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?

MICHAEL, FAITHFUL COMPANION

            We finished our fourth and final Polyface Intensive Discovery Seminar Saturday.  The 2-day, 6-meal intensives will not be offered next year due to hosting the first ever on-farm Mother Earth News Fair July 17-18.  I'm told that hotel rooms in Staunton are already being booked out solid for that weekend, even though tickets to the event won't go on sale until after the first of the year.

             One of the highlights of this seminar is a hay ride trip part way up the mountain on the back side of our farm where we  have 400 acres of upland Appalachian hardwood forest.  We have pig pastures, acorn glens, lots of forestry projects, and permaculture style ponds that feed our 8 miles of gravity-flow water piping all over the farm.

             For more than a decade, our faithful white angel guardian dog, Michael, has faithfully taken this trip with us.  He comes along on every single trip, scampering all over the woods along the road, chasing rabbits, sniffing for squirrels, and lounging with the group whenever we stop.  As soon as we go to the next teaching area, however, he's back at it, dancing exuberantly alongside the tour, like chief of security in a king's entourage.

             He's now about 15 years old and we've seen a marked decrease in physical activity over the last year.  Here at Polyface, for our 15,000 visitors a year, Michael is a fixture.  He's one in a million because although he's an aggressive guardian dog, he's unbelievably personable with adults and children.  He often accompanies school groups as well, prancing alongside.

             In his prime, he could run 37 miles an hour.  I know because I raced alongside him with the 4-wheeler once and that's what the speedometer said.  One time we were processing chickens and watched him take a ground hog out in the pasture.  He leaped and grabbed that critter in his massive jaws, flinging blood and body juices in one of the most violent hunting exchanges I've ever had the privilege to watch.  It was awesome; raw prowess.

             Saturday morning I wasn't sure he was going to come.  Everyone got on the wagons and he stayed put, but as we pulled away, he slowly rose to his feet and ambled along behind.  As we approached the last field before heading into the woods, he stretched out and ran at full speed about 200 yards up the field so everyone could see him.  That was his only run that day.  Several times he couldn't keep ahead of the tractor and stepped aside, then followed along behind.  That's a first and I knew this would be his last seminar accompaniment.

             As the full import of that struck me, I was in full emotional meltdown by the time we stopped at the pig pasture in the woods and I turned off the tractor ignition so I could address the group.  Michael caught up to us, quickly crawled under the hay wagon, and lay down.  His mind and eyes danced like usual, but his body just couldn't scamper any more.

             When I turned to address the group, it was one of those vulnerable moments when the reality that his dancing days alongside our seminar hayride would not happen again.  We will not resume these seminars until 2021, and by that time I'm sure we will give him a final pat and thank him for many years of care and attention.  He's never failed us.  When I spoke to the group, I just broke down and wept, knowing this was a final journey. As I write this through tears, unable to see the laptop screen, my heart breaks for what he was, but I'm full for having been ministered to for these many years by such a faithful companion.

             When people accuse me of being a murderer for raising livestock, or say that I cannot express love because I eat meat, they do not know the relationship we have with our animals.  All the relationships are respectful and appreciative.  But Michael is on another level and I will miss his white ghost scampering up and down through the trees along our mountain trip.  He has been a faithful friend.

             Have you ever met Michael at Polyface?

Image courtesy of our 2019 intern @redemptionfarmer on Instagram

FAKE MEAT VERSUS FEED LOTS

            A reader wrote me a couple of days ago in a quandary about whether it's better to eat fake meat or feedlot beef.  She pointed out that the statistics and selling points of fake meat accentuate the feedlot model.

              In debate, a favorite argument is to withhold alternatives.  If I want you to agree with me, withholding options gives me a leg up on winning the argument.  If you have to choose between only two things I can paint one side beautifully and the other side horribly.  As long as only two options exist, you'll tend to side with me.

             This is exactly the tactic the fake meat crowd is using.  Don't fall for it.  It's a debate technique as old as argumentation.  The fake meat crowd compares itself only to industrial chemical feedlot beef, for example.  Or factory chickens.  It does not compare itself to pastured models or grass finishing.

             This creates a skewed option portfolio and pushes people toward accepting fake meat.  Don't fall for it.  A third option exists and that's the one that makes more nutritional and ecological sense.  It's silly to get caught up and invest emotional energy in debating just the two options.  It's the proverbial devil or the witch question.

             But the third option of mob stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization changes the debate entirely.  That's the discussion that needs to happen, but of course neither the fake meat nor factory farmed meat  crowd wants that option discussed.  The factory meat folks want to argue straight up with fake meat.  And vice versa.

             So when we step into the debate with a third option, it throws a monkey wrench in everyone's strategy.  How fun. 

             In our everyday discussions on this topic, keep in mind that it's not real meat versus fake meat.  It's pastured, GMO-free, authentic meat versus fake meat.  The distinction is important and real.  That way, all the data points disparaging real meat can be discarded and you'll be in a much better position to argue.  At each point in the debate, ask "is that factory meat or authentic meat?" 

             Of course, the person spouting off fake meat messaging bullets won't have a clue, but it'll give you an opening to discuss the real issue.  The real issue is does our food actually produce human wellness and ecological wellness.  That's the real issue. 

             Have you dbated someone over fake meat recently?

 P.S.   If you like these blog posts, please send them on to your friends.  Let's make this blog as well read as the Kardashians'.  Wouldn't that be cool?


NIGERIAN ROYALTY

            Yesterday I had a wonderful visit from His Majesty King of Benue (pronounced Benway) state in Nigeria and his wife, the Queen.  Benue is one of 37 states in Nigeria,  Africa's most populated country.  He had two attendants and she had one and they spent a little more than 3 hours here at Polyface.

