Meat and poultry shortages. Skyrocketing prices on eggs. Scarcity of dairy products on supermarket shelves. The last few years (and months) have revealed how fragile the food infrastructure is in the United States. What options do we have to help us secure good food, from reliable sources? Judith McGeary, the founder of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, offers insights on our options. Today she sheds light on how to protect the small farmer for the benefit of our communities, and our health.
She covers the importance of purchasing from local farmers with regenerative farming practices. She discusses how governmental regulations favor industrial large-scale farming and how we can contact policymakers to make farming more accessible and less expensive for the small farmer. In sum, she offers practical steps we can take to make a healthier future, in every sense of the word, for all of us.
Check out Judith’s website: farmandranchfreedom.org
See our sponsors: Serenity Farm Bread, Paleo Valley, Optimal Carnivore
Listen to the podcast here
Within the below transcript the bolded text is Hilda.
In the past few years, we’ve experienced meat and poultry shortages in the US. There have been fewer eggs in the supermarkets. Prices seem to be skyrocketing too. The conventional food and agriculture industry has an unsustainable approach to feeding the populace. This much is clear. The question is, is there another way to go about feeding ourselves and doing it well in a way that nourishes us? This is episode 404. Our guest is Judith McGeary, the Founder of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.
Judith is an attorney, activist, and sustainable farmer herself. She is an advocate of sustainable agriculture and all for protecting family farms. In this episode, she sheds light on how big ag and industrial farm practices are detrimental to the environment and the animals. Nonetheless, she points out that government regulations benefit industrial ag at the expense of family farms.
To turn things around, she offers many insights and ideas. She urges us to put our money where our mouth is by purchasing from local farmers who are doing it right. She explains how we can roll up our sleeves and get involved with policymakers to make farming more accessible and less expensive for the small farmer, which results in great benefits to the health of our communities and economy.
Before we dive into the conversation, I want to invite you to take the 50% pledge, it is a pledge that you will purchase more than 50% of your family budget on food from local farms. It’s a simple way to keep farms that are doing it right afloat. We have resources on our website to help you out. Find out more at WestonAPrice.org/50-50Pledge. If you need more help getting started and finding real food where you live, find your local chapter leader. You can do that on our website too. There’s a tab that says Find Food/Local Chapters. Our chapter leaders are volunteers that can help you find farmers’ markets and farms in your area that have regenerative practices and quality food.
Check them out at SerenityFarmBread.com and use the code WISE TRADITIONS 10 for 10% off your order.
Check out Judith’s website: FarmAndRanchFreedom.org
See our sponsors: Serenity Farm Bread, Paleo Valley, Optimal Carnivore
Welcome to the show, Judith.
Thanks for having me on.
Is it true that the average age of farmers is over 50 years of age? Why does that matter?
It is true, and depending on which state you are in, you may see even average ages in some states over 60 years old. When you think about it, how are we going to keep having farmers 10 or 15 years down the line? When I checked in Texas, it was 62. Stop and think. Farmers like farming. They’re going to keep farming as long as they can, but at some point, it’s physically impossible. They die or they are physically incapable and there’s a fraction of the number of young farmers that we need to take their place.
Aren’t there big industrial-sized farms that can take over if these small farms die? Why should it matter to the regular consumer in the population?
That’s the case even in large industrial farms. What we’re talking about is a phenomenon that is not a small farm phenomenon. It is a large farm phenomenon just as much, if not more. To some extent, what they are counting on is we’ll have even more consolidation, but which of the younger farmers can afford to buy another 20,000 acres? At some point, it becomes not viable for the farmers to consolidate even further.
Even if you didn’t pay attention to the practices that these farms are using, it’s still of concern because it’s almost like a monopoly. If the farmland is being run by only a handful of food corporations, then all of our eggs are in one basket.
That’s already the case. What we’ve got right now is you have very few farmers who produce the bulk of the food that people eat. What’s more, even compared to the number of farmers you have, even fewer companies that they sell to and through. If you think of it as an hourglass, the bottom of the hourglass is the farmers. They’re still a pretty small number compared to what there used to be, but then they go through this narrow little spot in the middle with all of the processors, the food distributors, and the grocery stores, and then it widens back out to this huge consumer base. You’ve got that little funnel there. In technical terms. We talk about oligopsonies or monopsonies. Monopsony being where there are very few buyers. That’s that middle part.
