true.

Still, it took the Wises five years, until 1996, to secure the loans they needed to buy their farm. They were repeatedly turned down by local government loan officers who, the Wises are convinced, did not want African American farmers to succeed. It was only through determined effort and much research and legwork that the Wises were able to receive the financial help for which they qualified.
Today the Wises have 250 hogs, which they raise from birth and sell to a black-owned pork processor in the area. Eddie’s lean pork, raised without hormones or antibiotics, is sold at a premium in area supermarkets. Finding such a market niche is the only way the Wises can compete with the much-larger farms that mass-produce hogs for the large meatpacking companies.”

We are Winning

  There is a famous quote from Gandhi that goes: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Well, I am here today to tell you good people that we are winning.

When the Maine State Legislature considers and the Agriculture committee passes several bills that reinforce the rights of farmers to sell their goods face-to-face with their patrons. We are winning.

When Joel Salatin, a hero of the food sovereignty movement, flies in from Virginia for the day to testify to our Legislators in favor of a state constitutional amendment establishing the people’s inalienable right to food. We are winning.

When 13 towns, and counting, in the state have passed the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance. Reinforcing the right of people to participate in traditional food-ways. We are winning.

When the average age of farmers in Maine continues to fall and farmers from around the country are moving to Maine because of the great work they see us doing to rebuild the local food infrastructure. We are winning.

When two of the largest employers in central Maine, Fedco and Johnny’s, are organic seed companies. We are winning.

When the number of food cooperatives in the state more than doubles in less than five years. We are winning.

When we succeed in shortening the food chain because of a four times increase in the number of farmers markets, the rapid growth of the Community Supported Agriculture movement, food hubs and wonderful distributors like Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative. We are winning.

When the FDA becomes so concerned about the local food rights movement in our state that they not only send Mr. Monsanto himself, Michael Taylor, to speak to farmers in Maine but they also open a third field office in a state of 1.3 million people. We are winning.

When national organizations like National Family Farm Coalition, The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Food and Water Watch and the Organic Consumers Association are so impressed with the progress we are making in Maine that they offer logistical and financial help to further our work. We are winning.

When the national headquarters for the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is in our state. We are winning.

When John Oliver spends a whole segment of Last Week Tonite excoriating the way contract chicken farmers are used and abused by the big poultry processing companies like Tyson. And his New York City audience reacts with horror. We are winning.

When Neil Young records a whole album of pro-farmer, anti-Monsanto songs, “The Monsanto Years”. We are winning.

When the deal to buy Syngenta, a deal that would have further consolidated the ownership of the world’s seed-stock into Monsanto’s hands, falls through. We are winning.

We are blessed to be living in a state with a strong agricultural tradition supported by the 11,000 members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and small, nimble non-profits like Food for Maine’s Future and Local Food Rules. A state that may well be one of the climate change winners as far as access to water and arable land goes. A state with a long, and recent, tradition of activism, self-governance, and self-sufficiency.

We are winning folks.   

Congratulations.

Down in the Papaya Republic

  We have been working very, very hard in the Maine State Legislature this session to get some good, local-food-rights bills passed.   Several have been proposed and finally on Tuesday we had some good news.  Three of those bills were voted out of committee Ought to Pass.   The following is a transcript of the testimony I presented about these bills and the Right to Food constitutional amendment that had been proposed.   It is a personal story that seemed to touch many in the audience.   I fed the papaya and the cheese puffs to the committee afterwards.

“Good afternoon Senator Edgecomb, Representative Hickman and distinguished members of the committee.   As you all know by now I am Betsy Garrold from Knox and I represent Food for Maine’s Future, Local Food Rules and The Farm-to-Consumer Defense Fund.  I come here today to speak in favor of this afternoon’s collection of local food bills.

Today I am going to tell you a story.   I brought props.   In the early 1990’s I was a Lieutenant in the United States Public Health Service stationed in a place we fondly called the Papaya Republic.   The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a small nation in the middle of the Pacific.   A tropical paradise filled with coconut, banana, papaya, breadfruit, and pandanus trees; a lagoon teaming with fish; small family gardens scattered here and there around the island.