             Interestingly, over the weekend, we had another Nigerian from Plateau state, just north of Benue, attending our two-day intensive discovery seminar.  What are the chances?  And even more interestingly, both of them told the same story. 

             As Morocco and Lybia in northern Africa desertify, the traditional herdsmen are heading south with their livestock seeking forage.  That puts them into Nigeria.  The nomadic herders traditionally have been Muslim while the non-nomadic farmers and small business folks tend to be non-Muslim. 

             Over the years, the Muslims have controlled the national government while non-Muslims control state and local governments.  Nigeria has no local or state police.  It would be like the only law enforcement in the U.S. being the FBI, for example.  That means if you're a locality and thugs come in that are friends of the national government, you get short shrift. 

             Although Nigeria does not allow gun ownership, the national government has no problem with their buddy Muslim herdsmen carrying rifles.  While disarming the locals, the national authorities either wink or outright arm the Muslim herdsmen.  The result is escalating clashes between these herdsmen and the non-nomadic folks, who are being slaughtered and pushed into friends' towns.

             All of this puts pressure on the friends who try to take in their terrified refugee nearby folks.  The instability means nobody wants to invest in business or take care of resources.  Many think the country is on the bring of civil war.  This story was consistent from both of these Nigerians who spent time with us in the last few days.

             Both of them came to Polyface looking for answers for their people.  It was heartening and heartbreaking at the same time.  I've never figured out how a place that grows bananas, pineapples, avocados, oranges, grapefruit and papaya could ever have any problems--that just sounds like paradise.  Why doesn't everyone just sit around eating bananas and pineapples?  But I digress.

             The exciting thing about their visit was that both left energized, believing that Polyface methods could actually alleviate the crisis and suffering in Nigeria.  In the tropics, pathogens are far more rampant than in more temperate areas; it's always hot and often wet.  The controlled animal movement they witnessed here at Polyface was epiphanal for them.  The idea that they could break virulent pathogens by controlled movement had never entered their minds, but they saw immediately its efficacy.  If you think American livestock gets shots and drugs, you ain't seen nothing until you go to Africa.  At every stop, every herd, every flock, they were incredulous that we did not use drugs.

             I explained that in a village where the chickens run loose, through the squat pots, through the houses, down the sewer and across the road, the solution is simply electrified poultry netting to give controlled movement.  They agreed.  And the cows.  Goodness.  They were mesmerized at our fat cows that grow twice as fast as theirs.  But ours get a new salad bar every day, lush forage that's been allowed to rest for a few weeks from the last grazing so it can recover.  The result is tons more biomass and carbon sequestration.

             These Nigerians thought these models could create enough abundance for their people to live in harmony, not fighting over exploited and diminishing resources.  What's more, all of our Polyface models and infrastructure were completely applicable and doable in their context.   Simple mobile structures.  Carbon driven.  Small machines and affordable processing equipment.  I've always said that one of the truth benchmarks is if a model works equally in developed and undeveloped cultures.  Yesterday proved the axiom.

             As we said our goodbyes, we all had full hearts for future prospects.  The King asked Teresa and I if we'd come over to the palace on holiday.  Maybe we will.  I'll just eat bananas and pineapples.

             Have you ever entertained a king and queen?

DRINKING 150 GALLONS OF WATER  A DAY

            The website Visual Capitalist carried a story recently forwarded to me by a wanna-be farmer titled "Next Generation Food Systems."  Although the article is a bit dated (2017) it's a perfect example of the pseudo-science used to promote vertical farming (soilless systems) and lab proteins (fake meat).  In the article, they call it "in vitro" meat.

             This crowd keeps repeating the silliest statistic in the world:  each pound of beef takes 1,847 gallons of water.  Most people don't realize that this figure includes the water used in mining the steel to make the tractor to plant the corn to feed the cow.  They think this is what a cow drinks in a lifetime.  Grass-finished changes everything.

             The misleading data plus the duplicitous consumer make for incredibly misinformed, foolish decisions.  Let's assume a beef animal lives for 3 years prior to slaughter.  That's 1,095 days.  Each animal yields about 400 pounds of edible beef.

If we multiply that by the alleged 1,847 gallons of water per pound, that's 738,800 gallons of water in a lifetime, or 674 gallons per day.  If the average weight of the animal over its 3 years is about 674 pounds, that's a gallon per pound per day.

             An equivalent consumption for a person would be a gallon per pound per day; a 150 pound person would drink 150 gallons per day.

             Interestingly, the fake meat crowd does not include the same steel to make the tractor to plant the soybeans when they compare the two systems.  And they don't compare quality of protein to quality of protein.

             In my debate a couple of weeks ago with John Mackey, he admitted that nothing but meat would give the complete protein profile needed by the human body, but quipped "that's why you take a pill."  Now I want you to think about that.  Here's the founder of Whole Foods--whole foods, get it?--and advocate of whole foods--you know, whole foods, like apples, like T-bone steak, like eggs.  Whole foods.  Get it? 

             Here he is brushing off the efficacy of whole foods in favor of a pill.  If that isn't the height of hypocrisy I don't know what is.  "Hello, folks, I'm here to advocate for whole foods.  In fact, I named my business Whole Foods.  I believe in whole foods, okay?  But  you shouldn't buy the beef I sell; you should take a pill instead." 

             Truth is stranger than fiction, folks.  You can't make this stuff up.  Of course, the anti-meat crowd does not appreciate the hydration capacity of herbivore-enhanced and pruned perennial forages.  True, most domestic livestock is raised atrociously, but that is no reason to assume it all has to be raised that way, or that some folks are able to raise beef that gives back more water than it takes.

