Saturday, December 29, 2012

Connected to Labor and Land

 Sara Grusky and her husband, Michael Foley, run Green Uprising Farm at Blackberry Bend in Willits, CA. In 2007, they left their high paced life in Washington, DC to start a farm. After years of working on policy issues, Sara is finally connected to the land and the regulatory challenges that small-scale farmers face daily around the United States.

"The best part of farming is that you really get to work for yourself.  It’s the first time in my life that my labor hasn’t been alienated from me, that my labor is really mine and the products of my labor feel very different because it’s my labor. It’s exciting to have a piece of land to try to make something out of. Words escape me, but I feel like it’s the only thing that might save us. In terms of figuring out how to survive in a post oil, climate change chaos where governments are in chaos and the economy is in crisis.  Being able to live in harmony with the land around you and eke a living from it might be the most important thing to learn.

"We have seven adult goats and seven adolescent goats and they support a 27 family dairy share. There are also some people who occasionally get dairy products from the dairy share and there are some people who occasionally barter. Right now, we offer milk, cheese, kefir and yogurt. One of the things that we’ve learned from the dairy share is how ridiculously overregulated and full of obstacles it is to try to do something like a dairy share. It’s because the regulatory environment is really geared towards large dairies and it’s because there’s a long history of fear and misinformation about raw milk. The current dairy share that we have is, I would say, in a quasi-legal gray area and that’s not a very comfortable place to be.

"But just think about this for a minute because small scale, in our case, is eight milking goats.  It’s a very small scale. Those eight goats feed, provide dairy products for 27 families.  Well this makes a lot of sense.  It makes way more sense than any other model that I can think of, but the only way we can do it is to find some loophole and do something that’s actually quasi illegal but it’s the only thing that really makes sense in terms of having a sustainable local economy.

"The Weston Price Foundation has put quite a bit of effort into creating this Farmer to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which provides legal assistance and other kinds of support services for small farmers.  Recently, in Massachusetts they were trying to outlaw raw milk, so the Weston Price Foundation bought a cow to graze the Boston Commons[1] and milked her and fed people raw milk as a way to sort of protest and expose how ridiculous it is that people milking cows and drinking the milk, which has gone on for millennia, is currently illegal.

[1] The Boston Commons was used as a cow pasture for many families in the 1630’s. Later, on May 19, 1713, citizens rioted on the Commons in reaction to a food shortage in Boston.

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