You think that’s where we already are as we saw during COVID when a lot of things shut down and all of a sudden the supply chains were completely disrupted, the grocery store went empty and everybody discovered local foods and went, “There’s an alternative,” that you still have food. The grocery store is different. That’s already the case, then you start thinking about, “What’s going to happen as we drive off the cliff of the aging farm population and how much worse it’s going to get?”
Describe that scenario to us. Help us understand what that might look like.
What we are looking at ending up with is, first of all, an even tighter middle part of that hourglass where there’s a handful. You also will see the loss of any independence and much more of what we see right now already in conventional poultry, which is it is contract growing. You’ll have these companies who will own the land. What happens is these farmers have to retire or they die one or the other. They have to sell their land. The land goes up for sale, and it’s being bought up, even without them passing on or retiring off huge amounts of our farmland are being bought up by a handful of large companies. TIAA CREF, a retirement investment company is buying up huge tracks of land.
Bill Gates is buying up huge tracks of land. Huge amounts of our farmland in this country are corporate-owned now. What’s going to happen is they’re going to go hire people. You won’t have farmers who have a stake in the land anymore or very few of them. You’ll have more people who are workers or hired labor for these companies. Even if we’re not going to worry for now about the farm practices, let’s bring that back in. Fundamentally, we have a problem already with the current system driving farmers to use, by definition, unsustainable farming methods that mine the value of the land, mine the top soils, and mine the nutrition out of the land. That’s already happening.
You put it into corporate ownership where what they’re worried about even more is their shareholders have to get profits. How much worse is that going to be? You aren’t going to have a landowner who cares about the land or who wants to see that land passed on to his or her children. You’re going to have a landowner who simply cares about maximizing the profit from that land.
It reminds me of how we’ve outsourced in the US as well, manufacturing certain goods. I’m thinking of hoodies and sweatpants. Let’s say Athletic Gear. When the market is dominated by one company or country, the quality can go down because they have our backs against the wall. You said some kind of parallel there in that if these corporations, Bill Gates, or whoever investing in the land, what they care about is their monetary return. They don’t care about the welfare of the animals or the health of the people that consume it. There’s not a sense of pride. The quality can go down because they’re going to have a stranglehold on us.
You take out the human ethics equation. I’ll use the example of poultry. Many of the readers hopefully are all buying poultry from local farmers where it’s being raised. There’s a whole range of degrees of quality there. You compare it to the grocery store chicken, and any of that local chicken is miles ahead. What we’ve got in poultry farming in the conventional world that goes into those grocery stores is the animals are owned by the corporations from day one. Tyson owns those baby chicks and the feed. The farmers own the land and hired laborers to raise the chickens. In fact, they’re called contract growers in the industry. They aren’t called farmers. They’re contract growers.
They just grow out those chickens under contract. JBS or Pilgrim’s Pride, pick your company, controls completely the conditions under which those birds are raised, the medications they get, the feed they get, and how old they are when they’re processed. You see the effects. Conventional grocery store chicken is incredibly low quality, and the farmers have no say in it. The people might otherwise be like, “I want to have pride in what I’m raising. I have to make a profit.” This is farming. It is more than just a job for a farmer. Farmers don’t treat it just as a way of living. They’re trying to make a living and this is where they live, what they do and it’s their role in the communities. It’s all sorts of things, but they don’t have any power over it anymore in the conventional poultry industry. That’s why conventional poultry is bad.
Farming is more than just a job for a farmer. Farmers don’t treat it just as a way of living. They’re trying to make a living and this is where they live, what they do, and it’s their role in the communities.
From your description I’m gathering, they are assembly line workers and they’re doing their little bit, “Now’s the time to throw the feed in there.” I’ve driven past some of these concentrated animal feeding operations where they have thousands of chickens in this one long hoop house that is full of their excrement, feathers, and dander that the people going in have to wear hazmat suits. This is a reality that most people are unaware of.
The sad thing is they’re wearing hazmat suits, partly because the air quality is bad and because those poor birds’ immune systems are completely non-existent because of the conditions they’re under that they are terrified of the birds getting sick. I was in a legislative hearing where they were talking about people from animal rights groups have broken into one of these chicken houses. I was very clear on I stuff. I said, “You do not trespass on other people’s property. I don’t care how much you disagree with the CAFOs. I don’t support trespassing on there.”
