We began hearing about the raids by the FDA and USDA on small farmers, co-ops and buying clubs that sell fresh, whole foods – particularly raw milk and raw milk cheeses – more than a year ago when Morningland Dairy in Missouri was railroaded by government officials and forced to recall raw milk cheeses they’d sold, and destroy their remaining inventory (over $50,000 worth, if memory serves). Events seemed to come to a head last year in late summer and fall – Rawesome Foods, a natural foods co-op in Venice California, made national news when it was raided and it’s raw milk and raw milk products were seized and destroyed, followed quickly by Michael Schmidt, the Ontario dairy farmer who also made national news when he was arrested, fined nearly $10,000 and proceeded to go on a hunger strike. His crime? Selling raw milk to consenting adults. Adults who knew full well what the were buying and consuming, and the risks that come with it.
Sales of raw milk are regulated by individual states, but the FDA prohibits interstate sales – in fact, it is illegal to buy raw milk in one state and bring it to another state for your personal consumption.
In 2010, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the FDA. The case was filed in an Iowa district court and summarily dismissed. In 2011, FTCLDF argued on behalf of a Wisconsin farm in front of a judge on who proclaimed that
no, [people] do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume foods of their choice
Yes, you read that correctly. For what it’s worth, Judge Patrick J. Fiedler is no longer a judge; he is now an attorney for a law firm that has defended Monsanto in court. Nope, no conflict of interest here.
Farmageddon is a small-budget documentary made by Kristin Canty, a woman who began giving her son raw milk in hopes that it would help her son’s health issues. She claims that not only did it help – she claims it cured them. And like many who seek whole, fresh foods for their families, Ms. Canty found out in a hurry that seeking and obtaining are often two completely different things.
I’m not going to go into whether or not Ms. Canty’s claims about raw milk are authentic or not and frankly, neither does she; it’s not the point of the film. The point of the film is that our fundamental rights – to grow, sell, obtain and consume the foods of our choice – are increasingly at risk. In a country where we adults can purchase and consume items with everything but a skull and crossbones on the labels, the federal government is making it difficult, even impossible, to drink milk straight from the cow even in states where it is legal.
The film talks to many small farmers (yes, including Joel Salatin; I’m beginning to believe you can’t make a documentary about the slow food movement without interviewing the man), and the stories they tell are chilling and frightening – SWAT-like raids where farmers and their children are held for hours while armed FDA agents ransack their home and confiscates their records, equipment, animals and goods. One scene documents a dairy truck full of raw milk being taken to a co-op for sale being pulled over to the side of the road by, again, armed FDA agents who then force the driver and other vehicle occupants to pour all of it on the ground. Another farmer tells about how their entire herd of dairy sheep were seized and destroyed, even though government officials admitted the animals were perfectly healthy.
By the end of the film, I was quite incensed.
Famageddon has its problems, of course – Ms. Canty should have found anyone else to narrate the darn thing; her droning monotone is a little hard to take at times. And, as one review pointed out, it can’t quite decide what it wants to be – is an exposé of the abuse of power by the government? Is it a consumer advocacy film? You’re never really certain, although the message of the movie is quite clear: government agencies are harassing, haranguing and attempting to muscle small family farms out of business on the behalf of large-scale, industrial agriculture.
Despite the film’s flaws, I recommend it heartily to anyone who is concerned about the source of their food and their right to obtain and consume it. I recommend it even more heartily to those who don’t give a hoot. At any rate, we have an extra copy on our hands, thanks to a buy-one-get-another-half-price deal.
Today I’m giving that extra copy away. All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me why you’d like to have it.
I’m going to be perfectly honest here – who is picked will be completely subjective; the winner will be the person who leaves me the comment I find most compelling. You have until Friday, May 5 – comments will close at 11:59 p.m. that day, and I’ll announce the winner on the following Tuesday.
Have a lovely weekend, y’all. Now go eat something you or someone you know has grown or raised.
While you still can.