DIRE FUTURE

            The media headlines are all abuzz today about the newest UN climate study showing that we're in for catastrophic climate change.   We're past the tipping point; the oceans can't handle the warming and things look bleak.

             I am not a climate change denier.  All you have to do is look at satellite images of the earth over the last half century and the ice masses are considerably smaller.  You don't have to be a scientist with sophisticated measuring devices to see the shrinkage.  I was in Alaska two years ago and drove on major highways through what 50 years ago were massive glaciers.  They've receded 25 and 30 miles; at their current rate of melting, they will absolutely be gone in just a few years.

             Siberia is melting, revealing mega-fauna long frozen.  When I was in Sweden last they told me Monsanto has moved into their agricultural sphere dramatically preparing for the new grain basket of the world to be located in northern Finland, Sweden, and Norway.  Can you imagine northern Scandinavia being the bread basket of the world?

             The report goes on to warn of more frequent and violent storms as this disruption shakes the earth.  These predictions may or may not be true.  We've never been here before.  Sometimes I think we're too sophisticated for our own good and cause ourselves unnecessary angst.  And I don't know how much of it is human-caused and how much of it is simply an earth cycle.

             When I look at this stuff, I'm pushed to ask myself:  "What can I do?"  Let's assume all the predictions are accurate.  What can I do to prepare?  I can't affect the hurricane in the Bahamas.  I can't affect the drying of Australia.  But I can do something about my life, my situation, my tiny corner of stewardship.

             So here are agenda items for Polyface:

 1.  Build more ponds.  We've been irrigating with the beautiful K-line system for about a month now and are draining our ponds of the water they caught and stored during the winter and early spring--remember how wet it was?  North America, prior to European conquest, was 8 percent water; today we're less than 1 percent.  They were beaver ponds.  So every spare penny we're dumping into excavating permaculture-style high landscape ponds to catch violent rain/snow events and cushion drought affects.  You should see these irrigated pastures; they are vibrant green, lush, growing like gangbusters, flooding the dry air with transpiration and biomass activity.  This we can do.

 2.  Upgrade the forest by weeding out the diseased and dying and releasing the vibrantly growing trees.  Crank up the chain saw and chipper and get to work converting poor growing individuals into carbon for composting to build up organic matter in the fields.  Every percent increase in organic matter adds 20,000 gallons of water retentive capacity per acre; since 1961, we've gone from 1 percent to 8 percent, which is 140,000 gallons per acre.  That sponge is invaluable in times of earth discomfort.  And a healthy forest is a more resilient one. 

3.  Reduce food waste by shortening the chain between farm and fork.  Right now 40 percent of all food produced gets thrown away.  The closer we buy and sell to point of production the less inventory spoilage and damage.  Forget the Caribbean cruise and fire up the canning equipment.  Leave the supermarket and the exotics; eat close to home, seasonally, from local sources preferably or at least direct sources.

 4.  Do more to develop resilience in our own home.  We've already put a solarium on the south side of our 1790 log cabin house; that's a cool retrofit.  We can grow leafy greens year round and get passive solar heat gain in this old house.  Increase your rain barrel to massive cisterns; if more of us installed them, the price would drop.  Right now cisterns in Australia are a quarter the price per gallon that they are in the U.S. and it's simply because we don't have a competitive and vibrant demand.  Store food by canning, freezing, dehydrating.  Dave Ramsey says we should all have an emergency fund of cash to handle 4-6 months of economic catastrophe; how about an emergency food larder to handle a weather catastrophe?  Root cellars?  Yes.

             This is not an exhaustive list, but I think it's helpful to review it and realize that in the face of dire warnings, when the first reaction is paralysis because it's such an overwhelming problem and then depression because there's seemingly nothing we can do about it, focusing our attention on practical, actionable steps to prepare personally is an uplifting, enjoyable activity. 

             Sorry this is a long post today, but it's hard to counter all the negative without digging into the positive a bit.  And remember, if you like this, send it to friends to increase our tribe.  Thank you.

             What personal, practical shifts have you made in your life to prepare for these unsettling times?

A LETTER TO ELLEN DEGENERES

             Dear Ellen--

             Now that you've launched your #BeNeatEatLessMeat campaign, I'd like to encourage you to refine the message to #BeNeatEatLessJunkMeat.  To lump all meat into a "bad for you and the environment" ball is incorrect, unfair, and offensive.