While I was there I helped the World Health Organization conduct a childhood nutrition survey that revealed that thirty percent of our children were stunted and underweight.    In other words chronically malnourished.   This was not a huge surprise but it lent us weight as we worked to start several programs to combat that blight.   I ran kitchen garden programs with the horticulture students at the college at which I taught.    I wrote a white paper for the Nitijela (the local legislature) on the need to foster breastfeeding.   This lead to National Breastfeeding Week with educational programs and celebrations across the islands.   I filmed, with the Peace Corp volunteers on the island, an educational video about breastfeeding and child-spacing.   But my favorite programs was childhood nutrition education in the elementary schools around the nation.

I would go into elementary classrooms and hold up two things.   In one hand a papaya.  Fresh whole, local food.   Not shipped in on barges.   Growing in the sunshine and ocean breezes.   In the other hand I would hold up a shiny package of cheese puffs.   Definitely not healthy and having been shipped in from the mainland United States on a huge container ship.  I would say to the children,  “Which is healthier for you?   Which is better food?”  

Invariably they would choose the cheese puffs.   But their reasoning was based on different causes then you might think.   They thought that anything that came in a shiny package from the store, and had come over the ocean from the United States must be better for you.    Must be nutritious and healthy.   Shiny packages can never steer you wrong, right?

This always lead to a lively discussion about whole foods versus processed foods.   Local food versus imported food.   Fruit versus cheesy puffs.   By the end of the hour when I opened both packages, cutting open the papaya and opening the bag of puffs the children usually made the right choice and went for the papaya first.

So what is my point?   I would like the committee vote for local food versus manufactured, over- proceed food.    Whole food versus junk food.    I would like the committee to vote the way the school children in the Marshall’s finally did.   Supporting our local, healthy food producers and farmers with their vote for these bills that support the work they do to feed us all.

Thank you for your time.”

My WordPress Anniversary

It has been a busy week.   Turning 60 years old.  Trying to turn back the tide of corporate take over of our food supply.   Continuing the battle against this un-ending winter.

I have had a couple of ideas for posts rattling around in my brain pan for awhile.   One is concerning the populist ideal of frugal comfort for everyone.   I really like that concept and think it deserves more time than I am able to give it right now so I will instead talk about real milk for a minute.



I bought this milk in JANUARY and according to the large stamp at the top of the package it would have been no longer fit to drink as of tomorrow.   Of course the milk itself is long gone.   It was a stop gap that I bought because I could not get to my raw milk supplier that particular week.   Can’t remember why.  Snow, maybe?   

Anyhow my point is that this is not the real, live, uber-nourishing food that milk is supposed to be.   It is a vague facsimile created to meet the needs of an over industrialized food system.   Pasteurization was adopted by the dairy industry in an effort to disguise the bad conditions under which milk was being produced in the late 1800’s.  Milk cows were kept in what were known as confinement dairies.   These sprang up next to distilleries as a way to dispose of their waste grains.  A physician who was very concerned with this practice (Dr. Coit) is quoted as having said “They can’t hide bad practices with processing.”   The dairy industry subsequently pushed for pasteurization as a cure all because they serendipitously discovered that it increased shelf life and therefore they could ship it further and sell more.   Especially in urban areas.

So be careful of the motives of folks who are trying to convince you that real milk (sometimes called raw milk) is dangerous and bad for you and will lead to the downfall of western civilization as we know it.

From the The Complete Patient: They Wonder Why People are Pissed?

More shenanigans in Michigan, notice the mention of Mark Baker (of Baker’s Green Acres)  seems they are going after his friends now.