             So next time you see this thing about a pound of beef requiring 1,847 gallons of water, ask the person brainlessly repeating the number:  "do you know any mammal, including humans, who could drink a gallon of water per pound of body weight every day?"  Once you get them to appreciate the silliness of the data point, then you can zero in on what's included, if it's fair, and if it has to be.  Then you can have a discussion.  But too many sheeple are following this foolishness into what they think is a noble future and they're going to end up with compromised wellness (also known as sickness).  All in the name of doing good.  All while listening to subjective science.

             What's a better name for this stuff than "Fake Meat?"

 SOY-FREE CHICKEN

            This week we processed our first batch of soy-free chicken.  One thing about small business is that it usually is more responsive to market requests.  This one has been brewing for some time and we're finally glad to offer a soy-free option.

             More and more people are hyper-sensitive to soy anything.  And some folks think it has estrogens that are detrimental.  Here at Polyface, we have always used the full soybean, not pieces.  Most soy used in feed stocks is just the dry meal, with all the oils and fats stripped out.  We believe whole foods behave differently than pieces, but still appreciate customer concerns.

             A two-year study commissioned by the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association on the estrogen issue revealed that the highest amounts were in pastured chickens allowed to eat clover.  Anyone who has raised a chicken on pasture knows that clover is the chickens' number one forage.  To exclude clover is intuitively insane and here at Polyface would require not allowing chickens to be on pasture at all since our clover ratios are so high.

             But soy as allergen is a relatively new issue.  Nearly all folks who have this seem to get along fine with our chicken, perhaps because the birds do eat so much clover and grass that it detoxifies anything--chlorophyll is nature's number one toxin cleanser.  But occasionally someone will still react to our chicken and of course, some folks don't even want to flirt with the issue.  So here's an answer.

             One of the big problems is substituting a high protein for the soybean.  The birds need protein and can't develop properly with just starch--kind of like human omnivores.  Fortunately, smarter people than us have wrestled with this issue for awhile and developed an alternative, but it takes three things to compensate:  flax seed oil, fish meal, and field peas.  Unfortunately, none of this comes from local sources like the soybeans, but that's the compromise to get the soy out.

             Our local soybeans are not genetically modified and are tested for toxin residue like herbicide and pesticide; they're really clean soybeans and I find it hard to demonize a whole food.  But allergens do exist, I think primarily because our food sources are imbalanced.  Australian Aborigines ate some 3,000 different things.  Native Americans had an equally wide array of dietary options.  Today, we moderns have narrowed down this diversity to about 20 things and that simplification no doubt adds to the allergen burden.

             Fortunately, pastured chickens get to eat bugs, a host of different forage components from grasses, to clovers to forbs and greatly complex their diet versus birds in factory confinement.  We can enjoy chicken with a much more diverse blend of diet than the industrial bird.  That comes at Polyface whether you're eating soy-free birds or our traditional soybean-protein bird.  It means that you get a much more diversified food base through our chicken than factory chicken, organic or otherwise (most organic is still factory housed and never sees outside).

             This offering is a test of the market.  We respond to patron chatter and the question is will this chatter turn into sales.  In order to offer a separate inventory item like this, we need enough sales to justify it.  If we only sell a couple hundred, it's not viable to maintain a separate freezer compartment, separate sales category and all the elements required in a separate item. 

             So now's the time to step up if the dear old soybean has been holding you back due to perceptions, allergens, or whatever.  We encourage you to try this bird and see how it speaks to your body.  Then tell us.  Thank you.

             Have you heard of the soy-free movement?

MCDONALD'S INCREASING

            I always laugh when people at a well-attended foodie event or sustainable agriculture conference ask if our side is winning.  I always say "when McDonald's goes bankrupt, you'll know we're winning."

             To illustrate just how far away we are from winning, McDonald's just announced that it plans to add 1,200 stores this year.  Did you get that number?  Should I say it again?  Say it slowly. 1,200.  That's right.  In fact, first quarter sales are up 5.7 percent compared to the same period last year.

             In these blogs, we talk about poisons, Monsanto, GMOs, Paleo, Weston A. Price Foundation,  Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, growing soil, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations--you get the drift.  By and large, none of these millions of McDonald's patrons has ever heard of any of these things, much less given them any thought.  We are a long way from winning.

             I'd like to have just one diner that served authentic food.  I feel like David Copperfield holding his little dish and in that quivering voice asking "More, sir?"

And the orthodox industrial food system bellows back:  "Did you hear him?  He wants more!"   I just want one.  Is that too much to ask? 

             I haven't stepped into a McDonald's in probably 40 years or more.  If everyone purchased food like me, they wouldn't even exist.  Can you imagine a world without McDonald's?  No Ronald.  No Happy Meals.  No golden arches.  In his iconic book FAST FOOD NATION, Eric Schlosser pegged McDonald's as the number one driver of the industrial food system and I believe he's right. 

             Just like my heart breaks for the abused land in orthodox farming, my heart breaks for all those abused children allowed to eat junk at McDonald's.  Amazing that we sue against bathroom access but not against parents who let their children eat McDonald's.  As Paul Harvey used to say:  "We worry about the wrong things, you know."

             My disdain of this American iconic eatery illustrates how out of step I am with mainstream America.  I'm so out of step I'm going backwards.  Where is the political candidate who will stand up and say "1,200 more McDonald's eateries are a blight, a scab on our national landscape?"  My heart breaks for a culture that is this profoundly out of touch with our ecological umbilical, the plight of factory farm animals, the destruction of our soils and water.

             What's the one thing McDonald's franchises are begging for?  A better chicken sandwich.  How about starting with an honest respected chicken?

             How long have you abstained from McDonald's?

