"I'm mad as hell, and I won't take it anymore." - Howard Beale (Peter Finch in Network, 1976)
Mad doesn't get me anywhere by myself, so I need your help, too. I helped found and operate a farmer's market in St. Petersburg, FL. But no, we couldn't call it a "farmer's market" with integrity because we couldn't find any farmers. So the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market is a "fresh" market. After six seasons and well into the seventh, we got farmers - finally. Organic, local, and sustainably grown vegetables can be found at SMM. We are moving in the right direction.
It has been a struggle to find farmers to come to markets in Florida because small farmers are struggling, too. Why? In a state that has almost a year round growing season? First, while the US Department of Agriculture (The Fed) has an exemption for small producers/farmers, the state of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) does not! So, Florida's small farmers are stuck with big creepy costly agribusiness rules - not fair.
It wasn't small farmers that started feeding dead cow parts and corn to cows or fertilizing crops with sick cow parts and dung to grow spinach flavored with e coli. Most of the "food safety" rules were established to protect us against what has been the result of the ghastly cattle/pig/chicken/vegetable growing practices that require lots of outside inputs, such as: hormones to make them grow fast, antibiotics because their living conditions make them so sick they must be healed before they grow big enough to be slaughtered, disgusting waste ponds from too many animals in confined spaces, and flavorless pesticide and chemical fertilizer-laden plants masquerading as fruits and vegetables. Small farmers can't usually afford all the pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics so they simply grow sustainably.
And just to add to the fun, these food safety rules don't even begin to protect us from what the factory "farms" and the mega-industrial food industry are doing to us. The movie Fresh clearly depicts these problems and their solutions. Fresh: New Thinking About What We're Eating will be showing locally at [email protected], 620 First Ave South in St. Petersburg on September 4th at 7:30 p.m. Beware - Fresh is a bit more graphic than Food Inc. For $5, you can't beat the price and can't afford to miss it. If you haven't seen Food Inc., now showing but in only about three places, see it too.
Then start voting on who wins this battle. Vote with what you eat and what you spend your money on. You'll be healthier for it. Ask for an exemption like the USDA for Florida small farmers.
I have to catch my breath for the next rant.