NATURE'S VIOLENCE

            Yesterday I went up to clean mud and silt off the intake pipe that starts our high water system.  We have a spring up on top of the mountain behind the house that we've tapped.  It runs into a pipe that lies along the road all the way down the mountain and keeps our high system going--we have two, a high system and low system.

             The little basin that collects the spring water serves both wildlife and our livestock.  The bears, squirrels and deer that use it stir up the fine mud in it, which then coats the intake filter and eventually clogs it up.  About twice a month I go up and clean off the screen and scoop out the accumulated mud around it.

             Normally, when I arrive the water is crystal clear like a wishing well.  But yesterday it was murky from recent stirring.  I probably surprised something with the 4-wheeler when I arrived.  The spring is about 40 years away and downhill from the road, so I park up there and walk down to it through a ground cover of large ferns.

             Yesterday when I finished the quick cleaning and started back up to the 4-wheeler, I noticed at the side of my path a bucket-sized hole dug in the ground.  It caught my attention and my first thought was "who's been up here digging?"  Upon closer examination, I noticed down in the hole a massive yellow jacket nest.  The bees were there working on it, but the nest had obviously been torn in half.  Ahhh.  A bear.

             A bear undoubtedly found the nest, dug into it, and ate the larval bees.  Bears actually don't attack bees for the honey; they attack them for the larva (baby bees).  I looked around to make sure the bear wasn't eyeing me and headed back up the path to the 4-wheeler.

             As I rode home I couldn't help but think of the struggle for survival.  Everything is struggling for survival.  The bees built their nest thinking they'd be safe.  The bear wanders the mountain looking for a morsel here or a morsel there.  Both are struggling to survive.  Both use their wits, talents, creativity to try to outsmart the adversaries.  Nobody gives one an advantage over the other.  Some days the bear wins; some days the bees win.

             What if someone decided it was unjust, or unfair, for the bear to destroy the bees' nest?  What if someone decided to subsidize the bees with bear-proof habitats?  The bears would be denied one of their favorite foods and the bees would proliferate perhaps to toxic proportions.  I think the struggle makes each party appreciate the other more; the bees the resourcefulness and terror of the bear; the bear the cunning and camouflage of the bees.  Indeed, the bees pollinate blackberries, which are another bear favorite.

             The struggle has its own beauty; it's own choreography.  It's both heartbreaking and affirming.  In our culture today, a lot of do-goodism tries to eliminate the struggle in life.  But legislating away the struggle doesn't make heroes; it makes wimps.  It makes dependents. 

             What has the struggle taught you?

 P.S.  Remember, if you like these posts, send them to a friend.  That's how we build our tribe.  Thank you.

WELLNESS SUMMIT

            Saturday Polyface hosted a wellness summit to love on unorthodox health practitioners and affirm them in a culture that seems intent on marginalizing, demonizing, and even criminalizing them.  We had 30-40 professional health practitioners, primarily from the eastern U.S. but a couple from California.

             They were herbologists, nutritional therapists, yoga and massage practitioners, crystal therapy, physical therapists--goodness, I don't even know what everyone called what they did.  But it was incredibly gratifying to get all those people in one place, have them meet each other, encourage each other, inspire each other.  It's a lonely world out there on the edges of orthodoxy.

             In a time of publicity regarding tolerance, we are becoming far more intolerant.  Just try questioning orthodox infant immunizations.  Just try being a pregnant woman telling your family and friends you're drinking raw milk.  Just try telling your diabetic friends that they can cure it with diet and lifestyle and don't need any drugs.

             Most of these professionals who came had their own crisis stories that drove them away from orthodoxy.  I could write a book, a compilation of all these stories that brought people to a distrust of the fraternal medical community.

             The highlight of the day, for me at least, was sitting mesmerized for 2.5 hours at the feet of Dr. Zach Bush.  I had never met him in person until Saturday.  Doing as many presentations and speaking gigs as I do, I get to listen to a lot of presenters.  For a person to mesmerize me on the edge of my seat even for 30 minutes takes some doing.  Zach did it for more than 2 hours.   Nobody stirred; nobody moved. 

             Perhaps the most interesting part of his presentation to me was his recurring theme about loneliness.  That really struck me because we here at Polyface convened this whole shindig to surround these practitioners with affirmation, realizing that unorthodoxy by definition is a lonely place.  But the fact is as a culture we've isolated ourselves in profound ways.

             We've hidden handshakes behind legal contracts; we've exchanged personal interchanges for electronic interchanges; we've traded physical community with virtual community; we've lawned over our gardens and outsourced food production to nameless, faceless corporate entities.  The list could go on and on, but you get the drift. 

             I've always said that a central part of our farm is re-building community. From May through September, 25 of us work here and our chef prepares evening communal meals that we enjoy together Monday-Friday.  That's a real support group.  As I age, I'm incredibly grateful to be surrounded by all this youthful energy.  To leverage elder wisdom on youthful energy is the elixer of the ages.

             So Zach is big on the power of a hug.  Not a short professional hug, but a lingering hug, like more than 10 seconds.  It's one of the most healing things we can do.  They don't cost anything but empathy and time.

             Have you hugged someone today?

NO TIME FOR BREAKFAST

            Wendy's restaurant chain (more than 5,000 in the U.S.) has just announced it is re-entering the breakfast business after a failed attempt several years ago.  According to their press releases, Americans eating breakfast out increased enough since the first attempt to be confident in this up-coming roll-out.

             My favorite meal of the day is breakfast.  The reason is pretty simple.  I have always gone out and done chores prior to breakfast.  Chores take anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours, depending on how things fall.  Right now I'm moving the eggmobile every other day.  I move it on one day and then the second day all I have to do is open some nest boxes (drop the perch boards so the hens can get into the boxes; the perch boards act as exclusions to keep the hens out at night). 

             Sometimes I have to set up an electric fence for the cows.  A host of things can occupy that pre-breakfast time.  Moving chicken shelters was the most time-consuming normal component of chores until Daniel got big enough to do it, and now other staff and students.  I still enjoy it, but don't need to as often.  We used to milk a cow every morning, but that went by the wayside and we now have a raw milk herd share from Creambrook.

             I have numerous things to check on in these early morning hours.  I get up at daybreak and head outside for chores every day, including Saturday, Sunday, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving.  That's my routine.  The point is that when I come in for breakfast, I've already put in a couple hours of work.  That's the hungriest I am, usually, in a day.  So I like breakfast; a nice, big hearty breakfast.  Bacon or sausage and eggs (usually 3 eggs), raw milk, fruit.