PROTEIN

            Too many dietary and policy discussions center around calories.  We're not lacking calories.  For all the hoopla about food insecurity, we have more people overweight and suffering obesity problems than suffer from hunger.  In fact, if you actually visited the folks who are "food insecure" you'd be amazed how many are obese.  Getting enough calories is not a problem.

             Calories are cheap.  Starch, carbohydrates, and sugars are cheap.  Protein is expensive, especially good protein.  By far and away the most digestible complete protein is animal-based.  Only 13 of the essential 22 amino acids can be manufactured by our livers; the other 9 have to come from food.  Interestingly, according to  Professor Janelle Walter at Baylor University, "If you put a nut or legume with a grain product, they complement each other to give the body what it needs.  But you have to eat a heck of a lot of food if you get your protein from plants versus animal products.  Meat is just more efficient."

             A Wall Street Journal article examining this issue quotes her as advising "two meat patties the size of the palm of an average adult's hand are the right amount of protein to eat a day."  How's that for objective and definite?  I guess if your palms are really big, you need more.  I actually don't know if this is a standard agreed on by most dieticians, but it certainly is different than that proposed by the Eat Lancet and the anti-animal crowd, so I'll take it.

             She points out that anima-only protein would require a lot more food.  For example, just equally a 3 ounce piece of beef requires one and a half cups of rice and beans--that's a lot of rice and beans.  Talk about farts causing global warming.

             What's your favorite animal protein?

Polyface WhatsGood Introduction

            If you live or work in selected areas around Washington D.C. you're privileged because wellness food is on its way conveniently, economically, and authentically. 

             WhatsGood work wellness food program is coming to Arlington, Alexandria, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and Richmond in partnership with Polyface Farms, America's premier pastured livestock farm located in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.  Over the last 5 years, WhatsGood pioneered a brand new buyer-centric platform to source local integrity food hyper-conveniently.

             Teaming up with businesses committed to employee wellness, this farm-food-fork interface offers authentic vetted sourcing from a cadre of artisanal producers, circumventing the cost, opaqueness, and staleness of more orthodox interfaces.  Turning businesses and their teams into whole-outfit wellness investors patronizing nearby farms solves a multitude of frustrations and facilitates wins for all involved.

             Like other food craft farmers around the U.S., Polyface historically conceived and operated a farm-centric universe offering spokes of access out to customers. 

This has become less efficient.  With an inverted patron-centric approach, the customer is the hub and Polyface, along with complementary farmers, are the outside of the wheel.  Such a revolutionary model solves many direct marketing logistics issues.  WhatsGood innovations prototyped in Rhode Island with great success can now be enjoyed here in Virginia. 

             Polyface is giddy about teaming up with an outfit that brings unprecedented service experience to our table, for both producers and patrons.  People who have wrestled with the difficulty of participating in higher quality food sourced locally will find this new platform gratifying and affirming.  Employers desperate to help their team eat better will endear themselves to their staff and community.

             This is the first effort to duplicate WhatsGood's success in Rhode Island elsewhere.  Polyface is honored to guinea pig the arrangements and relationships that can replicate throughout the country.  Our shared success can catalyze perhaps thousands of additional farmers and integrity food buyers throughout America.  Bringing more nutrient dense, life-bursting, land healing, community-centric food to America's kitchens is a sacred mission worth our investment.

             Polyface Farm thanks you for being part of our health and foodscape solution.  We look forward to a long and rewarding relationship.  To support local producers like Polyface Farms in RI, Boston, and now VA, download the free WhatsGood app. Bring Wellness Food to your office by contacting Erin Tortora at 401-595-7516 or erin@sourcewhatsgood.com."

 

 

HOW NATURAL?

            We're in the throes of our Polyface Intensive Discovery Seminars which are 2-day, 6-meal dawn-to-dusk learning sessions here at Polyface.  We had our first cohort Monday and Tuesday, with 12 people from foreign countries.  Fascinating and wonderful group.

             One farmer was from Washington State, where elk have been encouraged by radical environmentalists for some time.  This farm raises grass-finished cattle; I've been there and they do a great job.  Their pastures are way better than average both in volume and quality.  So guess where the elk go?

             You got it.  The elk expense on this one farm is $60,000 per year.  This farmer could hardly say the word "elk" without spitting.  When I told her similar efforts in Virginia have germinated a relocated herd just 100 miles south of us, she said we'd better get busy right now and try to eliminate their spread because they will destroy a good farm.

             We know elk were here 500 years ago.  Repopulating their full range sounds sweet and innocent to many folks.  Unlike deer, they tear down electric fences and their size means they eat copious amounts of forage.  On our farm, we must harvest about 20 deer per year just to keep the population compatible.

             Elk are far bigger, more destructive, and some would argue, much easier domesticated.  Or at least, more willing to inject themselves closer into the human arena than a deer.  At any rate, this kind of real farmer assessment needs to be appreciated for its credibility and impact.

             Yes, there were elk here.  But cities weren't here.  Or Starbucks,  Or the mall, or roads or cars or computers.  My problem with the going back to pre-European crowd is that they're pretty selective about what we're going back to.  They drive their cars to a rally to repopulate the countryside with wolves or elk or whatever.

             The truth is that the nature of nature has changed.  The nature of our nature; the nature of our context is different.  A herd of 7 million bison tearing across the soccer field during a game would be pretty disruptive.  Certainly I want to be as natural as possible, but I also appreciate that you can't go back comprehensively.  We're not giving up our roads, phones, and electric lines.  We have to appreciate that some ancient things are compatible and some aren't. 