MI FOOD SEIZURE AFTERMATH: THEY WONDER WHY PEOPLE ARE PISSED?
by:David GumpertSat, 07/19/2014 – 20:11posted in: http://thecompletepatient.com/article/2014/july/20/mi-food-seizure-aftermath-they-wonder-why-people-are-pissed
Regulation,Food Club,Raw Milk,Resistance,

Jenny Samuelson was all set to do the deal dictated by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development: Dispose of nearly $5,000 worth of raw milk, cream, butter, eggs, and cheese. Under MDARD supervision, she was to bring the 250 gallons of milk to a neighboring farm, where the farmer would use it for fertilizer. The 10 gallons of cream and 20 pounds of butter would go in a dumpster. And the 100 dozen beautiful unwashed and unrefrigerated pastured eggs (raised without soy feed) would be smashed and turned into compost.

She would also discontinue all deliveries of cream and butter to herdshare members, despite their serious unhappiness about losing access to these foods.

But then the MDARD agents canceled out on the Saturday morning arrangements whereby they would observe the disposal of the food. They then said they would show up Monday morning. So she waits, and ponders her options.

Samuelson is pretty upset, as you might expect. She was trying to be an obedient citizen so she could have unfettered access to her refrigerated delivery truck and resume deliveries of raw milk. She had made the hard decision to go against what she feels is right and just, because she didn’t want to risk any further interruption in deliveries for the more than 600 families around Michigan that depend on her food.

She is still smarting from last Tuesday’s raid on her delivery truck in Washington Township, which saw agents from MDARD swarm aboard the delivery truck while it was stopped in a private parking lot, with her brother as driver. She thinks they had been following her and the truck for a number of day beforehand, and picked last Tuesday morning to do the raid instead of when she was driving, because they knew her brother likely wouldn’t know to demand a search warrant, and the presence of the local sheriff or police before being allowed (or possibly not being allowed) to take people’s food.

They told her brother it would take an hour to look through the Co-Op’s inventory—instead it took six-and-a-half hours.

Later, the MDARD told her she was prohibited from giving the food to a farmer as feed for his pigs, since she didn’t have a feed license.

Perhaps most significant, she doesn’t feel they had the right to prevent the food from being delivered in the first place. “They didn’t seize my products,” she says. “They seized the consumers’ products.”

Samuelson has been doing this drill for more than six years–during which time her co-op has grown from 20 members to more than 600– and knows the rules well. She says the cream and butter the MDARD was supposedly targeting were produced separately by the farmer from milk the members obtained as herdshare members, under contract to them individually. She also faults the special policy group that agreed with the MDARD last year in its policy statement that sanctioned herdshares for raw milk, but disallowed other raw dairy products. “I wasn’t allowed to have a voice in that,” despite her requests.

She wanted to feed the condemned food to Mark Baker’s pigs, or some other pigs, but state ag reps had told her she couldn’t feed the food to farm animals because she didn’t have a feed permit, and insisted the food be destroyed with MDARD agents watching.

Baker is the Michigan farmer who continued raising pigs the state considered wild, and he got the state to agree that he could continue raising the pigs after he sued the the Department of Natural Resources. He had a planned “Constitution Hall” program on slate for Sunday, at which Richard Mack, the former Arizona sheriff, will be discussing how the U.S. has veered from upholding its Constitution. Baker will be talking about his plans to run for Missaukee County sheriff. And there will be a pig roast for the many attendees expected.

Samuelson is going to have some very unhappy members based on her decision to refrain from delivering the raw cream and butter. “They are very pissed,” she says.

She is encouraging them to sue the state much like Mark Baker did. In the meantime, she is encouraging them to flood the MDARD with calls. Here are people she urges her members and sympathizers to contact:

Kevin Besey, director of the Food and Dairy Division, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (phone 517-582-1156 or e-mail beseyk@michigan.gov)

Tim Slawinski, Compliance Manager, Food and Dairy Division (phone 517-420-5364 or e-mail slawinskit@michigan.gov)

In a letter to her members Saturday, she said: “The only way we can get cream and butter back is to WIN this war! You the people can do it!”

(This post was revised on Sunday, July 20, to update the situation.)