The following is an excerpt from Joel Salatin's foreword to The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America's Emerging Battle Over Food Rights by David Gumpert (published by Chelsea Green).
I drink raw milk, sold illegally on the underground black market. I grew up on raw milk from our own Guernsey cows that our family hand-milked twice a day. We made yogurt, ice cream, butter, and cottage cheese. All through high school in the early 1970s, I sold our homemade yogurt, butter, buttermilk, and cottage cheese at the Curb Market on Saturday mornings. This was a precursor to today's farmer's markets.
In those days, the Virginia Department of Agriculture had a memorandum of agreement with the Curb Market that as long as vendors belonged to an Agricultural Extension organization such as Extension Homemaker's Clubs or 4-H, producers could bring value-added products to market without inspection and visits from the food police. The government agents assumed that anyone participating in the extension programs would be getting the latest, greatest food science and therefore conform to the most modern procedural protocols, which created its own protection.
As the Virginia Slims commercial says, "We've come a long way, baby." These conciliatory overtures to maintain healthy and vibrant local food economies exist no more. Today I can't sell any of those things at a farmer's market, and even if I take eggs some bureaucrat will come along with a pocket thermometer and, without warrant or warning, reach over and poke it through my display eggs to see if they are at the proper temperature. If they aren't, no amount of pleading that those are for display only can dissuade the petulant public servant from demanding that I dump those display eggs in a trash can on the spot. I don't sell at farmer's markets anymore.
In 1975, when I graduated from high school and began plotting my farming career, I figured out that I could hand-milk ten cows, sell the milk to neighbors at regular retail prices, and be a full-time farmer. This was before most people had ever heard the word organic. But selling milk was illegal. In those days, we didn't know about herd shares or Community Supported Agriculture or even limited liability corporations.
As a result, I went to work for a local newspaper and became the proverbial part-time farmer -- working in town to support the farming passion. I don't think I've ever gotten over the fact that the government arbitrarily determined to make it very difficult for me to become a farmer. That seems un-American, doesn't it?
Isn't it curious that at this juncture in our culture's evolution, we collectively believe Twinkies, Lucky Charms, and Coca-Cola are safe foods, but compost-grown tomatoes and raw milk are not? With legislation moving through Congress demanding that all agricultural practices be "science-based," I believe our food system is at Wounded Knee. I do not believe that is an overstatement.
Make no mistake, as the local, heritage, humane, ecological, sustainable -- call it what you will (anything but organic since the government now owns that word) -- food system takes flight, the industrial food system is fighting back. With a vengeance. By demonizing, criminalizing, and marginalizing the integrity food movement, the entrenched powers that be hope to derail this revolution.
This industrial food experiment, historically speaking, is completely abnormal. It's not normal to eat things you can't spell or pronounce. It's not normal to eat things you can't make in your kitchen. Indeed, if everything in today's science-based supermarket that was unavailable before 1900 were removed, hardly anything would be left. And as more people realize that this grand experiment in ingesting material totally foreign to our three-trillion-member internal community of intestinal microflora and -fauna is really biologically aberrant behavior, they are opting out of industrial fare. Indeed, to call it a food revolution is accurate.