             I'll tell you what; how about we go back before the Internal Revenue Service?  That changed a lot of things, including the viability of an elk-populated farmscape.  Or if we bring back the elk, how about open season on hunting?  If you want them on your place, don't hunt them; feed them instead.  Fragile chicken shelters, electric fencing and a host of lightweight mobile infrastructure we use on our farm simply doesn't fit with all the nuances of a pre-modern era.  The problem is that many people who enjoy being labeled "naturalists" lobby for laws and policies and efforts that actually militate against pastured livestock viability.  Therein lies a great disconnect, and one I try to close every day.

             We all know things don't happen in isolation.  Something as ecology-altering as re-introducing elk has ramifications far more numerous than just elk.  We need to think about unintended consequences on both the biological and industrial side of the farming equation.

             Do you want to see elk in Virginia?

WE COULD BE AS BIG AS ELEPHANTS IF WE QUIT EATING MEAT

            I've been in a funk since last Friday, when I debated John Mackey at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas on the topic:  "EATING MEAT IS UNHEALTHY AND UNETHICAL."

             The  crowd, where Mackey (founder of Whole Foods) is a bit of an icon, took great umbrage that I would disparage Mackey as either a hypocrite, liar, or greedy for making millions of dollars selling meat that he said was unhealthy and unethical.  It would be like a casino owner later in life saying gambling was immoral--would you believe him?

             Mackey took it as a personal affront and many other folks did too.  Apparently the whole topic, telling me I want to hurt and kill people, is not a personal affront.  He kept shaking his head in disappointment about how sad I was to bring up the practical disparity:  "So sad, Joel, you're just so sad."   He defended himself by suggesting that his morality was big enough to embrace the topic but still sell poison to people.  I wish I could get a dab of that morality.

             Be that as it may, here is what came out of his side during the debate:

             1.  Lettuce is more nutrient dense than steak, by like 4 times.

             2.  Eating a pet cat is morally equivalent to a commercially-raised chicken--anyone who would eat a chicken would also eat a pet cat.

             3.  "Heavy meat diets" are identical to eating one bite of meat a year (the topic was quite simple, not making any qualifications for quantity, time, or place).

             4.  No difference exists, for health or ethics, between pasture-raised, GMO-free animals versus those raised with antibiotic stimulants and housed in concentrated animal feeding operations.

             5.  Most of the biggest and strongest beings on earth don't eat meat (elephants, gorillas, whales).  His point was that humans could be like that too if we ate like them. 

             6.  The resolution simply means we should think about what we're eating for lunch.  That's all.  No more, no less.

             At the beginning of the debate, 9 people in the crowd agreed with the resolution.  At the end, 17 people agreed so I was officially declared the loser.  Now I ask you, are these convincing arguments?  If I had not said a single word, would these arguments have changed your mind?  Do all of them have anything to do with the resolution? 

 

            I've been in a funk.   Given the simple resolution:  "Eating meat is unhealthy and unethical" would these arguments convince you to agree? 

SOCIAL MEDIA BLUES

            May I have a moment to rant about social media?  Those of you who follow this blog know that Polyface is trialing an idea with Tai Lopez, entrepreneurial guru to millenials.  His brand is being worked out, but the working idea right now is Farmers' Box and the plan is to create a multi-product, multi-farm direct sales platform to circumvent supermarkets so the efficiency savings can go to farmers rather than warehouses.

             In its discomfiting infant stage, of course, any embryonic entrepreneurial endeavor is rife with land mines.  So we're poking around this beast a little at a time.  Last week, one of our interns came to us with the revelation that Farmers' Box had posted a picture of me standing with a flock of chickens with the caption:  "Joel Salatin doesn't feed any grain to any of his animals."

            Nothing could be further from the truth.  While it's true that our cattle (herbivores) receive no grain, our omnivores (pigs and chickens) certainly do.  Local GMO-free, to be sure, but grain nonetheless.  They can't live on grass alone.

             After a couple of days in a flurry of sleuthing, we learned that this is a complete imposter.  Someone hijacked the  appearance of the website, glummed onto it as a "Tai affiliate" and began putting feloniously dishonest things out there.

             In fact, it links directly to Tai's talks and gives all appearances of being his site.  A couple of years ago we had somebody do the same thing to our Polyface website.  And then somebody did the same thing to me, creating social media accounts as if it were me and posting all sorts of crazy stuff.  The irony of all this is that these are not enemies trying to sabotage; they are genuine well-meaning millenials who are just so excited and passionate and oh my, this is so cool, like it's awesome, like let's tell the world, OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!

             People wonder why I'm such a fuddy duddy that I don't have a smart phone; my brand new flip phone goes 3 days on a charge and works very well--AS A FLIPPIN' PHONE!  My takeaway from this latest fiasco is this:

             1.  Social media has no class.  In general, it's a frenzy to barbarism.

             2.  Half of what you see on the internet is false.  It's so hard to verify and so easy to lie, cheat, and steal, it's just not a good source of much of anything.

             3.  I will continue to embargo my personal access to Facebook, Instagram, Linked-in or any of the other things people are always soliciting "friendship" with me.  No, I'll be a caveman first.  If that keeps me from being popular, so be it.  At least my ideas will be original.

             4.  Credibility is hard to create and easy to lose--that's always been the case, but the turn-around seems unusually fast these days.

             5.  Visit the freakin' farm.  It's so easy to spout foolishness.  The ease of communication is creating a brand new imperative to invest in personal sleuthing.  Whatever we gained by networking we're losing by the ease of untruth.  So we haven't gained any efficiency; we've just moved our interactions from slow and personal to slow and verifiable. 

             Is all this what we call progress?

FUNNY FAMILY

              This past weekend here at Polyface we hosted a family reunion on the Salatin side, instigated by my Mom's 95th birthday last December.  These were all my first cousins and their families.  My mom is the last remaining member of that initial 5-sibling, 5-spouse WWII generation legacy.