             Teresa, my 39-year wife and love of my life, has breakfast ready for me when I come in.  That's our official team start of the day.  It's a time to discuss our plans for the day--"what do you have to do?", listen to the news on the radio, read the newspaper and get situated for the day.  It's both a respite and a launch for the rest of the day.

             I feel sad that so many folks don't even have time for a home-made, home-centered, family-oriented breakfast.  It's such an important part of my daily routine that the idea of jumping out of bed, jumping into the car, running by a drive-through window for a muffin and coffee just sounds like a horrendous way to get going.  Or maybe folks don't stop, and that's the problem.

             That grabbing breakfast at a fast food joint is now one of the hottest food trends speaks volumes to our hurried, harried lifestyles.  We've gained frenzy and lost family.  We've gained convenience and lost communication.  We've gained food-like substances and lost nutrition.

             What do you eat for breakfast?


FEEL GOOD TOOTHLESS

            Yesterday I spoke to a conservative political think tank in Richmond and one of the other speakers was a Republican state Senator running for re-election.  She gave a short list of her greatest accomplishments while in office so far, one of which was  a bill requiring hospitals to give estimated cost of services if you ask.

             Offering this as a great example of "across the aisle" diplomacy, was appalling.  Of course the Democrats would love this bill--they love anything that creates more regulations and government intrusion.  And for a conservative Republican to sponsor and then be proud of more regulations is the problem with the Republicans.  Further, she vowed to carry on the idea and require it on all private physicians too.

             The bill carries no penalty if a hospital refuses.  It carries no penalty if the estimate is off by 100 percent.  The hospital can say any old silly and comply with the law.  It's completely toothless.

             But beyond that, it seems to me that the conservative theme would be not heaping more regulations on the medical community, but getting the government out of the medical community.  How about letting anyone who wants to start a hospital do so, without a "certificate of need?"  How about letting someone who wants to start a hospital that discriminates against people start one?  If it's their business and their money, if they want to serve only Hindu Vietnamese bald people, what right do I, you, or the government have of forcing them to serve others?

             As I sat there and listened, I became painfully aware of just how ubiquitous "government oversight" is in our culture now.  You can scarcely spit or pee without a license and some bureaucrat  telling you how to do it, where to do it, when to do it, and how much to do.

             Isn't it interesting that Franklin Roosevelt's wartime (WWII) government interventions in wages and salaries forced employers to offer health insurance instead.  If they couldn't adjust pay scales, they had to offer something to reward excellence, so they picked health insurance.

             When people quit being responsible for their own health care, the government penetrated farther and then when folks don't like what they have, rather than extricating the government from health care, folks want more.  This is Einstein's definition of insanity:  doing the same thing and hoping for different results.

             If the problem is the government, then reduce its involvement; don't give it additional responsibility.  I would tell people upset about hospitals not giving service estimates:  "go to one who will, use social media to expose your interactions, write letters to the editor, agitate, and when enough people begin demanding it, some will offer it.  Those will get more business and the opaque ones will dry up."

             Oh, that's right, hospitals aren't businesses.  Or are they?  See how convoluted things get when you have hybrid public-private entities?  A public institution does not have to cotton to the marketplace; it's above clients.  So everyone can finger point, in a big circle, and nobody needs to do anything.  If I were running for office, I would campaign hard to eliminate government involvement in health care, completely, finally, and comprehensively.  My comprehensive health care would be you're in charge of your wellness and nobody is going to use the government's gun to extract money from a neighbor for your health care.  While that has its own imperfections, the net imperfections are far fewer than the ones currently foisted upon us by a government monopoly.

             Government health care makes no differentiation between folks who eat well and those who don't.  Folks who exercise or those who don't.  Folks who get all the infant vaccines and those who don't.  Folks who smoke and those who don't.  Folks who use drugs and those who don't.  Folks who follow the Kardashians and those who don't.  Folks who gamble at Las Vegas and those who don't.  Folks who eat at McDonald's and those who don't.  I'm offended that folks who engage risky behavior get to use societal violence at the end of a gun to extract my wealth to pay for their wellness.  It's just not fair.

             Do you think I should pay for your surgery?  If so, what else do you want to use violence (government gun) to make me pay for?

AMAZON'S FIRES

            If you've been watching the news at all lately, you're aware of the world wide interest in Brazil's Amazonian fires.  The new president is being blamed for not enforcing regulations but the biggest direct culprits are allegedly cattle farmers and logging companies.

            I never assume I'm getting accurate information on these things so I won't dip into the who said she said aspects.  What I know is that if indeed the culprit is cattle and logging, neither of those is necessary from that region.

             While I understand the plight of the impoverished in the region and their desire to exploit their resources for economic gain, that is symptomatic of a much broader socio-cultural issue.  The fact that these poor folks see this as their only alternative for remuneration is a failure much broader than harvesting timber and cattle.  And I won't even start on the big companies.

             What I want to bring to the discussion is how the failure of rich countries to properly steward their resources creates undo pressure on non-rich societies to further exploit theirs.  Right now, the U.S. spends some $5 billion a year fighting wildfires.  That does not count the loss of property and life in these fires.

             Both grazing and strategic timber harvesting would stop or greatly abate this devastation.  While our rich country elitists ban grazing that could prune biomass and reduce fire hazards, companies offer poor folks in the Amazon a market for their wood.  That is wood that could come from America's forests and cattle that could come from ecologically-enhancive grazing on both public and private lands.

             Those of you who have attended a Polyface Lunatic Tour know that one of my favorite stops, what I call "the heart and soul of the farm," is the carbon shed.  I explain the truly integrated carbon economy, using open land and forest land symbiotically to grow soil and enhance manure.  In that discussion, I point out that all of our North American forests are weedy.  They're overgrown, over-dead, over-junked with crooked and diseased trees.  Especially wilderness areas.

             Pre-European occupation, they were thinned by strategic fires.  Today, we have chippers and chain saws to be more precise and offer better management than just fire.  As a rich country, we now fail to steward our own resources and foist the shortfall onto those less able to make good choices.  That is a moral ecological outrage.  If you don't like the fires in the Amazon, look in the American mirror.

             Another stop on these farm tours, of course, is the salad bar beef.  I point out that with our mob stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization, we're beating the county average productivity on grasslands by about 400 percent.  Folks, we don't need the Amazon to grow nutrient-dense beef.  We can double the world's production of herbivores without cutting a single Amazon tree simply by using our technology (electric fence, plastic pipe, shademobiles) to increase our management.

             Here at Polyface, we get that additional production not by planting seeds, not by buying chemical fertilizers, and not by using pesticides and herbicides; we get it by moving the cattle every day to a different paddock.  This rests most of the farm all the time, allowing the forages to go through their juvenile growth spurt before being pruned again.  It's not rocket science.