             Roughly 75 percent of all the agricultural land in the world can't grow veggies.  It's too steep, too infertile, too rocky, or two far from diesel fuel.  But these areas grow grass.  You could eat that grass all day and you'd die.  Humans can't metabolize grass.

             But the rumen bacteria inside an herbivore can upgrade grass to meat and milk, both extremely nutrient dense foodstuffs for humans.  To deny humans the food value of 75 percent of the world's agriculture area is to condemn millions if not billions to starvation, and I know you wouldn't want that.

             Feeding the world without animals?  The numbers just don't stack up.  Now how about food quality?  Let's look at a short list of comparisons:

             FOOD                              QUANTITY                        PROTEIN                        CALORIES

 

            Beef                             3 oz. (one serving)              25 grams                           173

            Quinoa                  3 cups                                    25                                       666

            Black beans          2 cups                                   25                                       613

           Edamame                    1 cup                                    25                                       249

 

In case you missed it, 3 cups of quinoa and 2 cups of black beans is a pile.  I might not want to be in the same room with you if you've eaten that much.

          A wonderful letter sent to you from Amanda Radke, a rancher, points out that your fave CoverGirl makeup uses ingredients from beef.  And her point about beef producing less greenhouse (GHG) gases than landfills is good too.

             Perhaps the most disingenuous aspect of your crusade is that you refuse to parse the difference between regenerative and degenerative beef production models.  To refuse to recognize the clear soil building versus soil depleting reality of a mob stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration model offends anyone with an ounce of functioning brain fatty acids (most of which come from animal fats). 

             So how about we stop the war against diversity and nutrition?  How about we stop the war against enough food?  Let's appreciate that people are different and that if you thrive on a non-meat diet, good for you.  Most don't.  You of all people should appreciate diversity and not demand a one size fits all approach.

             You should come and visit Polyface.  You would see such abundance in wildlife, insect life, pollinators living in, above, and around our perennial pasture grasslands it will make your heart sing.  I challenge you to go visit where your veggies are grown and tell me those areas germinate as much life diversity.  Go ahead, take a look.

             How about let's promote eating good food, authentic food, ecologically enhancing food, from whatever source?  And let's not bathe the world in uncharitable elitism.  Hmmmm?

             Respectfully,

             Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm

 What would you tell her?

SUGGESTIONS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE MARCHERS

            We're all immersed in the media coverage of this weekend's climate strike and consummate marches to whip up the movement.  I'm elated that folks are concerned about the environment.  Perhaps this is the next step past Earth Day.  But as I've read and heard the themes from the speeches and watched the sponsors, I'm not sure it's effective.

             For example, our local Mary Baldwin University was a proud sponsor of Staunton's event, but their dining services won't even purchase GMO-free, pastured meat and poultry.  Strikers demand reduced carbon footprints, install more solar power, protect rainforests, the Chesapeake Bay and reduce plastic.

             The rules around setting goals that can be reached are simple:  measurable, timed, and specific.  The problem with the above list, as reported in the newspapers anyway, is that they don't adhere to any of these.  So it's a lot of walk, a lot of talk, but no action.

             In light of that, I humbly offer the following list of goals:

 1.  Boycott all fast food places that sell industrial chemical-based food, including Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat that use GMOs, chemicals, and monocultures.

 2.  Drink coffee only if it's in a washable and reusable container.

 3.  Refuse to take the children to any athletic event more than 1 hour away.

 4.  Plant a garden in a backyard.  Borrow one if necessary.

 5.  Don't eat any prepackaged, processed food; eat only whole foods that you prepare yourself in your own kitchen; eat left-overs for lunch; take it with you to work.  "Bring lunch to work day."

 6.  For one year, cancel all vacations that require air travel and instead visit 5 local points of interest (museums, farms, nature spots, etc.).

 7.  Volunteer at a local farm:  dig fence post holes, chop thistles, build fence.

 8.  Build a solarium on your house so you can grow produce year-round and enjoy passive solar heat.

 9.  Do not spend more than $200 on clothes per year per person.

 10.  Get a chest freezer so you can buy local pastured meat and poultry in-season and in-volume; cut grocery store trips to once every two weeks.

             These are specific, measurable, and timed.  But you won't see anything this practical or this personally responsible; it'll be all about other people; those people; over there.  It's never about me. I've got news for you, folks, it is all about me.  If we don't get that right, we won't get any of it right.

             Now that I've shared my list, what's one you'd like to add?

THREE UNDERSTANDINGS

            Saturday I did a fundraiser for the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund at Reverence Farm in Graham, North Carolina.  The day's events included a farm tour and I was privileged to be on the one led by Suzanne Karreman, the driving force behind the operation.

