Joel Salatin

Who has your farmer's back...and your own?

The first time I heard the words “defending food freedom,” I had no idea what they were referring to. I pictured a group of peas standing in a picket line and defending their rights with posters and signs that said “Give peas a chance!” and “Envision whirled peas.” Pete Kennedy helped school me. Pete is an attorney on the board of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF). As such, he goes to bat for farmers facing legal action. In a nutshell, FTCLDF has the farmer’s back. And when they look out for the farmer, they are looking out for all of us who want to consume delicious, nutritious, natural foods from local producers.

You may be scratching your head like I was. Why do farmers and consumers need someone to look out for them, in the first place? How/why is our food freedom jeopardized? Can’t we consumers just buy what we want, when we want it? Don’t farmers have the right to grow or sell what they like?

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Here are the factors at play:

Competition: Basically, those who buy and enjoy whole, real foods from the small farmer are challenging the status quo. Established companies who control most of the meat and dairy industry in the U.S. especially love the status quo. They’ve got a corner on the market and anything that poses a threat to their market share needs to be eliminated. They influence regulators to establish regulations that favor them and then complain or threaten legal action to sideline the little guy.

Control: On another front, the government is ostensibly concerned with food safety. In an effort to protect John Q. Public, regulations are put in place and then enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration---all with the end goal of making sure the food available for purchase is untainted. While it might sound benign, these regulations often place an undue burden on small farmers. Many “catch 22” scenarios crop up. For example, a few years ago, legal action was brought against Vernon Hershberger, a dairy farmer in Wisconsin, for operating without a milk producer license. But a milk producer license is only available to those who sell milk produced for pasteurization. And Vernon wanted to produce raw milk, not for pasteurization, so he did not qualify for a milk producer’s license. And yet he had to face criminal charges for not having the license! Here’s how Pete put it, “Here’s the thing: you can have the best soil, the healthiest animals, the best marketing plan, but if you don’t have a favorable regulatory climate, favorable laws enabling you to run a successful farm, the rest of it doesn’t matter.”

Cash: Small businesses and farmers don’t have the resources to defend themselves. This is why they don’t stand a chance when legal action is taken against them. They put most everything they have into running their farm. Farmers who are members of FTCLDF pay only $125 annually to ensure top-notch representation on a variety of levels to surmount legal hurdles.

Consumers: We want to buy and consume raw milk legally. We want meat that is high-quality, pastured, raised humanely, antibiotic-free and hormone-free. As adults, shouldn’t we have the freedom to purchase and ingest whatever we like? But the factors mentioned above are limiting us. Pete says “Everyone should have the fundamental right to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice.”

This is why Pete is committed to FTCLDF. They are out to level the playing field. Their mission is 1) to defend farmers so that they can get back to what they do best: producing high quality food products for the consumers who are demanding them; and 2) to ensure that consumers can attain those products, as part of their food freedom.

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Clearly FTCLDF has the farmers’ back and our own. To learn more about their work and begin to get involved, listen to my conversation with Pete Kennedy on Wise Traditions episode #36 “Protecting food freedom.” Or simply go to FTCLDF’s website: farmtoconsumer.org. Preserving our food freedom is truly the only way to give peas a chance!

*** Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and the host of the Wise Traditions podcast (found on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and at westonaprice.org). She is also the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation.

The power of a Mama Bear

"Never underestimate the power of a Mama Bear defending her cub." Joel Salatin said something to this effect when I interviewed him recently. He was talking about the strength and determination of a mother looking out for her child. I know moms like this. Two days ago, I spoke with a mom friend of mine who was calling out her teen for lying. That took guts: a willingness to confront her child, impose repercussions and then deal with the fallout. Today I was on the phone with a mom whose elementary-aged daughter was home with a tummy ache. This took patience: she had spent the morning tending to her and the afternoon (and the days ahead) will probably hold more of the same.

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When I was a kid, my own mom worked several jobs at one time to make ends meet for our family.

I love these women. They, and countless others, are true Mama Bears. They are willing to do whatever it takes to provide and protect their little ones. They are fierce, passionate, seeking out whatever is needed for their children need to grow to be strong and healthy.

Tressie Taylor is just this kind of mom. Her son, Omar, was diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum when he was around two years old. Tressie wasn't satisfied with the end goal of the recommended behavioral therapy so she went into "bear mode." She sought out options, determined to find something better for Omar. She discovered a two-pronged approach to healing for her son: a nutrient-dense Wise Traditions diet and a chelation protocol established by Dr. Andy Cutler. (Chelation escorts metals out of the body, and Dr. Cutler's protocol is the safest method out there.)

Today, Omar has lost his diagnosis. And Tressie is a Mama Bear for hundreds of children (not just her own). To hear more of her amazing story, click here.

I'm inspired by women who fight fiercely for what they believe in. Do you know any Mama Bears? How are you exercising your own Mama Bear power?

I met a farmer!

I'm a city girl with a country heart. It's been a cool transformation over the past 7-10 years. Most of you know my story. I exercised a lot and gave very little thought to what I ate. Then I started to realize that rather than just throwing anything down the hatch, it might behoove me to fuel my body with real food. So I started a quest to find nourishing, nutrient-dense foods for me and my family. It led me to the Weston A. Price Foundation, whose focus on real, whole foods made a lot of sense to me. Things didn't change overnight in our household. But gradually, little by little, real foods made their way into our home. We started eating eggs and yogurt for breakfast instead of cereal. We chose real fruit over Del Monte Fruit Cups; quesadillas over cheese-flavored tortilla chips.