             In all their hand wringing and condemnation toward the folks destroying the Brazilian Amazon, why don't these finger-pointers demand that American cattle farmers move their cows every day?  Why don't they demand that we graze overgrown areas in California?  Why don't they demand that we fire up the chain saws and harvest declining, mature trees for both lumber and chipping (compost)? 

             The easiest thing in the world is to point fingers and assign blame.  The hardest thing is to accept responsibility, appreciate our culpability, and make internal changes.  That's acting like an adult instead of a child.

             Do you agree with Al Gore that the chainsaw is the worst invention ever?

 Remember:  if you like these posts and you'd like others to see my perspective, thank you for sending them to your friends.

WELLNESS SUMMIT--A WEEK AWAY

            This will be a final mention of the upcoming Wellness Summit we're hosting at Polyface next Saturday, September 14.    We still have some room for more folks but already have plenty for a meaningful day.

             The goal is to love on the alternative health community.  Around the margins of health care are thousands of practitioners who don't embrace current medical orthodoxy.  These are folks who heal diabetes with diet.  They heal pain with acupuncture and massage.  They use herbs instead of heavy drugs.  They dare to suggest alternatives to opiods.

             Too often, the practitioners who walk to the beat of a different drummer, who take the road less traveled, feel ostracized and alone.  Here at Polyface, we recognize the close connection between unorthodox farming and unorthodox  medical care.  To not use chemical fertilizers is an ideological cousin to not using drugs for health.

             We felt like these folks needed a haven, a place to gather and be affirmed, encouraged and re-energized to keep going.  When you're a maverick, it's lonely out there.  And when you hear threats about your practices, get called names like quacks, it's demoralizing and depressing. 


            The morning will be a farm tour hay ride and the afternoon will be a facilitated discussion, emceed by Dr. Zach Bush.  Bush probably leads the accredited medical community right now in connecting the dots between the soil and the human micro-biome. 

             Although it's open to anybody, we're targeting wellness practitioners and their families.  You can register and see more information on the Polyface website… http://www.polyfacefarms.com/product/wellness/?fbclid=IwAR2PybwbqfMfrpw1HtZDt1zzG4Pgt7FQRiW-La35p_NQysRfTNNzp_ZU8bI

             I hope to see you here.  Thank you.

THE FRATERNITY

            From day one, I've said it ain't over 'til it's over regarding these Monsanto/Roundup suits.  The last one, a jury awarded $2 billion, has just been reduced to $86 million by a judge.

             Nothing has been paid to any victorious litigant.  And nothing will be, perhaps ever.  Yesterday, the powerful Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an order declaring that glyphosate does not cause cancer.  I guess we can start putting it in lemonade.

             The declaratory letter is in direct contradiction, if not rebuke, to both California and the World heath Organization (WHO).  California lists glyphosate as an official carcinogen.  The WHO lists it as "probably" causing cancer.

             Around the world, the orthodox scientific community is circling the wagons around Monsanto:  Canada, Australia, the European Union, Germany, New Zealand, and Japan.  Government regulators in all these countries agree with the EPA's assessment.

             In yet another state-federal showdown, the EPA accuses California of a "false and misleading statement" and further claims that federal regulatory assessment should trump the states'.  In other words, if a state wants to be more careful, it can't.

It's states' rights deja vu.  Every time, every time, every time you seek federal intervention in things, it creates additional tension on this front.  Decentralized vs. centralized.  Local vs. national.  Community vs. tyranny.  Okay, I'll stop now, but you get the picture.  It doesn't matter whether the issue is labeling, education, housing, health care or investment regulations.

             In the courtroom, this EPA declaration will give weight to Monsanto's position that to put warning labels on Roundup would violate their regulatory directives.  "We couldn't tell people it was carcinogenic even if it was, because federal labeling regulations wouldn't let us.  How can we be held responsible for something we didn't say when to say it would have violated the law?"

             Wow, that sounds like a great cover to me.  Suddenly, just like that, 18,000 lawsuits vanish.  Such is the machinations of the courtroom.  The EPA stepping into this fray this aggressively indicates a concerted effort, at the highest levels of global chemical business, to protect Monsanto, Bayer and all their cohorts.  Nobody should underestimate the resolve, the cleverness, and the power of these players to take care of each other when the fraternity is assaulted.

             So I repeat, it ain't over 'til it's over.  Put the cork back in the champagne bottle.  Now, what's the solution?  You and I and everyone else should quit trying to seek relief from the system.  The system is not in the business of giving relief.  It's in the business of protecting the status quo.  So if we want relief or even justice, the way to get it is to quit buying products that use these chemicals.  If everyone tomorrow switched to authentic food, the entire farming/food sector would invert and the people who are now outliers would be foundational and the people who are now foundational would be pushed to the fringe.  Wouldn't that be an interesting development?

             Remember, the judges and the lawyers all went to the same school.  They know the accepted rules and they won't cross each other.

             The way to change the system is to quit playing their game.  That means eating consciously, systematically chipping away at the market share these big players enjoy.  And yes, Chipotle uses GMOs and these chemicals in its meat products.  So you have to be careful.

             Do you think Monsanto will lose?

LABOR DAY ANTI-MEAT CAMPAIGN

            If you had your radio on at all on Labor Day, you enjoyed the news loop about not eating meat because it will shorten your life.  Since I was in a vehicle a couple of times that day going over to move some cows at one of our rented properties, I heard it more than once.

             The second time I listened more closely.  When you're a wordsmith and debater like I am, you listen for key words that can show an argument is strained.  It's deliberate deception in order to make a case.

             Children are real good at this.  "No, Mommy, I did not hit little brother," when actually I pushed him.  All parents know how creative children are at picking words that aren't a direct lie, but they don't tell the whole truth.

             So with the headline of don't eat hamburgers and hot dogs on Labor Day, the report went on to detail supposedly scientific findings that doing so could shorten your life.  Here were the caveats:  people who eat "extra" meat, who eat it "3 times a day."  Now folks, I'm definitely in the meat business, but I sure don't eat meat 3 times a day.

             And the extra?  What's up with that?  I heard it twice and couldn't believe it. What is that?  How much?  That, in addition to 3X a day, sounds like aberrant behavior.  Further, the news release admitted that they made no distinction for processed meat versus unprocessed, nor for provenance (pastured meat versus factory industrial).  And finally, they did use the honest word "correlates" rather than "caused." 

             Correlation is the bane of science.  If people were eating this aberrantly, what else were they doing?  Extra alcohol?  Smoking?  Voting for socialists?  I don't know; nobody knows. 

             When you take all five of these carefully chosen messaging words and cover-your-tail caveats, you don't have much of a news story.  But that's the way the news cycle works.  Create a sensational headline, then back off in the fine print so you can back peddle if you have to.

