Monday, February 1, 2010

'Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal' by Joel Salatin

What a great read!  Entertaining and enlightening. I posted some comments here


Salatin is a self proclaimed evangelical, gun-toting farmer.  That is the short version. :)  He bought the farm from his parents and has worked there ever since.  Him and his wife Teresa have 2 kids whom they have homeschooled.  And now his son, daughter-in-law and 3 grandsons live and work on the farm also.  

When Michael Pollan was writing Omnivore's Dilemma, he spoke with Joel about food sources, government, organics, etc. When he asked Joel to send him some grass fed beef to him in CA, he refused.  Pollan was amazed and simply had to come meet this man in person.  Joel believes very strongly in a local food system.  Check out the link I posted above for his 'ideal neighborhood' local food system. It's great!  While Salatin had already made a name for himself, Omnivore's Dilemma brought him even more into the lime-light.  And he's still humble! :)  

He wrote the book to 'preserve the stories, preserve the struggle, preserve the history...  I want them to know what was and what could be.  I want them to catch a vision of a righteous food system, a healing agrarianism, a local farm food ministry.  May it never vanish from the earth.'

The book chronicles his struggle to provide his customers with locally grown, sustainably grown foods.  The book is packed full of stories from his own farming experience-good and bad, mostly in regards to the governemt's trying to shut him down at every turn. 

He breaks the book down into 3 parts:

1.  The Past-where our current agri-business food system started and the health issues it has created

2.  The Present-how it currently affects us, including government grants and controls

3.  The Future-he addresses avian influenza, bioterrorism, national animal identification system, mad cow, animal welfare.

Salatin makes sustainable farming seem not only do-able, but much better and easier in the long-term.  He makes some really good arguments for less government interference. 

After pointing out the problems, these are some of his suggestions near the end:

1. Eliminate ALL agricultural production subsidies.  Farming should stand on its own; as soon as it must, only the type that can, will. 

2.  Eliminate all grants and tax concessions to any private business for anything.

3.  Eliminate funding to land grant collegs and universities.  

4.  Allow any citizen to waive their right to government-sanctioned food.  A universal opt-out mechanism to self-protect and self-inspect. 

5.  Anyone may grow, process, and deliver any food directly to the end user (restaurants, institutions and individual customers-including dairy, meat and poultry).

6.  Institute complaint-driven inspection with unannounced sampling from the retail package.  As long as the food is clean, it's clean.  Doesn't matter how it got that way. 

Fabulous read.  I hope to see his dreams implemented in the future.  As more people become aware of the issues with the current food systems (movies like Food, Inc, and Fresh and Fast Food Nation have helped reach the general public), and demand safe and nourishing food, I think it will at least go the direction of local food systems. 

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