Little did I know when I volunteered to help the FTCLDF and teach at P3 on September 8th with Robb Wolf, that I will be meeting one of my personal heros, Laura Bledsoe, at the Polyface Tour that weekend.
Many of you may remember my blog about Laura Bledsoe and the Farm-to-Fork Fiasco. Laura’s distress resonated deeply in our community. For those that remember the story, there’s a new development to the story you’ll want to read.
If you are new to my blog and to the topic of food rights, you might be surprised at what our government does to our beloved farmers in the name of “food safety.” My hope is that everyone who reads about this victory, and reads Laura’s story also catches the passion that has spurred me to help keep our farmers and choices free through my support of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
We’ve all heard those stressful, strained 911 call recordings.
Breathless victims of accidents, crimes or robberies call on first responders for help.
Their voices evoke our deepest sympathies. Something inside of us tugs and yearns to help. We’re relieved to know that help is on the way.
Write that number down … that’s a 21st century 911 number … for farmers.
Who uses it? Farmers primarily, but also farm food dropsite/delivery coordinators, artisan food producers, farmers markets and buying clubs caught in the grip of a hostile government action – farm raid, delivery truck or buying club search and seizure or inspection-turned-interrogation. That number has been the saving grace of many American family farmers and food rights activists.
Who responds? The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund attorney on-call.
Laura Bledsoe of Quail Hollow Farm had that number. She had become a member some months before, never dreaming she’d ever need to call the hotline.
In her hour of need, she reached out and called the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund hot line for help. Fund General Counsel and litigator, Gary Cox responded; he was the lawyer on call that evening. And help he did. He doesn’t like it when regulators bother our farmers. Worse, when regulators make them cry. No, he doesn’t.
Could he undo the damage that the regulator had wreaked upon Laura’s carefully designed and executed farm-to-fork dinner? No.
Could he ask Laura to request a search warrant? Yes, and there was none.
Could he escort the regulator off the premises? No, but he told Laura she had every right to ask the inspector to leave.
Picture this, you’ve been working hard all day preparing a beautiful farm-to-fork dinner, and just as guests are arriving … so does a health department regulator. She tells you that your meal is condemned and you cannot serve your guests the exquisite food a professional chef has created from your farm-slaughtered, carefully raised pastured animals. She demands that you personally pour bleach on everything. Period. No, you can’t feed it to your family. No, you can’t even feed it to your pigs. And, after being soaked in bleach you cannot feed it to your compost pile.
All that time, energy, lives and LOVE … wasted.
Hindsight is 20/20. The best trauma is the one that never happens.
If Laura had called at the first sign of trouble, when she got a letter from the health department, the FTCLDF could have helped her enjoy that night, and we wouldn’t be sharing this story. But, at that point, Gary’s only course of action was to help Laura have the satisfaction of ordering/escorting the health regulator from her farm, as she was there with neither a search nor an arrest warrant.
Laura was relieved that someone answered her call, quickly assessed the situation, and offered a helping hand, to get the evening back on track.
Laura went onto make a delicious ad-hoc meal with her on-farm bounty of fresh-picked veggies, tasty pasta, and plenty of wine.
Her guests toasted her bravery. We do too.
The next morning, she set to work, sharing her story and compelling video shot by her guest. The Farm-to-Fork Fiasco story went viral. To this day, it is still the Fund’s most viewed webpage.
Next, Laura sought Pete Kennedy’s advice about how to change the law–as most good folks who have survived a trauma are compelled to do, “So that it doesn’t happen to someone else.”
This year, less than two years after the fiasco, Laura was present for the signing of a new Nevada Bill to give more freedoms and protection to farmers hosting farm-to-fork dinners.
Laura and farmers like her are my heroes. So is the Fund.
The Fund is a member/donor-supported nonprofit. Together, we level the playing field for farmers caught in the grips of overzealous regulators. We wish it were a rare occurrence, but it’s not.
The 24/7 hotline calls are fielded by Fund attorneys working at deeply discounted rates.
When you donate, you give farmers like Laura that opportunity to reach out and get help when it’s needed.
Thank you for the many ways you support of the Fund. And don’t forget, next month in Virginia, the fund is hosting a weekend of real food, picnics, workshops and celebration at their annual fundraiser dinner. I’ll be there, so will Laura, and Robb Wolf, Sally Fallon, Joel Salatin and Sarah Pope of the Healthy Home Economist. It’s a unique opportunity to celebrate the solidarity of this movement. Show your support and check it out here.