             People don't listen to the fine print.  They listen to the headlines.  I read a recent marketing analysis that confirmed cognitive positive bias toward anything that's repeated or a bit outlandish.  Folks, we've got to quit believing any old stupid thing we hear.  With social media, I think our instinctual critique filters are clogged because we simply don't have the emotional and mental energy to question.

             Critiquing, and thinking critically, takes effort.  Spoon feeding is easy.  Analysis is hard.  Let's not let our brains turn into mush.

             A headline like "eating meat will shorten your life'" on Labor Day when the final big seasonal cookout is part of the cultural persona is designed to shock and awe.  Why release that on that days' news cycle.  I've worked in a newspaper newsroom, too, and timing is everything.  It's all part of the game.  Be dubious; it's a good trait to cultivate.

             Did you eat grass-finished burgers on Labor Day?  Or Polyface hot dogs?

A REAL CHINESE FARMER

            Last Saturday we had a real honest to goodness Chinese farmer attend our Lunatic Tour here at Polyface.  I was honored and privileged to spend a fair amount of time with him, sitting together on the porch swing, and looking at his farm pictures on his smart phone.

             It was his first time to the U.S.; he came with friends who interpreted for him.  He grows green tea, all sorts of vegetables (primarily Chinese-type leafy greens), bamboo, chickens, and pigs.  A small farmer, his production variety is astounding and he's well versed in sustainable/regenerative/permaculture principles.

             If you've been following the news at all, you know that China is in a protein meltdown.  African swine fever has decimated their pork production by officially 32 percent.  Most unofficial sources say its closer to half.  China eats half the world's pork. Pork prices are skyrocketing as a result.

             I asked him about that, and he quickly responded that it affects the big industrial farms first, as well as very unsanitary and poorly managed peasant farms.  He was not concerned about his pigs contracting the disease because he moves them around to keep them on new ground.  That's hygienic and immune-boosting.

             He said an herb (what would you expect from the Chinese) seems to hold big promise as a curative, but the government and industrial agriculture do not recognize its possibilities.  All they want is factory farms and drugs.  Sounds like they went to the same schools as Americans.  The west no longer holds a monopoly on a mechanical view of life and the idiocy it promotes.

             He has far more freedom to sell his farm products through value adding than we do here in the U.S.  He can process animals without government inspection and licenses and sell them into commerce.  He can make ready to eat foods as well without special zoning permits and licenses.  I'm not sure whether he was more energized sharing his farm story with me or I was more energized in hearing it, but the exchange showed that land stewardship and food production form common ground quickly without regard to language, landscape, ethnicity, religion, or politics.

             My takeaway from interactions like this is that the real story almost never gets told in orthodox media outlets.  The official version of the story is agenda-driven and certainly not dedicated to truth.  That is why we must all be eclectic in our information gathering.  CNN viewers should watch Fox News, and Fox News viewers should watch CNN.  New York Times readers should take the Wall Street Journal, and Wall Street Journal readers should be up on New York Times.  Both libertarian and socialist material should adorn your bookshelf.

             My new Chinese farmer friend said he'd begin working to get me over to his neighborhood.  I hope he can.  That would be awesome.  Great Wall?  Who cares?  Let me visit some farmers; that's where my heart lies.

             In the last year, have you been exposed to information that made you rethink one of your entrenched positions?

KUDOS TO JOHN MACKEY

            Vegan though he is, and excoriated by me in our recent debate (for saying that eating meat is both morally and ethically wrong), Whole Foods founder and current CEO John Mackey has at least come out against fake meat.

             So while we certainly disagree on whether eating real meat is okay, we've found a point of agreement on fake meat.  Although his comments contain a big fudge factor, here is what he's quoted as saying in a CNBC report:

 “The [brands] who are capturing the imagination of people — and I’m not going to name these brands because I’m afraid I will be associated with the critique of it,” says Mackey, “but some of these that are extremely popular now that are taking the world by storm, if you look at the ingredients, they are super, highly processed foods.”

According to Beyond Meat’s website, ingredients for its plant-based patties include water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein and other natural flavors, including apple extract and beet juice extract (for color). Ingredients for Impossible Foods burger include water, soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil, potato protein, soy leghemoglobin (a group of protein found in animals and plants) and other natural flavors, according to its website.

“I don’t think eating highly processed foods is healthy. I think people thrive on eating whole foods,” Mackey says. “As for health, I will not endorse that, and that is about as big of criticism that I will do in public.”

            What's interesting, of course, is that even though he doesn't agree with their wholesomeness, he still sells them at Whole Foods.  And has been a leading proponent of their sales from day one.  If that doesn't smack of intellectual schizophrenia I don't know what does. 

             Of course, articles about this are rife with the accepted fact that fake meat is better for the environment, healthier for you, yadda, yadda, yadda.  This one is no exception. As I've explained many times in these blogs, the comparison is highly selective.  Just like the famous China Study on cholesterol, it cherry picked data points to arrive at a conclusion.  That's not science; it's agenda driven propaganda.  But science is full of that these days, unfortunately.

             So, as we say down south, bless his heart for at least questioning the fake meat juggernaut.  While I don't shy away from taking someone to task for idiocy, I want to quickly toss a congratulatory bone when he says something wiser.  Well done, John.

             Does the above ingredient list look more environmental to you than a ruminant pruning perennial polycultures?


BURN THEM AT THE STAKE!

            Yesterday I did a guest podcast for Destination Health, a wellness program targeted to truck drivers.  I always learn as much as the hosts do, it seems.  In their space, they are truly experts and "get around," as we say.

             Kevin, the host, had just returned from a fringe wellness summit featuring the gurus of the movement like Mercola, Ashbury and others.  One of the hot topics of discussion involved lawsuits against natural health practitioners and the sudden 90 percent drop in searches coming to alternative wellness websites.

            The obvious assumption is that Google is suppressing searches to these websites because they are unorthodox.  In a related thread, a chiropractor in Canada posted a blog questioning modern vaccination protocols and was admonished by both government regulators and her licensing board to remove the post.  She refused.

             Subsequently, she was stripped of her license and fined $100,000. The podcast host noted a growing nastiness even among his own listeners whenever he dared to question today's vaccination protocols.  Like me, he's not an all or nothing believer.  When I was a kid and received vaccinations, the whole regimen was about 4 or 5 and spread over several years.  Today it's dozens compressed in months.

