The “civil rights” of the 21st century?

A copy of David’s latest food rights “digest” as it arrived a couple days ago.

Just received David E. Gumpert’s latest book a couple of days ago. It had been back ordered at Amazon for a few weeks. And while it was a little mangled in transit, all the words seem to be intact.

Back in 2006, Michael Schmidt’s first lawyer Clayton Ruby told him that the legal battle over things like raw milk and food rights will be won and lost in the court of public opinion. And that’s exactly why work like David is doing is so important.

I’d read and appreciated David’s 2009 book “The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights”. But it’s been four years since then. The story continues and the fundamental conflict between thinking people who want the best food out there, and regulators intent on imposing industrial modalities on small scale farmers comes into sharper focus with each legal battle. These are stories that need to be told and retold to awaken people from their collective slumber, before all the alternatives to factory food are shut down, and there no longer is a choice to be made.

Not to mention what we owe the many public champions of food rights that figure in his story, and the farmers who put their livelihoods on the line to do the right thing. Joel Salatin’s introduction argues that food rights issue are central and fundamental to all and any other freedoms people might care about. We and future generations owe a debt of gratitude to David as the foremost chronicler of this massively significant but underreported story.

Not to mention what we owe the many public champions of food rights that figure in his story, and the farmers who put their livelihoods on the line to do the right thing. Joel Salatin’s introduction argues that food rights issue are central and fundamental to all and any other freedoms people might care about. 

Even today, you’ve got to wonder how a massive collective awakening to the dangers of eating the Standard American Diet would play out. Clearly in the short term, there wouldn’t be enough good food to go around. How quickly could production be ramped up? Would “disaster communities” such as those described in Rebecca Solnit’s book “A Paradise Built in Hell” come together fast enough to make the turnaround work? 

Although I’m still working my way through David’s book, I’ve read enough to say that it’s essential reading for those of us who are already in that disaster community, doing what we can to turn around the future of farming, eating, and human health. 

The Utne reader has published the second chapter of David’s new book online:

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013), by David E. Gumpert, takes readers on a disturbing cross-country journey from Maine to California through a netherworld of Amish farmers paying big fees to questionable advisers to avoid the quagmire of America’s legal system, secret food police lurking in vans at farmers markets, cultish activists preaching the benefits of pathogens, and suburban moms worried enough about the dangers of supermarket food that they’ll risk fines and jail to feed their children unprocessed, and unregulated, foods of their choosing. Out of the intensity of this unprecedented crackdown, and the creative and spirited opposition that is rising to meet it, a new rallying cry for food rights is emerging. The following excerpt comes from chapter two, “Is There Such a Thing as Private Food?”

“At 9:40 on the morning of February 4, 2010, two FDA agents in an SUV pulled up the long driveway of Daniel Allgyer’s farm in Kinzers, Pennsylvania. The agents, Joshua Schafer and Deborah Haney, were from the FDA’s Delaware office to do an inspection, they told Allgyer.

Allgyer objected. “This is a private farm. I do not sell anything to the public.”

One of the agents replied, “You sell milk to the public, therefore we have jurisdiction.” When Allgyer said he wasn’t going to cooperate, the agents said he would be reported to their superiors for his “refusal to have an investigation,” as Allgyer recalls it.

Less than three months later, the agents followed through on their threat. At 5:00 a.m. on April 20th, two FDA agents showed up again—this time accompanied by two U.S. Marshals and a Pennsylvania state trooper. As if to justify the accompanying armed officers, one of the FDA agents took a photo of the signs on several farm building doors: Warning: no trespassing . . . Attn: government employees, inspectors, and others: this is a private area, not a public area. Warning to ALL state and federal officials and informants: you must have an appointment and permission from the owner to enter this land/farm/property or building.

As Allgyer recalled the situation: “They drove past my two Private Property signs, up to where my coolers were, with their headlights shining right on them. They all got out of their vehicles—five men altogether—with big bright flashlights they were shining all around. My wife and family were still asleep. When they couldn’t find anybody, they prepared to knock on the door of my darkened house. Just before they got to the house I stepped out of the barn and hollered at them, then they came up to me and introduced themselves. Two were from the FDA, agent Joshua C. Schafer who had been there in February, and another [David Pearce]. They showed me identification, but I was too flustered to ask for their cards. I remember being told that two were deputy U.S. Marshals and one a state trooper….”

More on The Utne Reader.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “The “civil rights” of the 21st century?

  1. Peter

    If our rights in deed stem from the court of public opinion, woe with us all…
    I would concur that my right to choose for myself what I eat is important. However, instead of seeing it at paramount, I would suggest that life and liberty are the two more rudimentary and paramount rights. If we break it down to food rights, what about water and air? Both the right to life and the right to liberty inherently include your food rights.
    Of course, if you are looking for government privileges to choose the foods you’d like, that is a different matter.

  2. Thanks for your kind words about the book. You are correct about the urgency of the situation, and about the need to wake people from their slumber. I have begun telling people when I speak, “We’ll run out of farmers before we run out of excuses about why we won’t act.”

  3. Couldn’t agree more with the last statement David. The only thing I would add is people need to take a long hard look at their priorities. What is worth more to you? That fancy new Iphone, the new car or computer, or your health? The answer to this is what will really determine our food future.

  4. Pingback: The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle over Food Rights · WWW.DBESTREVIEW.COM

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