Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Raw Deal

This past weekend I found myself up in Perry County, PA where I stayed at JuJo Acres Farm with Judy and Jonas Stoltzfus. It was here that I joined my good friend David, his friend Meghan along with the Stoltzfus family in the organization of a Raw Milk Rally.

The rally was organized in response to a raid on the Nolt family farm (a Mennonite family from Newville, PA) where government officials removed over $25,000 worth of equipment and dairy products. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania it is unlawful to sell raw milk (even to your neighbor) without a permit (I’m pretty sure I got that right). The permitting process is not only cumbersome, but also does not allow the production of other raw dairy products such as yogurt and soft cheeses. In addition, governmental officials made false allegations that dairy products coming from the Nolt farm had been the cause of illness for some of his customers. These allegations were later retracted and no proof of such illness has been presented. The rally came at the perfect time, as there was also a warrant out for the arrest of the father, Mark Nolt, for the production and sale of raw dairy products. In talking with his son, they believe that the rally received enough media attention to delay further government intervention for the time being.

The event attracted just over a hundred people from nearby towns as well as more distant locations such as Bethesda, Maryland. I met a few women from Bethesda who make a routine voyage out to the Nolt farm where they stock up on raw dairy products for their family. In addition to loyal customers and fellow farmers, there were also several people from organizations such as Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and the Weston A. Price Foundation (a non-profit that promotes the preservation of wise traditions in food, farming and healing arts). The rally served as a platform for people to express their frustration over the unjust treatment of the Nolt family as well as their concerns involving over-reaching government interventions that compromise the integrity of the family farm.

It is unfortunate that we live in a society where ill informed consumers trust blindly in the authority of the government. Much of agricultural policy is intrinsically designed to undermine the progress of the small family farm and instead pad the pockets of large agricultural corporations such as Cargill, Monsanto, and Dean Foods. It is my hope that rallies such as this one may create a much needed dialogue between consumers and farmers wherein both parties may create an honest and healthy platform for agricultural commerce. This, I believe, is the only hope for the future of the family farm and the production of healthy foods.

- Many thanks to Jonas and Judy Stoltzfus, who so graciously welcomed me into their home over the weekend.

There’s a great argument going on today about whether or not the family farm is going to survive or should survive. This argument is extremely important, but it seems to me that all the talk about productivity and markets and feeding the hungry is secondary. The primary concern has to be with the cultural relation between people and land.
-Wendell Berry


Cumber Link
Real Milk
Weston A Price Foundation
H Street Community Market
Capital Community News
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture

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