             That anyone who dares question such procedures is branded as a heretic and summarily burned at the stake for not embracing the orthodox party line shows a drastic increase in intolerance.  We all know that innovation comes from the lunatic fringe.  One of my favorite quotations from permaculture writer Peter Bane is this:  In times of epochal change, the most valuable societal equity is the freedom to innovate.  Wow, that's profound.  I may not have quoted him exactly, but that's the essence. 

             When societies become timid, paranoid, and weak, they naturally feel more threatened by the weirdos.  When societies are strong, virile, and confident, they don't mind a few witches and weirdos lurking around the fringers.  Who cares?  But let that society weaken, and suddenly these outliers threaten a crumbling status quo.

             That is where we are in America.  It's also fueled by accelerating government ownership of everything.  Make no mistake about it, when I owned my body (determined by who is responsible for my health care) if I wanted to ingest raw milk or not take vaccines, that was my prerogative.  But as soon as others are responsible for my health, or pay for it, then all my activities become economic assets or liabilities.  If you're paying for my health care, you have an incentive to minimize my risky behavior. 

             Risky behavior is quite subjective.  Goodness, I think drinking Coke is risky, as is eating factory meat and Impossible Burgers.  Others think eating real meat is risky and raw milk is deadly.  Defining risky behavior is a slippery slope toward an Inquisition and burning at the stake.  If I'm paying for your health, suddenly I have a vested interest to make sure you stay healthy.  That may be veganism.  It may be paleo.  How do you codify?  But that is exactly what's going on, and what is fueling the growing intolerance in the discussion.

             We can't just live together as neighbors and friends if your activity is a liability to me.  Therein lies the great horror of government health care, the drug war, alternative therapies and farming practices.  Every time the government intervenes, it's going to codify acceptable and unacceptable terms; that in turn creates criminals and compliants.  How sad.

             For the record, I do not believe Google or Facebook have the right to suppress anything.  The trade they made with society was to give up their private business and liability risk in exchange for a public platform.  They have no right to censor or suppress anything, from how to make a bomb to how to circumvent tyrannical vaccination rules.  Congress gave them a special dispensation; they wanted to be public and not private.  You can't have it both ways.  They gave up their private company status; now they have to abide by that. 

             Have you had an uncomfortable alternative wellness discussion with someone lately that bordered on intolerance?

 P.S.  Remember, if you like this blog, to send it to some friends.  We're picking up new people slowly but surely; thank you.

WALLOW IN THE SOIL

            Longtime friend and former executive director of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Elizabeth Rich sent me a fascinating article yesterday from the May issue of Neuroscience News.  University of Colorado, Boulder researchers found a fatty acid called 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid in a soil bacterium known as Mycobacterium vaccae.

             Their theory is that this fatty acid found in soil is critical to maintain immune systems, regulate inflammation, and generally maintain physical and mental health.  Their thinking is that as people spend less and less time interacting with soil they deprive their bodies of these essential fatty acids.

             The implications are far beyond colds and flu.  Because this was carried in Neuroscience News, one thread has to do with mental disorders.  Our local city, Staunton, still houses one of the state's mental hospitals.  The first one that dates to the early 1800s still operated when I was a child in the early 1960s.  The patients grew their own food, including dairy, poultry, and vegetables.

             Axiomatic in that day was the notion that having the patients work the farm was one of the most therapeutic activities.  That had a better effect on mental health than focus groups, discussion sessions and psychotherapy. 

             That the word human derives from the same foundation as humus should give us all pause about the importance of getting our hands in the dirt.  Many medical doctors who specialist in allergies have signed on to the controversial "hygiene hypothesis" that says too much sanitation makes lethargic immune systems. 

             Certainly the iconic book "Guns, Germs and Steel" insinuates this immunological exercise idea in its germs section.  The civilizations that came to dominate the world were the ones producing domestic livestock.  Several large studies now coming out of Scandinavia attest to immune-building and mental-health-contributing aspects of livestock and soil touching.

             When you look at all these research threads, what you see is a definite movement toward what some of us have said for years:  get out in the garden, visit farms, eat some dirt.  A few days ago the interns laughed at me when I bent over and took a long drink out of the cow tank.  I wonder how many good bugs I got with that little exercise?  Is there a reason I haven't been sick in a decade?

             Now to the bad part of the Neuroscience News article.  Wouldn't you think that these researchers would encourage more participation with soil as a result of their findings?  No.  Their hope is that the research will stimulate development of a microbe-based "stress vaccine."  Just when you think somebody in the orthodox community will have an epiphany and "get it," they follow the Neanderthal party line toward a pharmaceutical solution.  Ho hum.

             When is the last time you placed your hands in the soil?

ORGANIC FRAUD ENDS IN SUICIDE

            In a tragedy containing many threads, Randy Constant apparently killed himself in his garage with carbon monoxide poisoning after being found guilty in one of the biggest organic grain fraud cases in history.

             Constant, a large grain buyer and distributor, was found guilty of selling $142 million worth of government  certified organic livestock feed that was not organic.  His brokerage accounted for some 8 percent of the entire U.S. government certified organic grain market.

             One of my arguments against the certification process 30 years ago was that it assumed you couldn't trust anybody, but worked only if farmers filling out paperwork were honest.  In other words, it's not a guarantee of anything and rides on the honesty of participants.  The message to the public, however, is that "since we can't trust farmers, the government will check up on them."   But government checking, like is often the case, involves primarily filling out paperwork, which can be manipulated or consciously falsified.

             When people ask why Polyface is not certified organic, this is one of the threads in the not-short answer.  At Polyface, we've used local suppliers and a local mill that tests incoming feed for bad residues like glyphosate.  While these GMO-free farmers may not cotton to all the government certification paperwork, it does not mean the feedstocks are non-organic.  It just means we don't participate in the government program.

             It would be like assuming a school lunch program not participating in the official USDA-prescribed meal nutrition program can't offer food that meets or exceeds government standards.  The Real Organic project sent me pictures this morning of Aurora dairies desert confinement operations, with up to 20,000 cows in one location.  No pasture; no organic calf production.  Direct violation of organic standards, but that's what goes on rampantly within the industry.

             The point is that those of us who are not organic certified are certainly not opposed to organic practice.  In fact, many of us far exceed minimal government organic standards.  To assume that a government stamp is the only way to verify authenticity is simply ridiculous.  The vaccine revolution is a perfect case in point.  Is  adhering to the official government orthodox vaccination regimen the only way to have healthy kids?  Of course not.

             So feedstock provenance in livestock is as important as food provenance for your table.  One of the beauties of using local sourcing, and a feed mill that we can trust, is that the short chain of custody is easy for us to police.  The big organic operations like Shenandoah Organics that buy in their feed from places like Randy Constant, even though they have a paperwork trail up the wazoo, are not as verifiable and trustworthy sources as our local folks.

