Introducing the Food Rights Network and Our Lead Writer

November 14, 2011

On behalf of the Center for Media and Democracy, I want to thank you for joining the new Food Rights Network. We appreciate you for taking a stand against hoodwinking school children and people of all ages into using “organic” “compost” that is really industrial and human sewage sludge to grow fruits and vegetables without any fair notice.

We believe such practices violate both common sense and your rights.

But, at the Food Rights Network, we need your help not just to fight toxic sewage sludge but also to support safe, healthy, and sustainable agriculture. For farmers and eaters.

Photo Credit: Grassway Organics

And, to us, that means supporting real family farms. It means standing up for the rights of farmers to care for animals with enough pasture to graze and ensure good quality milk. It means opposing efforts to indenture farmers to corporations whose drive for profits forces herds and flocks to be so large that farming is industrialized, antibiotics are ubiquitous, and waste is concentrated into massive lagoons that threaten neighbors and our water supplies. It also means standing up for the rights of people to know what they are eating, how it was farmed, where it was processed, and what it contains.

That’s why I am also honored to introduce you to our new lead writer for the Food Rights Network, Rebekah Wilce. Let me let Bekah tell you her own journey here.

- Lisa Graves
Editor, Food Rights Network
Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy

What’s Milk Got to Do With It?

I’ve worked on eight small farms since 2007. Six of them are certified organic. The other two are not, only because their tiny size and the directness of their markets negate the need for an outside certification. All follow organic practices.

Even if they did not, however, none of them would consider spreading sewage sludge on their fields. They eat food from their fields; their children eat from their fields; their parents eat from their fields; their best friends and neighbors all eat from their fields. Healthy soil is the most important asset of an organic farm. None of them would allow their soil or their food to be contaminated with the heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and flame retardants in industrial sewage sludge.

These farms don’t avoid sludge because using it would get them in trouble with regulators; they avoid it because it’s the right thing to do.

A couple of them, in fact, claim that the regulators are trying to put them out of business. Why? Of the farms where I’ve worked, two produce small amounts of milk in addition to other produce (being small, diverse farms). The FDA and some state agriculture departments have not only told them that they cannot sell their milk directly to their friends and neighbors without having it first trucked to an outside processor to be pasteurized and homogenized. They have also told them that they don’t even have a right to drink the milk from their own cows, goats, or sheep.

The government has taken away these farms’ dairy licenses based on the suspicion that they might try to sell unpasteurized milk, milk that comes from healthy cows, without being cooked or adulterated. In one case, bureaucrats even took away an unrelated beef license to punish a family farmer they suspected of sharing raw milk with farm visitors.

All of the farms where I’ve worked are small and clean, with their dairy livestock on pasture, eating grass and hay. These farmers are paragons of organic farming, true stewards of the land, and faithful friends who care for their customers. None of them would risk getting those customers sick.

These aren’t the dangerous dairies attached to distilleries that proliferated as industrial farming took hold in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in New York City. In those early days of the industrial revolution, cows on the forerunners of factory farms were kept in disgusting conditions and fed distillery swill.

It is exactly that sort of commingling of industry and agriculture that the Food Rights Network is opposed to. It is exactly those kinds of practices that we believe eaters should be informed of and be able to choose to avoid. That is why we work to expose the practice of spreading toxic sludge on land used to grow our food. That is why we work to protect the right to choose and obtain clean, healthy food.

Stay tuned in the coming months as we not only continue to expose corporate products and practices that endanger our health and welfare; but also focus on incredible farmers who bring us healthy food, makers of real compost for us to use in our gardens, and activists who fight for the right to continue to choose these healthy alternatives.

In October, the Food Rights Network focused on the first in a series of Food and Farm Heroes, Wisconsin dairy farmer and food rights activist John Kinsman. This month, we interviewed the intrepid raw milk activist, Max Kane. Look for that interview in the coming weeks.

- Rebekah Wilce
Lead Writer, Food Rights Network

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