As we made these changes it slowly dawned on me that real food came from real people growing and raising it. And what's so fun is that in recent years,  I've had the wonderful opportunity to meet the people growing the food. When I'm with them,  I feel like a starry-eyed fan, and if I didn't have sufficient self-control, I would indeed pull out a sharpie and ask for an autograph. Unlike Hollywood stars, these guys don't entertain, they provide genuine sustenance for the masses! They are worthy of adulation, truly!

Me and Jesse

Last October, I connected with Jesse Straight, the lead farmer at Whiffletree Farms in Warrenton, Virginia. Jesse is a young farmer who graduated from UVA (where my daughter went to school.) He had no plans to become a farmer, but he picked up a book by Wendell Barry that changed the course of his life. He decided to farm and he never looked back.

In November, I had the privilege of meeting Will Winter, a farmer and advocate for holistic health for animals and people! He told me that he used to be a vegetarian because he saw a disconnect between caring for animals and going home and eating them. Now he is a consultant for Thousand Hills Cattle Company and he is the owner of Lucky Pig Farms!

And in just a couple of weeks, I am going to meet Joel Salatin, farmer extraordinaire of Polyface Farm and the author of "Folks, this ain't normal!" Joel challenges the way we look at  our food, animals, the government, and, of course, each other.

If I sound like I'm ga-ga over farmers and name-dropping  a bit, well...I am. I admire their hard work and the food I have the privilege of enjoying thanks to them and others like them. Are you intrigued by their lives? Do you want to learn more about the adventures of raising and growing food? Come meet Jesse at a get-together at my house, here in DC, on Saturday, Jan. 23. (Comment below and I can give you details.) Can't make that date? Get to know these gentlemen through my podcast! My talk with Will Winter just aired (and you can hear from Jesse and Joel in future episodes). Soon you'll be ga-ga, too, and boasting (or blogging) "I met a farmer!"

The accidental foodie

This is the house that Jack built. Do you remember that nursery rhyme? At first you just saw the house in your mind's eye, but then the story took you deep inside, so that you could see how the house was linked to people and creatures, in ways unexpected. house that Jack This is analogous to my relationship with food. How did I become so passionate about food, its origin, and its effects on the body? Look at my journey and you'll see that I wasn't born with an organic BPA-free spoon in my mouth. This is the story of how I became a foodie quite by accident.

If there's one word that summarizes my journey, it's this: relationship.  Some years ago, a friend invited me to hear America's "most famous farmer" Joel Salatin speak. (He wasn't that famous back then, by the way, but he certainly is now! You may have even seen the article that came out just last week in the Food section of The Washington Post entitled  "Joel Salatin's growing on us.")  Anyway, I went to his presentation primarily because of my friend's insistence.

At the end of the night, honestly, I didn't know what to make of Joel. I thought he spoke too quickly and too passionately. (If you know my speaking style at all, this should make you smile!)  He was asking the audience to reconsider their relationship to food, to the land it grows on (or grazes on) and to the one who grows it. His ideas seemed radical and strange. Nonetheless, I was intrigued enough to buy his book "Holy Cows and Hog Heaven: The Food Buyers' Guide to Farm Friendly Food."  I even got Joel to autograph it for me. The inscription was puzzling, though. "Hilda: Welcome to the team! Joel" What did he mean by "Welcome to the team"? What team?

Joel knew then what I only came to realize later: I was on the brink of being drawn into an amazing group of passionate, vibrant people---a team that was sparking a food revolution of sorts. farm freshThey were making different choices: planting gardens, getting local food, avoiding overly- processed foods and commercial retailers. I had no idea who I was getting mixed up with!

Up to this point, my relationship to food had been utilitarian. I was hungry, so I ate. I just needed enough to quiet my stomach and fill my belly. Once I had children, a shift occurred. I wanted them not only to be full, but to be nourished. I wanted them to be healthy and well. I set out to identify the most nourishing foods I could, to serve them to my family. My relationship with food was morphing: from utilitarian to intentional and purposeful.

The "team" I was joining had purpose in spades, so I learned from them. I joined a group that received food deliveries from a farm in Pennsylvania. We got milk, eggs, meat, produce. I loved the food and was pleased to know the farmer who was providing it. He even had a name: Jake! I started digging deeper (no farming pun intended). I found books--"Nourishing traditions", Joel's aforementioned book, "Good calories, bad calories," ---blogs--- "100 days of real food", and "Food renegade"---and faith-based guides like "Treasures of healthy living"! Suddenly, I was looking at food very differently. I began to see it as miraculous and beautiful, life-sustaining and delicious!

Talk about a transformed relationship, huh? And I'm not through learning. Not by a long shot.  I did get certified as a health coach by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, so that I could share the wealth of resources and discoveries I'd made. I also became a DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), an organization committed to helping people find nutrient-dense foods. (I'm happy to answer questions about either of these groups, by the way.)

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Where are you on your journey? How closely have you looked at the food on your plate and where it came from? If you are just starting to make different choices, congrats! And brace yourself. You may start out just wanting to put good milk, meat, and eggs on your table, but you just may end up as part of a team that you joined, quite by accident!