Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Anouther food outbreak and local farms

I always get so scared when there is an outbreak of disease from a food born pathogen, especially one linked to fresh produce.
Invariably calls are made for better food safety. And that means more regulation, red tape, and less freedom. But people are smarter then that, right?
The recently passed George Carlin said "Think how smart the average person is. By definition, half the people are stupider then that!" I've been thinking of that recently.
What happens when children die? People want something done, and indiscriminately. The local movement is still small and so many people still think that food comes from a grocery store and before that a refrigerated truck. Someone should "DO SOMETHING!" about food safety.
But big ag will want small farmers to take on the same burden as they do, and if the answer ends up being UV light or chlorine baths or "certified fields" or special handling facilities will they exempt small producers? Probably not, and with the extra requirements come up front costs that most small farmers cannot afford.
Last year the board of the Countryside Conservancy visited our farm and asked us one simple question. "What can we do to help you?" Our answer was simple "Be there to offer legal support when they try to make what we do illegal..."
This spring I signed a multiple page contract and bought a part of another farmer's stock so I would have the right to purchase an agricultural product directly from him. And even that may or may not end up being accepted by the State Department of Ag when push comes to shove. This farmer may be risking his farm and his family's lively hood to sell me a product I want to buy.
What happens if produce goes that way? If all washing and prepping has be done in a certified facility? I can say that all my produce is washed with the same water that my family (and an entire city) drinks and as we do not have any recirculation system it is all fresh water (we wash with a garden hose) but will that be enough? Probably not... What if fields have to be tested? How much will that cost? $1000 a field a year? Not much if your field is 5,000 acres, but we have two 1 acre fields and a 1/4 acre field in production right now...
900 people are sick and who knows how many more. They are still looking for the source. It is a horrible thing and "something should be done" but I fear that "something", as more incidents like this occur (and they will,) will cast a wide net and catch many who have nothing to do with the problem.

No comments: