Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bootleg ... sauerkraut?

I blame misty-eyed romanticism for my gross naivety about farmers markets in Iowa.   See, I thought these gatherings were informal get-togethers, unhindered by rules and regulations that strangle brick-and-mortar stores.   The vendors seemed kind of like gypsies ~ setting up their wares for a few hours and then vanishing ~ poof.   It should have aroused suspicions when I saw the same people selling the same things week after week after month after year.   Where was the dynamism and enterprise of a free market?   Where was the experimentation with novel ideas?   And where was the home style food?

Outlawed ~ that's where.  

Outlawed and over-regulated.   Turns out that it's illegal to sell home style canned goods at Iowa's farmers markets.   And for other foods, getting all the permits, licenses, and paraphernalia can be very costly before you can legally sell a single cream pie.   Raw sauerkraut or raw fermented beet pickles?   Forget it.   They are totally prohibited for sale at markets or "licensed food establishments", and they are prohibited for use in preparing other foods to be sold in Iowa at such places.

And here I thought selling raw milk would make some kind of a statement for freedom.   Nope.   That gesture would just get lost in the noise of all the other food violations that the food goons ('scuse me ~ "food safety inspectors", as the vendors carefully say) regularly nab people for.  

Here is the two-page list of what can and can't legally be sold at farmers markets and the twenty-two page "Temporary Food Service Establishments and Farmer’s Markets Operator’s Guidelines".   I weep.

My heart goes out to any vendor who is trying to make a bit of money at a Saturday morning market in Iowa.   Kudos to you folks ~ it's a costly, messy headache to deal with all that bureaucracy.  

And I would like all of us buyers to note the real target of the regulations.   The real target is the essence of the market itself, the human need to make one's way with self-worth and dignity, to give and receive value in a voluntary exchange.   These needs and values are marked by money, and regulators intrude where the money flows ~~ to govern it, to throttle it, to strangle that pulse of life that signifies the way we use our precious energies.

The real concern isn't and has never been the safety of canned food, or raw milk, or any other excuse the regulators spew to distract you from their real agenda, which is control, especially control of money.   If regulators could convince people that the safety of raw sauerkraut or raw milk were really the issue, then it would be easy to outlaw giving it away (like alcohol to minors).   Or making it (like whiskey).   Or feeding it to calves (like arsenic).

It would be easy because people have gotten used to losing their choices, one after another, to the steady drumbeat of "protection from the risk" of those choices.

But giving away raw milk is not illegal.  Yet.

So me and the genie . . . we're gonna throw a big ol' party and give away lots of wholesome Real Milk.   And the regulators?   Well, I'm not inviting them, and I hope nobody else does either.

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