             Think of all those millions of pounds of feed that were sold over several years--remember, 8 percent of the entire U.S. organic feed market--to feed chickens, pigs, and cows that got sold under the certified USDA organic label,  were no different than anything from Tyson.  And people paid good money, put their faith in a system, and ate chemical-laden fare. 

             So the question is how do you create a food provenance system you can trust?  At the end of the day, "know your farmer know your food" is still a really good answer.  And your farmer should not have "No Trespassing" signs.  You should visit, look, ask, sleuth and be dubious.  That's reasonable.  If you're buying a label, you're being duped.

             Where do you get your meat?

NORTH CAROLINA FTCLDF FUNDRAISER--JOIN ME

            This is a shameless come-on for a fundraiser I'm doing for the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) Sept. 21 in Graham, North Carolina on Reverence Farms.  It includes a day of farm touring, discussions and on-farm first class dinner and speech from me.

             For those of you unaware of the work of FTCLDF, it's modeled after the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) which provided coaching and wiggle room for parents facing truancy violations during the early days of home schooling.  That was when government agents forcibly removed children from parents for being so derelict as to not send them to government school.  Those were dark days for those of us who chose this model very early.

             Home schooling, as you know, eventually triumphed over the public school extremists, and that's a good thing.  HSLDA was instrumental, if not essential, in carving out the educational freedoms and choice enjoyed today by all Americans, whether you elect to exercise your choice or not.  That war has been largely won.

             The new war is on food freedom.  FTCLDF maintains a 24/7/365 hotline with real time legal counsel for farmers and food sellers facing threats and intimidation from over-zealous food police.  Whether it's a local health department official, inspector, or federal agent, harassment and tyranny wreak havoc on food options and small business.  Here at Polyface, we've used FTCLDF several times and it helps level the playing field in negotiations and citations.

             I don't know another organization doing more to stand in the gap of an otherwise industrial-government fraternity juggernaut that seems determined to  marginalize and criminalize traditional food commerce.  Offering pro-bono or greatly reduced legal representation to us peasant farmers gives us some savvy in what otherwise would be an unchecked food choice assault.

             The FTCLDF mantra is simple:  protecting the right to obtain the food of your choice from the source of your choice.  When SWAT teams enter a home and confiscate food, or when a health department bureaucrat misinterprets a code and throws your eggs out of a restaurant, FTCLDF defends.  And since this is the specialty of their partner attorneys, they don't have to spend days researching.  Often the legal advice can come in minutes over the phone.  It truly is astounding.

             Most of you know I'm extremely hesitant to endorse an organization.  I never sit on a boards of directors.  I like to be friends with everyone and guard my independence religiously.  But FTCLDF is that rare outfit so noble in its mission that even the most virulent non-joiners among us are compelled to participate.  Whether it's offering herd share templates to acquire raw milk or negotiating a legal issue with authorities, FTCLDF fights for choice and food freedom.  If you think product variety in the supermarket represents choice and food freedom, you're not paying attention.  And you must be new to these blogs.  I won't delineate the indictments on the supermarket/industrial food system right now; just be assured that the answers to everyone's food concerns do not lie in government-sanctioned fare.

             Pathogens, toxins, nutrient deficiency, artificials and labeling sleight of hand all have answers.  The solutions to these consumer concerns lie around the edges of the food system, those unseen transactions occurring outside the conventional marketplace.  Preserving that freedom-loving and innovating edge requires liberty in commerce, and that's what FTCLDF is all about.

             I hope you'll join me in Graham, North Carolina Sept. 21 for a day of celebration, great food, and fellowship as together we affirm the noble and sacred mission of protecting food freedom.    Register today at <www.farmtoconsumer.org/fallharvestdrive>.  Thank you.

             Did you register yet?

TRUSTWORTHY TESTING

            Test it.  Test it.  Test it.  We hear that all the time to insure food safety.  I'm going to tell one more story from my two days touring poultry micro-processing facilities in Vermont and Massachusetts.

             Part of federal inspection is periodic testing for E. coli and salmonella.  You'd think that would be straightforward.

             But you have to realize that only a handful of labs in the nation do this sort of testing, and 95 percent of it is from the industry.  Just like you get cozy with good customers and friends, the same thing happens in this tight-knit fraternity.

             Industrial poultry processors, inspectors, and testing labs.  Have you ever heard the word collusion?   Anyway, this small operator sent in his test and it failed the standard.

             He sleuthed out the handling of his sample and it turns out the lab left it out at room temperature for 12 hours before running the sample.  It's supposed to be kept at refrigeration or preferably on ice, until the test is run.

             Was this negligence?  Was it sabotage?  Nobody can know, but there is mounting evidence of a push back within this tightly knit fraternity to get rid of small facilities.  They're not considered efficient and they certainly aren't considered macho  You could almost say they're the feminine side of the industry.

             At any rate, when consumer advocates demand regulations for testing, this is the kind of thing that happens in the hinterlands.  So can you trust them?  One small operator in Kentucky sent in a sterile water sample as his chicken sample and it came back supposedly full of E. coli.  Crazy.

             So testing.  It ain't as easy as it sounds.  You can't have testing without trusting, and those of us on the edges of the food movement have zero trust in the system.  What we have is a commodity system and a craft system.  The two are completely incompatible; different goals, different, morals, different values.

             So whenever folks ask for "government oversight" without differentiating the craft from the commodity, it inherently destroys the craft end of the equation.  That's the ugly truth and it should make us all pause before asking for more "government oversight."

             Have you been guilty of asking for indiscriminate additional "government oversight?"  Are you ready to repent?

INSPECTION FARCE

            Anyone who thinks meat and poultry inspection actually makes safe food hasn't been in a processing facility to see what goes on.  Yesterday I toured two of David Schafer's Plant-in-A-Boxes (PIB) with him here in Vermont and Massachusetts.  Founder of Featherman Plucker and quintessential idea man and entrepreneur in the small-scale poultry processing space, he's one of my greatest sources of inspiration.  When we get together, it's heavenly.  I'm flying back home today.

             This is a trip I've wanted to take for some time because at Polyface we're starting to bump our non-inspected poultry exemption that allows us to do 20,000 birds per year.  The reason we've gone this route is because it removes us from the hassle of inspection.  Inspection means a government agent tells you when you can start, when you can stop, what is blemished and what is not.  It requires substantial paperwork and calibration.  But more than that, it doesn't improve anything and puts you under bureaucratic supervision rather than your own personal brand integrity.

             Before anyone retorts "well, not everyone is as honest as you," let me tell you, the system can be gamed a million different ways.  Dishonest people find ways to express dishonesty no matter what you do.  For example, to make sure you have a negative E.coli test, you can just dip the sample birds in pure chlorine.  If you think "getting by" with a traffic violation is fairly easy, you ain't seen nothin' in a processing plant.

