“….So I have tried to answer the question, what’s goin’ on? Here are a few things I see goin’ on:
* There’s a huge, and expanding, gulf between the raw milk “public sector” and its “private sector.” Or maybe I should say, between publicly sold food, and privately sold food in general. A big part of McAfee’s problems (and of the Raw Milk Institute) has been an inability to appreciate the different landscapes, and mindsets, of the two arenas. It may simply be that they are incompatible, as Violet Willis suggests, and as Dave Milano has suggested in the past. People who become accustomed to obtaining their food privately, via food clubs or herdshares or CSAs, come to have different priorities and values than those who are mostly buying their raw milk in retail stores. There’s a bigger emphasis on cooperation and community in such private initiatives, run as they are invariably by volunteers working together with farmers.
* There are lots of new people being drawn to nutrient-dense foods. These include true consumer types, like Kristen Papec. They may well have unrealistic expectations about what is and isn’t a sanitary farm, or to what extent outsourcing might be appropriate. That’s not meant as a criticism. I’ve been writing about farming matters for a few years now, and still consider myself a novice about much that goes on in making a farm work for both farmer and customer. There are few sources of guidance; the public health community makes little or no effort to help educate the hordes of newbies heading out to the farms.
* There remains a huge amount of ignorance about what it takes to successfully produce nutrient-dense food. The discussion following my November 30 post, and Wayne Craig’s surprise, but on-target assertion that, yes, it can well cost $8 a gallon to produce milk, was revealing. Because he’s talking about producing a special quality of milk, artisinal quality, if you will. Our culture’s focus on price, price, price makes it nearly impossible for many people to ever fully appreciate that reality of high costs, and concurrent high prices–all in exchange for a product that is impossible to obtain in grocery stores.
* There is a great deal of misunderstanding about private food arrangements, and for good reason–they’re new to most of us, including farmers. A few people here have wondered about the differences between herdshare arrangements and leasing of animals, for example. Milky Way betrays naivete about the federal prohibition on taking milk across state lines, suggesting in the quote at the start of this post that it’s fine, so long as you don’t get money for it. She/he clearly doesn’t have an understanding of the “agent” concept, whereby consumers pay a farmer, and then designate an “agent” to pick up and deliver their milk. It’s that agent arrangement, and the government’s desire to try to make that arrangement (which is common in many industries, and includes sending a neighbor to the drug store to pick up a painkiller you’ve been prescribed because you are flat on your back) as the equivalent of commerce, that is being tested by the Raw Milk Freedom Riders on Thursday in Wisconsin and Illinois.
Around all these issues, there is a growing amount of disagreement and dissension, farmer versus farmer, farmer versus consumer, and consumer versus consumer. Mix in aggressive regulators trying to scare people off from the private realm, and trying their best to divide the food rights movement and, well, you get an idea of what’s goin’ on. …”