             My dad was the first sibling to pass away, in 1988 at age 66.  Two years later my aunt went also, young and also cancer.  Then things stabilized for a long time until everyone was in their 80s.  So as we sat around and reminisced, my first cousins gravitated to telling stories about our Aunt Alice, who was sister to our shared grandmother--Nellie Salatin.  Those 5 marriages produced 14 first cousins.

             Aunt Alice was a school teacher and quick-witted, the life of every gathering.  So just for fun today, I'll share 4 stories from my great Aunt Alice and hope you enjoy them as much as we all enjoyed them this weekend.

             She drove a huge Chrysler New Yorker after her husband died and my uncle Jim (dad's oldest brother) kept it running for her.  One time after a repair visit she complained that it just wasn't running quite right.  Known for a heavy foot, she surmised to her friends that her nephew had put a governor on it.

             She was pulled over for speeding and the cop asked her why she was going so fast:  "Well, the sign says 80," she replied.  "That's the Interstate--Interstate 80, ma'am," he explained.  She always said that she thought she heard him mumble, as he walked away, "Glad she hadn't gotten over to Interstate 95 yet."

             Another time she was pulled over for speeding.  "Are you in a hurry, ma'am?" the cop inquired good-naturedly?  "Well, sonny, indeed I am, "Aunt Alice replied.  "I'm almost out of gas and needed to get to the gas station before I ran out."

             After her husband, my great Uncle Pae died, she drove her big Chrysler New Yorker each month out to the country cemetery at the Nazarene Church to visit the grave.  I don't remember him but everyone says they had a very happy marriage.  Anyway, on this particular morning it was extremely foggy but she knew the roads and whisked along at her normal rate.  A county deputy saw her fly by and pulled her over.  "Do you know how fast you were going?" he asked.  "Well, no, it was so foggy I couldn't see the speedometer," she shot back.  My understanding is that she never got a ticket in any of these, that her charm and quick answers so unnerved the cops they couldn't bring themselves to give her a ticket.

             Time for one more?  After school one day she received a phone call from an irate parent, accusing:  "How dare you call my son names in the classroom?"

             "Call him names?  Now what do you think I called him?" Aunt Alice queried.

             "He says you called him a scurvy elephant," said the indignant parent.

             "Oh," laughed Aunt Alice.  "I called him a disturbing element."  End of problem.

             Although Aunt Alice has been gone from our lives for 30 years, she lives on in our collective memory.  Every family needs an Aunt Alice.

             Do you have an Aunt Alice?

PLANNING A MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

            Yesterday I spent the day with Andrew Perkins and Robert Riley, the two gurus of Mother Earth News fairs.  Loyal readers of this blog know that July 17 and 18, 2020, Polyface Farm will host the first ever on-farm Mother Earth News Fair.

             I'm secretly hoping for 5,000 folks each day, for a total of 10,000.  So far all the fairs have been held at fairgrounds or commercial spaces like Seven Springs in Pennsylvania.  None has ever been held on a farm.

             After huddling all day, we parted excited that it will be do-able and will actually happen.  Back when the Polyface-only field days approached 2,000 attendees, we knew we could not continue without a great partner.  Mother Earth News is that partner. 

             Chief Perkins (that's what I call him) has overseen about 50 fairs and his chief lieutenant, Robert, nearly that many.  These guys are unbelievably savvy about the logistics, the public relations, attendee expectations and programming.  Traffic flow, parking, registering walk-ins without slowing entry traffic--these are all critical points in an endless array of choke points.

             But with maps and tape measures in hand, we walked through it, looked at all the shelter spaces, and went through protocols step by step.  While the fair will have the tried-and-true attractions that brand all Mother Earth News fairs, we will offer several decidedly unique experiences that are impossible on fairgrounds.

             Like we can have lots of live fires for making charcoal or Dutch oven cooking.  We can see all the points of interest--moving cows, moving chickens, Millenium Feathernet and pastured pigs.  Expanded workshops in processing, construction, and on-site wild edible plant foraging will make this one of the most interesting and inspiring fairs ever.

             We're expecting more than 300 vendors in the alternative energy, livestock, alternative health care and homesteading fields.  If you've ever wanted to put your hands on the infrastructure and expose your head to self-reliance and do-it-yourself living, this will deliver all of that in spades.  We don't have all the programming nailed down, but by combining the expertise of Mother Earth News with ACRES USA and Stockman Grass Farmer along with Polyface, this promises to be THE place to be in 2020.  If you only attend one ecological living event, this is the one to attend.

             Is this a sales pitch?  Yes and no.  We are not doing this to make money, although we don't expect it to be charity either.  We are doing it for the same reason we started our field days 25 years ago:  to bring more practical vibrancy to a somewhat sterile environment.  You can see things on a power point in a hotel room, of course, but there's nothing like being out on the land, in context, with all the senses engaged, to really get the full-on info-tainment high.  Back then, it was to offer something different than a hotel conference room.  Today, it is to offer something different than a commercial space.

             As we formalize the programming, I'll keep you up to date on developments.  Oh, another reason to try to knock it out of the park--let's show the stodgy orthodoxy that we lunatics aren't as tiny as Wall Street thinks.  We're growing and we're gaining influence.  It's time to get some respect, and a 10,000-person fair on a farm in Swoope would make some naysayers stand up and take notice. 

             How about it?  Are you in?

SNACK FOODS DECLINE

            Nobody knows quite why snack foods are down, but they are and the companies who make them pledge to step up their marketing campaigns to regain lost ground.  So goes the orthodox news analysis.

             Interestingly, the three snack divisions--healthy, savory, sweet--show distinctly different trajectories, according to data compiled by the Wall Street Journal.  Since 2010, healthy rose 10 percent to 2015 and has tumbled 6 percent since.  That's a huge drop.

