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.

Raw milk

The raw milk topic lit up my research screen recently.   I had studied its health benefits in Weston Price's book "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" and decided most definitely that raw milk is a valuable food for overall radiant health.   I wished that I'd known about Price's research much earlier  ~  maybe my children could have been born with better basic health and fewer troubles.   Nevertheless, we're doing the best we can as we learn more and more about better nutrition and better living.

Then a month ago, fellow activist Doug Murguia (whom I'd met 3 weeks before) said that after talking to several people, he thought the raw milk issue would galvanize people to push back against strangling regulations.  

"Great idea," I said, "I'm on it!"   There's something about milk  ~  flowing white nourishment  ~  that pushes emotional buttons like no other food, like no other plant, animal, or mineral on the planet.

Doug and I learned more about each other in the next weeks.   Doug likes to practice civil disobedience to make things happen fast.   I like to practice incrementalism to fasten changes into place.   We're both very dedicated and neither of us says a compromise is a win.   Yet, our activism is from opposite ends of a spectrum of, shall we say, intensity.

So I study raw milk and the masses of laws around it.   Then I sit for a while and conjure ideas.   I talk to people who know more about cows and goats than I do ... then I sit for a while and conjure some more.   I'm putting a lot of attention on rubbing that little glass milk bottle.   

Pretty soon the raw milk genie has to splash out, spluttering and splattering little white drops everywhere, saying, "Holy Cow!   What a gusher of a let-down!"   She wipes her face, looks around, and says, "Come on, girl, we gonna party 'til the cows come home!"

And I say, "Right ON!"