This week, we welcome back Joel Salatin to the podcast. Labeled by The Washington Post as "the most famous farmer in America", Joel has spent his career advocating for sustainable farming practices and pioneering models that show how food can be grown and raised in ways that are regenerative to our topsoils, more humane to livestock, produce much healthier & tastier food, and contribute profitably to the local economy.
Who wouldn't want that?
Well, the government and Big Ag for starters. Joel refers to himself as a 'lunatic farmer' because so many of the changes he thinks our food system needs are either illegal under the current law or mightily resisted by the deep-pocketed corporations controlling production and distribution.
And this anti-competitive restriction and stifling of small sustainable food producers is only getting worse. While dismayed at this, Salatin finds hope in the burgeoning rebellion of the "rogue food" resistence breaking out:
I'm not optimistic at all about where the government and all its bureaucracy is headed. It is getting more and more stifling. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that Obama put through, it's absolutely stifling. It's size prejudicial. It's putting an inordinate price pressure on smaller producers. That's a fact all the way across the board. And the cost of compliance is escalating — the amount of paperwork, the amount of licensing, the amount of testing and procedural stuff that's happening on farms — is through the roof.
So on the federal level, I think it's getting worse. Now, I think what's happening on the local level, the other thing that's a pushback that's happened, is what's now known as the food sovereignty movement. And that started in 2015 maybe, two or three years ago in Sedgewick, Maine. And that was a township that passed a half page food sovereignty law that said, in our township if a neighbor wants to do food commerce with another neighbor it's none of the governments business and no bureaucrat has to be involved. So if you want to come to my house, look around, smell around, and operate as freedom of choice, as voluntary adults, as consenting adults – and I'm using very strong language here – to practice your freedom of choice, then two consenting adults should be able to engage in food commerce without a bureaucrat being involved. Well, very quickly six other townships in Maine took up the mantra and passed the regulation, the law, as well.
Then, of course, Maine pushed back and said, no, you can't do that. And it continued to build in Maine until finally the legislature and the governor passed it and said, okay, if a township wants to do that it's okay with us. Well, then, the USDA quickly responded and said we're going to pull all of your federally inspected slaughter houses and food processing plants. Maine, you won't be able to sell to anybody because the federal government is pulling out if you do this. Then the governor called an emergency session. They went back in, and it's still being negotiated. It's a big hoo-ha. Believe me, there are a lot of us around the country that are watching what's going on in Maine, and we're very interested in it.
And if that were duplicated around the country it would almost be like local food secession. There's a place to say, at some level, we should be able to engage in food commerce at our own risk and our own freewill. And that is definitely gaining momentum. We see it in the expansion of the Farm-to-consumer Legal Defense Fund, which is essentially a home-schooled legal defense association for food. In two years, they’ve grown from a network of collaborating attorney's in something like 5 states to collaborating attorneys in 40 states. That's phenomenal growth for a little non-profit organization.
And so as attorneys find out about how little farmers get treated by SWAT teams that come in and confiscate their food and different things like that, there's a backlash to it. And now the beauty of the internet is that these things can be documented on iPhones. People can see the bureaucrat, the SWAT teams coming in and throwing out the perfectly good food from a freezer. They can see the raid; they can see people's rights being violated. And so there is definitely a backlash. It's a food freedom backlash in the country, and I've been an advocate of this all my life. I've always said when Americans become as interested in defending their right to acquire the food of their choice as they are the gun of their choice, we're going to have a whole different food paradigm in this country.
Rogue food is on the rise. One of the most successful examples in the in country is in Louisville, Kentucky. It's a food club that operates essentially under the same kind of a charter as a golf country club. It's not public, it's completely private. If you're not a member you can't go play in that club or on that course. And so what this is is a dues paying, nonpublic, members-only food exchange model. And these guys in Louisville actually have a store front and everything in there is illegal. I mean, they got everything from raw milk to homemade pepperoni. I mean, it's all illegal. And nobody can touch them because it's a private club.
Click the play button below to listen to my interview with Joel Salatin (52m:32s).