I'm becoming a die hard fan of Joel Salatin – like everybody else! Part of what I like is that he sounds so much like my husband. Those two would get along great! The latest book I've been devouring is “Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From The Local Food Front.” It is a confirmation and an eye opener of just about everything that bugs us about our industrialized, centralized society.
Every chapter is a gem, focusing on one topic and the related battles Mr. Salatin has fought (sometimes winning and sometimes not). The first chapter is a recap of the original article that spawned the book, and in it he lists the most basic things he wants/wanted to do which are (you guessed it) illegal: on-farm processing, on-farm seminars and agri-tainment, collaborative marketing, employing local youngsters and interns, build a house the way he wants to, and opt out of the system. All of those requests seem completely reasonable, but surprise, surprise, they're illegal!
Then the rest of the book, each chapter focuses in depth on those issues and more, including: Raw Milk and Dairy, Custom Beef, Organic Certification, Restaurants, Predators, Zoning, Labor, Housing, Insurance, Taxes, Bioterrorism, Avian Flu, and Mad Cow. There are more, too, and each one of them made me laugh, pull my hair out, and cry in sympathy.
He's got some good quotes in there from government officials spouting the party line. He has to say over and over again, “I'm not making this up, folks,” because the officials say such ridiculously stupid, non-sensical things.
The whole book is loaded and important. Truly, every person – every person – who is interested in local, traditional, healthy, wholesome, unadulterated, safe food should read this book and talk about the issues. These issues need more exposure and more people talking about them and more people fighting for them (me, included). The reason is that most people are complacent. And when we're complacent, we don't care and we don't do much about things that are important. But I didn't say that as well as he did:
…health inspection bureaucrats have almost absolute power in many ways. The rule fiefdoms and enjoy a complicit, duplicitous American populace that assumes all is well as long as the fridge is full of beer, the toilet flushes, the TV remote works, and the sofa holds them up. To be honest, I am far more frustrated with complacency than I am with unscrupulous bureaucrats. If this book makes us angry with unscrupulous bureaucrats, I hope our righteous indignation will stir us to cast off complacency, and that is the beginning of integrity and accountability.
Any farm/food-entrepreneur who cares about food, community, earth, and people who dares to dream of making a living around those ideas is virtually assured not to make it. The labyrinth of rules and regulations makes those dreams nearly impossible. Just one of the reasons for the impossibility is because so much expense is required to have the right “facilities” to be producing “safe” food within the law. If the people who want to do it right are not able to do it, we will all suffer. Things can get worse. They seem pretty bad to me right now (when I consider some of the things we want to do and can't).
Joel Salatin writes,
If it's the government's responsibility to make sure that no person can ingest a morsel of unsafe food, then only government-decreed food will be edible. And when that happens, freedom of choice is long gone, because the credentialed food will be what the fat cats who wine and dine politicians say that it is. In the name of offering only credentialed safe food, we will only be able to eat irradiated, genetically adulterated, inhumane, taste-enhanced, nutrient-deficient, emulsified, reconstituted pseudo-food from Archer Daniels Midland, “supermarket to the world.”
I'll tell you what, I don't want to shop at the “supermarket to the world.” I want the choice to buy whatever food I want from whoever I want. I want the choice to grow it or raise it myself. I want the choice to sell it to others, without having to put in a separate refrigerator or pantry or a wheelchair entrance. I want the choice to build simple structures on my property that will help us achieve those ends, without jumping through permitting and inspecting hoops. I want the freedom of taking responsibility of my own actions. I want the freedom to make decisions about how I want to feed my family.
So buy or borrow – and then read – the book already. And let me know what you think, how mad you get, and what you're going to do about it! 😉
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