Evolving Peace

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Our Daily Local Bread

Amongst the films of the Green Mountain Film Festival was a film titled “Our Daily Bread.” As described by many who have seen the film, the film reveals the disturbing elements of the current factory food system. The majority of human population is so far disconnected to their food source that most are unaware of how our food is produced. This film highlights the shocking realities of what is rarely seen.

In Vermont, there is movement of people who are trying to eat local processed and produced food and due to the commoditization of food it has become very difficult to sustain oneself. Under the false pretenses of public health restrictions have been place on small scale producers and restricting your diet to local foods is a mere impossibility. The rise of factory farms throughout the world has displaced the small scale family farms and has created a food system that is unsustainable.

The rise of factory farms has made it impossible for small scale farmers to compete and throughout its advent regulations have been imposed that favor the large scale farms. Regulatory agencies have made it even more restrictive for the small scale farms to sell their products directly to the consumers. A case in point, this last summer in Waitsfield, Vermont American Flatbread Pizza was restricted from using poultry raised on the farm that was directly across the street. Due to supposed health concerns, the Department of Health restricted the practice. What is wrong with a food system that does not allow a restaurant to use meats raised from a farm in its own backyard?

Under the guise of public health, the practice is restricted, but as a consumer I would prefer to have products that are raised or grown from within sight of my home. As an action the Vermont House Agriculture Committee passed a bill(HR 522) that would ease up those restrictions and allow reputable business to sell locally raised meats. This bill is supposed to be debated on the House Floor on Wednesday and I sure hope it passes. Consumers should have access to local processed foods and small scale producers who are the fabric of the rural communities need easement of those restrictions.

As for the point of the film, we as humans are so far disconnected from our food sources that many of us do not know where our food comes from. My partner was a schoolteacher in suburban New Jersey and shockingly she had to instruct her fifth grade students that milk came for a cow. How has it become that we as a culture are so far removed from our food that kids can rattle of statistics of their sports heroes but to know were there food comes from gains blank stares.

Due to ethical and personal reasons I have chosen a vegetarian diet, but as I further progress working on and studying of food supply I am shocked at the lack of public awareness. In large scale factory farms, animals are raised in confined quarters and are given no grasp of fresh air and are fed unnatural diets to increase profit margins. As a vegetarian, I choose not to eat meat; however I feel that an industry that is treating animals in an inhumane manner needs to be changed. Small scale farming is the solution to the problem, local farmers raise there animals in a more hospitable manner and do not just look at animal as a mere commodity. At a recent House Agriculture Committee meaning, a Vermont based slaughter house facility owner revealed that he treats the animals with as much compassion as possible (everything except reading bedtime stories). It is when there is local produced system that the most humane treatments are achievable. While, yes the animals are still slaughtered for consumption the reality is that the human species are carnivores.

There are multiple reasons to further encourage local food production in addition to the ethical treatment of animals. The prevention of super bugs, diseases like the bird-flu, mad cow disease or e-coli contamination are easier within local food systems. Having local produce food immediately removes the causes of nation wide epidemics. As we had recently seen with the e-coli contamination of spinach or the recent story about contaminated dog food. If an illness is created by a local farm, we will instantly know the roots of the problem and act accordingly. As for environmental reasons, keeping a local based food system removes the need for vast usage of fossil fuels in shipping and refrigeration of products. Large scale factory farming also create environmental degradation by accumulation of large manure pits that drain into the water supplies.

While the film “Our Daily Bread” highlights the disconnect we have from our food supply there are individuals and organizations working hard to create a system that is environmentally sustainable and treats animals in an ethical manner. I hope that this latest measure from the Vermont House proceeds to the Senate and governor and it allows for a more locally produced food supply. As well I hope as well that these measures do not just stay in Vermont, but spread out to the rest of the American countryside. If you support measures like this contact your elected officials and help plow the way for more environmentally sustainable agriculture.

Peace
Robb Kidd

"Our ideals, laws and customs should be based on the proposition that each generation, in turn, becomes the custodian rather than the absolute owner of our resources and each generation has the obligation to pass this inheritance on to the future." Charles A. Lindbergh

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