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Rooting for the Grass

There was a time that political happenings were really important to me. I dreamed of law school and Washington… for about 3 weeks.

The appeal faded quickly once I recognized the state and the nature of politics. I decided, instead, to sort of evade the political system and foster positive change through a movement that’s as grassroots as it gets- growing food.

Remember that distorted illusion of farming we talked about? My oblivious dance was interrupted by the realization that political issues did not come to a halt beyond the boundaries of my fields. Organic certification is a government program. FSMA and GAP laws require produce washing stations to meet standards akin to those in restaurant kitchens. It’s necessary to keep up with food politics in order to ensure you’re following the increasing number of regulations being placed on small farmers.

Stick with me; I know we don't love this stuff, but it could interrupt YOUR LIFE. Yours! Yes, I’m talking to YOU farmer’s market patron, Harvest Table goer, Tuesday night local pizza participator!

Now these regulations are being discussed at the local level, here in Washington County. The board of supervisors is holding a hearing tomorrow, November 10th at 6:30 regarding the sale of raw milk and uninspected meat. Herd shares are available in the area. They allow the customer to pay a farmer for partial ownership and maintenance of a herd of dairy cows. In turn, they get a portion of the milk from the cows. Customers sign a waiver acknowledging the risks associated with consuming raw dairy, and demand has proven it's what the consumers want.

Also on the agenda is the 1,000 bird exemption for uninspected on-farm poultry slaughtering. That affects our farm directly, because we slaughter a portion of our heritage birds each season for specials at the restaurant. The exemption applies to a number of small farms in the area who could have trouble selling their meat to the restaurant or at the farmer’s market. Depending on the reach of the regulation, it could affect the availability of pastured eggs.

Many large farm operations are shipping food 2,000 miles away from it’s source. That leads to more opportunity for contamination and less transparency should contamination occur. In many small scale operations, the product goes directly from the source to consumer. That leaves space for clear accountability and fewer points of potential contamination. Applying regulations meant for large, specialized operations to small-scale diversified farms places undue burden on these locally owned operations.

Disclaimer: I encourage every customer to wash produce before consumption. Any produce, from any source; it’s simple hygiene that protects your family and the farmers.

Here in SWVA, we need to stand up for the rights of customers and small farmers. The hearing is open to public comment, and more voices and more bodies make a difference. We can’t hide from politics in our fields or behind our computers and hope to generate positive change in our community. If you’re not a resident of Washington County, look out for political food issues in your area and let your representatives know what you think about food choices and restrictions on local economies in your area.

Once I got into farming, I really learned to appreciate that term- grassroots. The roots of grass are tenacious; if you attempt to chop them down, they reproduce at alarming rates. Our community has the power to be the grassroots stronghold in this corrupt political field. And in this case, I’m rooting for the grass.

For more information on tomorrow's hearing:

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