             Sweet snacks have held fairly steady, declining 4 percent since 2010.  Savory is up 2 percent since 2010.   While the WSJ doesn't dive deeply into the why, one little side note is interesting:  "Competition is stiff.  Shoppers can now choose from an array of smaller brands and private-label snacks."  To me this is a huge tip of the hat to the atomized craft branding movement.

             The point is that small craft brands don't merit tracking and don't register on the radar of industry data.  The companies tracked for this report are Hershey, Hostess Brands, Mondelez, PepsiCo, Kellogg, Campbell Soup, General Mills, Conagra Brands, Hain Celestial and J. M. Smucker.  These are all mainline players, the fraternity of orthodoxy.

             But a growing number of players aren't in that fraternity.  I know our Polyface pork sticks--an incredibly healthy snack food--are not included.  And the fellow we're working with to develop that snack stick, and now a beef snack stick, helps numerous artisanal brands get legal, labeled, and available.  None of these registers in the big player fraternity.

             Far be it from me to oppose WSJ, but I don't see any indication that snack food sales are dropping.  What I see is an industrial data source unable to capture the guerilla activity nibbling around the edges of the status quo.  If I had been writing this story, I would have created a sidebar at least that identified some of the minor players in this space that collectively add up to substantial market share.

             The fact that healthy snacks showed the big dip is further proof that the nonregistered little players are on the attack.  That savory and sweet held fairly steady confirm that the new players coming to this market are not in their sphere; the new players are doubling down on healthier.  That's where the market is.  And the data supports that analysis.

             I think WSJ completely missed the more significant aspect of this analysis by failing to account for unaccounted sales.  By relying on crony mega-businesses, the real story--the rise in micro-brands in the healthy snack sector--was completely missed.  Those of us on the lunatic fringe are used to being uncounted in the mainstream media, and that's just fine because it means we can percolate under the radar, develop our customers and product, without a lot of scrutiny from the empire builders.  That's actually helpful and I'm thankful to be in the uncounted fringe.

             What's your favorite healthy snack?  Hint:  the Polyface pork stick.  ha!

Shipping 2

Can you see my ears pinned back? Not shipping has been a Polyface virtue and to suddenly abandon it seems like dancing with the Devil. To say we’ve created a bit of a tornado here would be an understatement. So first, let me apologize, profusely and publicly, for not rolling out this marketing trial with obligatory finesse. As we’ve watched the backlash, we realize this looks sudden, desperate, and disappointing to many. That is our fault—my fault—partly because we’re so close to the issue and have been wrestling with it for three years and partly because as a farming business, properly manipulating social media is not our forte. So let’s back up.

First, thank you everyone who cares deeply about Polyface integrity and my own integrity as a leader in the local authentic food movement. That so many would critique me on this indicates a protective boundary around my wandering off the reservation. How delightful to know I have a community conscience around me. Thank you.

Second, what we do best here at Polyface is healing the land with caressing management (more earthworms, more pollinators, more biomass, more soil, more water retention) and producing top line authentic meat and poultry. We are not social media savvy, as indicated by the recent Instagram post with me showing off my brand new flip phone. This is the first major innovation we’ve done in a social media space, and we fumbled badly. Stay tuned for the corrections.

Third, we made this decision at least a year ago (more on the angst in future posts) and have simply been waiting for our logistics and technology to enable us to do it. We’ve been telling the world it’s coming in all of our speeches, our spring newsletter, and other venues for a year—but not Instagram. That was a mistake.

Fourth, we see this as nothing more than staying relevant in a changing marketplace where our whole goal is to decrease impediments to getting honest, good food to people, and to testing new ideas that will offer other farmers models to be successful and wrest control of the food system from unsavory agendas. Without the background, context, and a carefully orchestrated buildup, we realize many people—especially our beloved fellow locally-branded farmers—felt betrayed and shocked by this announcement. Again, that’s on me, on us at Polyface.

So now what?

First, you will see several 2 minute videos over the next couple of weeks dealing with the issues surrounding this decision. In keeping with our character, we’ll be real and transparent, walking you through our context.

Second, we will be launching a new initiative in August that will be perceived as the opposite of shipping, but which we hope will offer a new platform for local collaboration between farmers and consumers. This initiative brings an urban-oriented partner into our space that we think could be a “next big thing.”

Third, I am not a pithy sound-bite type of person. I love stories and context—get ‘em in the mood and then hit them with the punch line. In our text-messaging era, this can be off-putting. But for those of you who really want to understand and get to the heart of our “why” on this, I beg you to hang with me through a couple more posts. I’ll do my best to keep them short, but letting the story unfold I think will be rewarding for both of us. For those who don’t care about any of this, fine. But those of you who have reached out—some as cheerleaders and some as vitriolic detractors—I think you’ll find wisdom and heart in these posts.

Enough for now; stay tuned for the next installment. And thank you for caring.

Shipping

Thank you to all who have embraced our decision to begin shipping out of our region. We have struggled mightily with this decision for a couple of years and now it’s finally here. For those of you either angry or just wanting additional background, this post is for you.

Fifty years ago you could not buy a boneless skinless breast . . . anywhere. Then people wanted more convenience, and the market obliged. Polyface did not. But eventually, we heard too often: “I’d buy chicken if you’d offer breasts.” Sales were trending down. We began cutting up and sales went up and we took market share (yes, tiny) away from the big boys and factories. Awesome.

Chipotle came to us and wanted pork. We began supplying the two local restaurants. Then two years ago after all their sanitation and pathogen issues they kicked us out. We lost $100,000 because we had the pigs in the production chain but suddenly no market. We went to 31 pork barbecue vendors within 50 miles offering GMO-free pastured pork at match price (whatever you’re paying from the industry, we’ll match it until our inventory runs out); not one single outfit was interested.