             I liked her three-part goal for the tour, or as she said, "I want to show you three things:  responsibility, possibility, and hope."

             She delivered in spades.  Although only 5 years old, the farm has definitely made a splash in its area, including a wonderful cafe along State Rt. 87 just south of Saxapahaw.  You can't miss it:  a majestic metal fabricated and decoratively painted 10 ft. tall chicken stands sentry out front.

             But back to the three things.  Responsibility is the idea that none of us can escape making choices about our food and farming protocols.  Animals in industrial orthodox systems essentially eat in their own bathroom, which is "gross," and wouldn't be the place of choice for humans either.  Keeping the animals moving onto new ground protects them from the unsanitary conditions prevalent inmost animal outfits.

             Second, the possibility that by careful management we can build soil, increase organic matter, increase water retentive capacity.  In other words, we can farm destructively or regeneratively; we can leave less than we found or more than we found.  Too many folks are so absorbed in the Conquistador mentality, which includes a chemically-based protocol, that the idea of grabbing fertility out of the air and building abundance simply by changing management never enters our imagination.

             Third, hope.  That is where possibility meets responsibility.  In five years, Reverence Farm has doubled its productive capacity not by planting seeds, applying fertilizer, or any of the normal outside-in techniques.  Rather, it's occurred by tightening up the management to fully capture and leverage nature's templates toward productivity.

             As Suzanne pointed out, the notion that in another 10 years they could double again simply by letting natural processes work at their peak speaks volumes to the scarcity and food insecurity issues of our day.  It means the earth is not overpopulated.  That we're not running out of food.  That our grandchildren can have a happy life.  That water, soil, air, and biological abundance can be there for them too. 

             It was a simple and profound message that can truly lift our hearts.  In a day of negativity and fear, Reverence Farm stands as a beacon of truth and hope.  We need lots more farms like this.

             Are you helping them proliferate?

"ALL USE IS ABUSE."

            An herbalist says she does not want to learn from Polyface "how to use and abuse animals.  All use is abuse.  We should all already be vegan."

             This in response to a mass pitch about joining the ACRES USA-sponsored Small Farm Academy I'll be teaching in the next few weeks.

             This attitude brings to mind the ditty economics professor Walter Williams enjoyed:  "My wife told me I use her.  I said of course I use you, sweetheart.  If I didn't have any use for you, I wouldn't have married you."

             It's funny but it's also profound.  Love and care grow out of use.  By the strict definition of "all use is abuse" even using soil to grow herbs is abuse.  Where does it stop?  It's such a ridiculous nonsensical statement that it leads me to believe her brain has already atrophied due to starvation for adequate nutrition.

             All employees are abused because employers use them.  Our children are abused if we use them to help with chores.  Mentors are abused when we use them for references on job applications.  Water is abused when we drink it.  Trees are abused when we mill them into lumber so we can build a house.  Minerals are abused when we mine them to make steel for a car body.  This line of reasoning is absurd.

             I'm glad somebody uses me.  Perhaps the most important human need is the need to be needed, which grows directly out of use.  Failure to be useful, to feel needed, directly leads to depression and loss of self-worth.  Teachers use students to feel necessary.  We abuse business every time we use it?  Really? We abuse Amazon every time we buy?

             Certainly some use can be abusive, but certainly not all use is abuse.  Tell that to a starving child--no, you can't eat that meat because doing so is abusive.  This gets right to the sacrosanct elitism of the statement.  Plenty of people need to eat something--anything.  The reason animals are such a bedrock of human nutrition is that they can be preserved in real time without energy and they can move when geo-political situations demand fleeing to safer havens.

             And if you think those of us living in relative security and luxury are beyond this need, you don't appreciate the fragility of security and luxury.  Let any calamity occur, from sudden energy disruption, economic collapse, epidemic or social upheaval, and our American nest would be gone in a heartbeat.  And then if you can catch a rabbit you might live another day.  This has been normal throughout human history.  Being able to take the time and energy to utter a statement like "all use is abuse" requires completely aberrant luxury and disconnection from our ecological womb.  Many people still are consumed with trying to survive to another day.  More often than not, that's a glass of milk or something caught and butchered, or maybe even an egg found and cooked.  Or a tomato.  Or ear of corn.

             How can a statement this nonsensical be uttered by any credible person.  As Teresa, my sweetheart says:  "And she votes!"  Oh boy.

             What would you say to a person who thinks "all use is abuse?"


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?