It scans like a scene from an Al Pacino cop flick: A SWAT team in vests with automatic weapons drawn is seen on security camera footage busting into what looks to be a small warehouse. One after another they train their guns around the room, ready to fire at any perceived threat, obviously in pursuit of something or someone. What could it be? Is it a hostage scenario? Is a terrorist plot afoot? Cocaine, meth, counterfeit money, stolen jewels? No. They seek to apprehend store employees and confiscate the organic raw food on the shelves of a small, private grocery store.
The raid was real. The location was the Venice, Calif. food co-op known as Rawesome Foods. (View the raw footage at http://youtu.be/Pqi75eHxWOs) Rawesome Foods is a membership-only buying club where members can purchase raw milk and other untreated fruits and vegetables. Advocates of raw milk consumption claim that in its unadulterated state, fresh, clean, safely produced untreated milk is beneficial to health, safer to consume and without unusual risk. Only the current unsanitary, industrialized production of milk and the underlying commercialized profit motive make the processes of homogenization and pasteurization the norm. If commercial milk were still produced in sanitary conditions in small, manageable dairies, the full nourishment present in wholesome milk would persist and those nutrient-depleting processes would be unnecessary.
All across the United States, individual family farms are under siege from police and local and federal agents using strong-arm tactics to enforce dubious regulations and laws. It’s not just raw milk proponents who are seeing this kind of abuse; it includes farmers growing organic, non-genetically modified crops, and others who raise chickens, beef, pork and other livestock on small, family farms. If you don’t toe the company line and hoe the GMO row, you are likely to draw exceptional scrutiny from government agents. The farms raided are small operations that form the grassroots movement toward real food. Enforcement of the laws and regulations appears to be capricious and oppressive. And it’s happening locally.
On the silver screen Kristin Canty is the director and producer of a film to screen in Omaha on September 22. Farmageddon: The Unseen War on American Family Farms documents the plight of independent family farmers facing forceful interventions by police-state agents. In many cases, the raids are shown to be without cause and an extreme application of force in response to questionable food policies. Canty is a first-time filmmaker, a small-farm advocate, fresh milk drinker and a mom. When she learned that farmers and co-ops nationwide were increasingly getting raided, she set out to make a film about it, hoping to stir a tide of public pressure so that our government stops harassing and adding costly burdens to small-scale, organic farms.
The screening is sponsored by several groups and local farmers. It will feature locally produced appetizers and a post-screening panel discussion. Some locals have had experiences with over-zealous regulatory bodies.
Laura Chisholm is among local farmers helping to present the screening at the Aksarben Cinema. Along with her husband Andy and their five children, they farm near Elmwood, Neb. They use a rotational pasture-grazing method (the old-fashioned way) to raise livestock. They use holistic methods growing crops and producing milk and meat. Laura Chisholm feels Farmageddon speaks to the heart of food availability.
“Our farm, Chisholm Family Farm, is a small grass-based dairy,” Chisholm wrote in response to an email. “We sell cheese made from our grass-fed jersey herd, grass-fed and finished beef and lamb, pasture-raised pork, and pastured eggs. All of our sales are direct to customers either here on the farm, at farmers markets around Omaha, (we are at Village Pointe Farmers Market every week) and through Nebraska Food Coop, the online year-round farmers market.
“Buying local is important for many reasons,” she wrote. “First off, the food is fresher, more flavorful and healthier. Secondly, it keeps Nebraska’s money in Nebraska! Supporting local farmers is a wonderful way to boost the local economy.”
Chisholm says there is more at stake than the local economy.
“More and more as a nation we have moved towards an industrial-based food market and factory-farmed foods,” she wrote. “It has certainly provided for cheaper foods at the grocery store but it has come at a cost to our health and with the loss of the family farm. Small towns across Nebraska and the Midwest are becoming more and more like ghost towns as farms fold.”
The Food Police Another area farmer whom we’ll call “Peter,” (he didn’t want his name used to avoid repercussions from government agents) detailed how he was roused early one morning by the USDA. Peter processes chickens legally in a state-approved and inspected facility located on his farm in a southern Nebraska county about 90 minutes from Lincoln. He was just getting up before dawn when he saw lights and activity near his processing building. When he politely approached the trespasser, the man said he was from the USDA and on site to inspect his facilities. He had no warrant and no invitation. Since Peter was on his way for an appointment off-farm, he said he would happily comply by scheduling a future time to show the agent. At that point, the man, described as large, imposing and well over six-feet tall, flashed his badge and with an air of intimidation declared that the inspection was to take place “now” with implied threat of “or else.”
There are many more “horror stories” depicting the way America’s family farms are being threatened by an abuse of policing power. The very right to choose what you eat is being threatened. Visit VoteRealFood.com for more information and view the screening of Farmageddon to learn more.
Heartland Healing examines various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information, not as medical advice, and it is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Access past columns at heartlandhealing.com.