We thought we had an arrangement with UVA dining services last fall; it fell through. We’ve worked with countless outfits over the years; some are gone. Relay Foods was one. We’ve watched them come and go; we don’t plan to be one that goes.

We started hearing from local folks that they no longer would drive on dirt roads. Adios, amigos. And why come to the farm or a drop point when Amazon delivers to your doorstep? So we began a doorstep delivery service this spring, within 50 miles. Fizzled.

The market has changed so dramatically in my lifetime I hardly recognize it anymore. Anyone opposed to this change, let me ask one question: How many Amazon boxes arrive at your doorstep each week?

If your business was making buggy whips in 1915, what would you have done? You see, nostalgia is real cool until it becomes obsolete. Business leaders know that they must re-invent their business about every 8-10 years. Because what got you here won’t get you there.

Forty years ago a “no ship” policy made sense. Amazon did not exist and Polyface was the first game in town. Today, Wal-Mart is the largest purveyor of organics (industrial junk organics, to be sure) and that has flattened sales at farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture, and direct farm sales.

In Staunton, our nearest city, only a couple of restaurants buy Polyface; some say we’re too big and refuse. Others buy a pittance and don’t even put it on the menu. Constant struggle. I’m not whining; I’m stating life as we know it. All of us assume we know the other person’s situation, and that’s always wrong. Meanwhile, our sales are pinched by factory organics via Amazon and Wal-Mart.

For decades we’ve been sending people to their local farmers but too often we hear back “their stuff isn’t as good as yours” or “they won’t scale up big enough to supply a consistent demand.”

As distribution logistics become more efficient and market dynamics morph, Polyface must decide what new hills to die on. We can’t die on every one. Some become silly to die on, and with people a mile away from our farm getting factory organics from Amazon, it’s time to realize the no-ship nostalgia is now obsolete. We are still as committed as ever to local food systems and our prices will always be cheapest and loyalty to local customers always highest here at the farm and in our community. But as production compromise envelopes the organic sector, it’s time to go toe to toe, head to head, with an authentic alternative. And yes, every customer, regardless of where you live, is still welcome at Polyface 24/7/365 anytime to see anything anywhere unannounced. Who do you know who dares to accept that transparency?

ROGUE FOOD CONFERENCE

            Today I have one of the most exciting announcements ever, and since this is independence day celebration week, I can't imagine a more fitting American shindig than this one.

             Jan. 25, 2020, Cincinnati, Ohio, a national ROGUE FOOD CONFERENCE will showcase the latest greatest efforts in food freedom.  Our tagline is CIRCUMVENTION NOT COMPLIANCE.  For the few of you who are unfamiliar with food regulations, be assured that the time has come in this country, unfortunately, where circumventing the law is more doable than complying with the law.

             It's a shame when things get to that point, but that's where we are with big brother government, all in our best interests, of course.  Maine's attempt at a localized Food Sovereignty Ordinance movement has been quashed by the state and federal government.  Cottage food laws are being adopted slowly in states, but they seldom extend to meat and poultry in any meaningful way.

             So here we are, with society craving convenience foods like ready-to-eat but the only ones who can satisfy it are the mega-industrial food corporations who can spread licensing and compliance overheads across millions of pounds and dollars.  The playing field is so prejudicial against scale that the real innovators in the food space--the little guys-- need to innovate ways over, around, and under these malevolent tyrannies.

             By the way, although regulation advocates say they're about food safety, they're more about market access than food safety. I trust a lot more what comes out of our home kitchen than the kitchen at McDonald's.  You can sell the output of one; you can't the other.  I defy anyone to prove that we had more food pathogens and toxicity prior to government intervention.

             Price, availability, and safety all hinge on consumer choice in the marketplace.  Right now, consumers do not have freedom of food choice.  But numerous innovative folks have figured out loop holes to gain neighbor access to food options.  So it is with extreme pleasures and gratitude that I can announce this 2020 ROGUE FOOD CONFERENCE, which will explore and publicize the numerous work-arounds within our heavily regulated food space.

             We'll hear from people who sell pet food.  Some have created a food church.  Some operate under a non-public co-op country club arrangement.  These schemes are highly creative, hated by the food police, and loved by people who, as consenting adults, gratefully enjoy the empowerment of food choice freedom.  When people lament the deplorable state of American food (we lead the world in junk food) too often their only solution is more regulation, from nutrition labeling laws to food temperature requirements to licensing plans.

             But another alternative exists:  it's called freedom.  We've tried top down regulatory oversight to change the food system, only to see it become nutrient deficient, sugar laden and sterile.  It's time to try a bottom up approach with some freedom instead of bureaucracy.  Based on the thousands of farmers and consumers I talk with each year, if we actually had neighbor to neighbor food freedom, the authentic integrity food movement would catapult in size and sales.  The only thing that keeps it on the lunatic fringe is the over-burdensome heavy-handed regulatory environment.  Absent that, farms like Polyface would take massive chunks of market share from Wal-Mart and company.  And our prices would plummet.  How about that?

             Look it up, folks, ROGUE FOOD CONFERENCE 2020.  It won't be a Tea Party, but it'll be the most American gathering of innovative food freedom advocates you'll ever want to enjoy.  We won't be asking for a government program.  We won't be filling out forms for grant money stolen from taxpayers.  We won't be asking for higher taxes or more government intrusion.  All we ask is to be left alone to enjoy consensual food choice and to publicize ways to express our choice.  How's that for loaded verbiage?  I hope everyone comes.

             Does your lack of food choice bother you?