             David and I have come away from this quick tour of two of his facilities with more questions than answers.  Both of us are pretty savvy about regulations and both of us travel extensively and listen to the stories of other small operators around the country.  What's obvious is that the stories don't jive.  Clearly, different inspectors have different interpretations of the regulations.

             Same set of rules, but completely different interpretation.  This means procedures that work in one area with one inspector do not work in another area.  The tragedy is that nobody, I mean nobody, is there to hold the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) accountable.  If they write you up with a non-compliance infraction, you dare not complain because if you do, they retaliate.  It's the worst case of emotional extortion you can imagine, and it's ongoing across the country.

             Yesterday we met a new inspector in training and she said the line speeds at the big processors are 1.3 seconds per bird.  Yesterday, in these little facilities, inspectors had 10 seconds or more to examine each bird.  And yes, I watched them miss a lot--fecal contamination on the carcass, etc. Who spotted it and took care of it?  The well-trained employees down the line, that's who.  Their brand reputation was on the line. 

             The amount of anti-microbials used in the industry is nothing short of epic.  The clear prejudice of the FSIS against small plants creates nightmares for small operators.  The testing in a small plant is the same as in a big one, meaning that the percentage of birds sampled is exponentially higher in small facilities.  It's a prejudicial and unfair playing field that protects the biggest players.

             I've said it before but it bears repeating.  When I testified before the U.S. Congress hearings into the meat industry a decade ago, convened by then Congressman Dennis Kucinich, I couldn't believe my ears at what the head of the FSIS said.  He actually touted the progress the FSIS had made in efficiency, measured in pounds of product per inspector hour, due to the fact that so many small facilities had gone out of business.  I didn't know they were inspecting for pounds per hour; I thought it was about food safety.  But his testimony let the cat out of the bag, The real goal of the FSIS is to increase through-put per inspector.  If that doesn't make the FSIS a farce for food safety, I don't know what does.

             Have you ever fallen for the duplicitous idea that we need more "government oversight" to insure food safety?

EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT

            The Guardian this week ran a story about a farmer in Portugal who is re-creating the ancient "montado" system of farming--highly complex integrating trees, grasses, and animals.

             He's been at it now for nearly 20 years so the results are becoming measurable.  He's attracting the attention of mainline ag folks as well as climate change scientists.

             What struck me about his operation, in addition to being in the same vein as what we're doing here at Polyface, is yet another confirmation that solutions must be opposite the problem.  Take any facet of mainline industrial agriculture, and the solution is the inverse.

             Where today's commercial agriculture orthodoxy loves mono-crops and mono-species, we love multi-crops and multi-species. 

             Where today's conventional thinking highly segregates components, including animals from their feed sources, we highly integrate components, putting animals on the same land from which their feed is derived.

             Rather than simplicity, like just corn or beef, we promote complexity.  For sure, that means you have to juggle more pieces, so it's harder, but I argue that the hardness is mitigated by the resiliency of the system.  Who wouldn't trade some complexity to eliminate disease and sickness?  It's a no brainer, and yet most farmers still would rather wake up in the morning wondering what will be sick than what will be happy. 

            Instead of grain being the holy grail, we see perennials as the holy grail.  The more we can move the farming system to trees, grasses, and shrubs that don't need tillage our annual planting, the better.  And remember, all fake meat comes from an  anti-ecology type of thinking.

             The featured farmer, who majored in agriculture in college, never once heard the word ecology.  Can you imagine attending 4 years of college to get an agriculture degree never hearing the word ecology?  It's like medical doctors never hearing the word nutrition.  Sad but true.

             Fertility doesn't come from outside, but from in-situ carbon.  That means the leaves that drop from the trees, manure from animals, and other rotting material is the foundation of soil development rather than chemical fertilizers.  Few people can grasp the magnitude and profound cultural impact of these inversions, but everyone who embraces a regenerative path in food and farming embraces this shift in paradigm.  It's not a little course correction.    It's a complete conversion; upside down.

             Oh, one more thing.  Rather than selling commodities wholesale, he's selling 50 percent of his production directly to consumers.  So he has a meat smoker, a bakery, and other value added infrastructure to take his farm products beyond raw production.  This creates a farm community and economy, where ultimate resilience rests.  Instead of producing a couple of things, he produces a few hundred.  And animals--every ecosystem requires animals.

             This is a guy I can befriend.  We're on the same path, the same mission.  Healing the planet not in isolated government programs and dubious UN grants, but practical entrepreneurial on-the-land implementation of nature's principles.  It's that simple, and it works beautifully.  We really should get started.

             Why do people think the solutions will come from the government and big business?

FIXING WATER

            A couple of days ago I had a contingent of folks from nearby Rockbridge County visit to see how we kept cattle out of riparian areas.  Seems that county has some serious water quality issues stemming from cattle in the streams.

             Steeped in government cost-share programs funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, this group left intoxicated (not sure that's the right word, but it's the only one I can think of right now) about non-government opportunities to protect water.

             Here at Polyface, we lease numerous properties in the area, some of which have participated in these environmentally-lobbied government water protection schemes.  The problem is none of them takes a comprehensive look at the ecology.  It's water engineers looking at streams rather than a strategic eclectic view of the landscape. 

             This is why I do not join environmentalists in lobbying for government cost-share programs for farms--at all.  None of them solves anything, and many actually cause more harm than good.  A quick look at government program paradigms is revealing:

             1.  No portable infrastructure.  Everything must be stationary.  Mobility does not accrue to real estate value; the government will not support measures that don't inherently increase real estate value.  The result is lots of concrete and extremely expensive installations.

             2.  No open water development.  Open water (like ponds) attracts wildlife, which is a liability to farming (ducks could carry in avian influenza, for example).  Water development, therefore, must be wells or underground.  These are expensive, opaque, and do not increase the hydrologic commons.

             3.  Permanent physical fences.  Again, we're back to real estate.  Cheap and easily maintained electric fence does not accrue to real estate value; only permanent physical fencing does.  This high maintenance and high capitalization solution intimidates farmers, who generally aren't stupid.

             4.  No relationship between riparian and the greater landscape.  Grazing management, plowing, and overall biomass development for erosion and run-off abatement does not enter the discussion.  Intervention procedures  affect only the water courses, which is highly myopic.

             5.  Cost-shared infrastructure does not facilitate managed grazing; it actually requires continuous grazing, which results in overgrazing and destroyed landscapes.  The water flow to these drinking stations is so slow that it will not handle a grouped mob of cattle; these drinking systems only work with continuous grazing, which is horrible for the land.

             While environmentalists who lobby for cost-share riparian intervention in agriculture mean well, they have no clue that this is what actually gets implemented on the ground.  None of it works; none of it really moves the needle.  Whenever we rent a piece of land where these systems have been installed, at great taxpayer subsidization, we put in our own functional system at perhaps a tenth the price.

             And so it was a real joy to promote low cost electric fence, highly managed grazing, increased biomass production, increased organic matter, pond development, carbon economies and composting to this group.  Once they saw it, they got it and are now believers in a better-than-government way.  Nov. 19 they're hoping to get 400-500 people to hear my presentation about these things, and they're hoping at least a handful of farmers will attend.

             Have you assumed environmental lobbying for government money to assist farmers in riparian protective measures was on the up and up?  Did you know about these anti-ecology prejudices in the design and spending of these monies?


RENEWABLE ENERGY VERSUS LIVING SIMPLY

 

            An op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal last week by energy tech expert and author Mark Mills questions the entire renewable energy agenda as incorrect.  Just a couple of tidbits will help set the flavor.

             If Paris accord solar goals are reached, by 2050 disposal of solar panels will be twice as much weight as today's global plastic waste stream.  Fabricating one normal battery for an electric car requires mining 500,000 pounds of material--both the usable and unusable.

             A wind turbine costs 900 tons of steel and 2,500 tons of concrete, not to mention 45 tons of nonrecyclable plastic.  The column continues in this ilk prophesying environmental, political, and economic hardship going toward a solar and wind power future. 

             This is another one of those debates missing the most important points.  The more important point is what is getting suppressed.  In the late 1960s numerous folks developed 100 mpg carburetors; each was bought out by either petroleum companies or car manufacturers and the patents or ideas shelved.  To kills these breakthroughs is unconscionable.  In earth justice, it's certainly criminal.

             Today, numerous geniuses are developing major energy breakthroughs, many of them literally in basements and garages, but they don't attract investors for one reason or another.  I've met some of them in my travels; I'm not at all concerned that we're going to run out of energy.  Goodness, 40 years ago a farmer set a little windmill on his farm pond to run an electrolysis machine to separate hydrogen from oxygen.  He ran his whole farm on hydrogen.  The exhaust?  Water.

             Another fellow developed a turn-key wood-fired steam engine.  That's what I want.  You get charcoal, incentivized biomass stewardship, in-situ reliance and heat all at the same time.  What's not to love?  But alas, he couldn't punch through costly manufacturing in the U.S. and was held up trying to get it done in India. 

             The world is literally awash in decentralized doable options like this that simply aren't getting traction.  I'm not opposed to solar or wind, but their intermittence and environmental cost, like this op-ed piece points out, is enormous.  Why not use tree leaves as solar panels?

             Micro-hydro.  Dig ponds to stop flooding and slowly drain them through little turbines.  Hydrate the landscape.  The problem with putting all our money in one thing, like solar panels or windmills, is that it keeps us from developing democratized, localized, customized, decentralized solutions in our backyards.

             The second point is how much can be done by simply living simply.  Stay home.  Grow food.  Enjoy cooking.  Forget fashion.  Growing tomatoes is certainly as exciting as kicking a ball.  Who needs Hollywood?  Who needs Las Vegas?  Who needs McDonald's?  Who needs factory farms?

             Simplification and intentionalization can certainly compete with renewable energy.  Lots of little lifestyle changes add up to major energy savings.  I remember reading an article about the imbedded cost of a new car.  The gist was that unless you had a 50 mpg car that lasted a million miles, it was far and away environmentally better to buy a used gas guzzler and squeeze more use out of all that imbedded energy.  Fabricating a new car takes more energy than all the gas that car will burn in its lifetime.  So drive your old car another two years.

             If you come and visit our farm, you won't see solar panels.  I'm not opposed to them.  At the same time, I appreciate the rare earth metals and all the mining and then the waste stream imbedded in them.  I'm waiting for my wood-fired steam engine.  We can put men on the moon, but we can't build a simple turn-key wood-fired steam engine?  Really?  Meanwhile, wildfires burn enough U.S. biomass each year to power the entire country.  Let's harness it, along with a cadre of other things.

             What have you done to reduce energy use?

FOOD AS CURE

            Yesterday a mid-60s couple from Lynchburg came into our farm store and told me their story.  While I've heard countless of these, I never tire of them.

             Two years ago the husband was diagnosed with diabetes.  His wife had a rare kidney ailment.  These issues drove them into nutrition and they did a 180 turn in their food.  They quit drinking soda, quit shopping in the center aisles of the supermarket, eliminated junk food and highly processed items.

             Within 120 days, he completely reversed his diabetes diagnosis and she had no more kidney issues.

             They feel fantastic, each lost 30 pounds.  They have a sparkle in their eyes and a spring in their steps that is palpable. They were delightful to talk to and I considered it an honor to have them in the store.

             The end of the story, though, is a proverbial bummer.  They have relatives with the same issues, but nobody will listen to their story.  These relatives keep going to the doctor, the pharmacy, the orthodoxy.  "We've showed them an alternative.  Why?" the couple pleaded.

             If I had the answer to that, I'd be running circles around Tony Robbins.  But it is indeed the question of the ages, isn't it?  Change is scary.  Going against orthodoxy takes courage.  Being a maverick is lonely.  I can think of a hundred excuses why the less-traveled path, or the path to truth, is not crowded. 

             As I told them, most folks are happy as long as beer is in the fridge, the NFL is on TV, and the Kardashians are still on the cover of People magazine.  That means all is well and right in the world.  It's maddening but it's true.

             And so what do we do?  We lead by example.  We tell our stories--someone will listen (not many, but some).  We learn more so we can teach better.  And we cheerlead the folks who dare to break new ground.  We must be the wind beneath their wings. 

             This is why I have trouble getting worked up about health care, drug prices, and all the other brouhaha surrounding modern wellness--or lack thereof--in America.  Of course policy can make one path easier than the other.  But all of us seeking truth must realize that our path will never be orthodox.  It will be on the lunatic fringe; that's where we'll find answers.  This couple's story simply illustrates for the umpteenth time that solutions come from personal decisions.

             We don't have a health care crisis, Bernie.  We have a food crisis--both what we produce and how we eat.  Unless and until we deal with that, we'll never solve the current personal and statistical nightmare.

             That's why freedom is so important.  The more government injects itself into decisions, either through regulations, incentives, or information, the harder it is for folks to extricate themselves from mob-think.  The smaller the government, the less it's injected into our lives, the more liberty we have to personally think; therein lies the great advantage of freedom.

             Have you healed a disease with unorthodox methods?