I was listening to the poultry industry guys talking about how they had to spend tens of thousands of dollars on testing to make sure that the birds hadn’t picked up some disease. I was like, “We have people come on our farms and say hi to the birds all the time because our birds have immune systems.” Those hazmat suits you see are less for the workers. They don’t care enough about the workers, frankly. The workers are disposable as far as most companies are concerned. They care about the birds and the risk of the disease wiping out that entire tens of thousands of birds at one time.
What we’re describing is not pretty. It’s one reason some people are saying, “Let’s stay away from meat altogether.” They think it’s better for one’s health and the Earth. Can you add your perspective to that point of view?
If the only two choices were, “Do we go with this conventional system or vegetarian?” that’s a difficult thing to answer. The nice thing is that’s not our only choice. This is not a binary system. There’s this whole world of people who are raising livestock in completely different ways than these horrific CAFOs. What that means for animal welfare is an immense difference. The difference between the lives the animals leave when they’re on pasture-based farms living out natural behaviors is completely incomparable to what they suffer in the CAFOs. What that means for the nutritional value of the food is very different and for the environment is probably the starkest difference.
I came into being a farmer from being an environmentalist. What got me into livestock farming was as an environmentalist because when you start digging into it and you get away from the nice sound bites and you start thinking about how ecological systems work, there is no ecological system that does not have animals. It doesn’t exist. Every single ecosystem on this planet evolves with both plants and animals interacting with each other in it.
If you try to remove animals, what you will find is you degrade the ecosystems. Let’s note the CAFOs degrade ecosystems horrifically too. If you shove a bunch of animals in a building, allow the excrement to build up, and then dump it, and that excrement is also filled with the drugs and all sorts of other additives that have been fed to these poor animals, that’s pretty destructive. When you integrate animals into an ecosystem the way that they would naturally be integrated, then you’re helping the environmental health.
There’s a wonderful chart from Gabe Brown who’s a farmer up in North Dakota. He was doing conventional road cropping. He started trying to do some alternatives, cover cropping, and things like this. He measured his soil’s organic matter. He started to see his soil’s organic matter creep up. It was improving. When he added livestock into the rotation and started doing integrated cropping in livestock, the soil organic matter skyrocketed. You can get the same results with a plant-only system. It doesn’t work.
Is that the crux of the regenerative agriculture movement? We’ve heard those terms used a lot. It’s like they’re trying to regenerate the soil and the Earth.
You use the word regenerative. Someone said it to me in the early days, and I have to admit, I was slow to adopt because I was like, “Let’s not change our terminology again,” but I understood the desire. The way this one farmer put it to me was, “Why are we trying to sustain our systems? Our systems are completely degraded.” We have mined the soils of this country. We have degraded. There’s almost no soil in this country that isn’t badly degraded. Why on Earth are we sustaining them? Let’s stop talking about sustainable agriculture and talk about regenerative or improving those soils. One of the key principles of regenerative is livestock.
How did you figure that out? I’ve never heard of someone approaching this style of farming from the environmental perspective as a starting point.
I know I’m not the only one. I went and talked to a professor at the University of Texas for many years. My undergraduate is a Biology degree from Stanford University, then I went to law school, and I was doing Environmental Law. I was getting very frustrated with the paradigm of not being able to find creative solutions, of trying to fit within these man-made laws that were about reducing some level of harm but not going out there and creating true positives. I decided I wanted to go back and get a Master’s degree in Biology and help with endangered species and wilderness protection and do all of this work.
I met up with this professor, Dr. Dick Richardson at the University of Texas. He looked at me and bluntly, he said, “If you care about the environment, you should care about where your food comes from.” I was like, “I’ll try buying organic when I can.” This was ‘99. He looked at me and said bluntly, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” I got started reading Acres USA, Allan Savory’s work on holistic management.
Dick was a board member of Holistic Management Texas. It was a light bulb that went off for me. It was this amazing realization that when you dig deep or when you don’t just settle for the sound bites or what sounds pretty on the surface and think ecologically the things that are good for the animals are good for the water and the air is good for the soil, the nutritional value of the food, the farmer and rural communities.
We have seen this incredible pie of the rural communities across this country. In the community I live in, it’s sad to drive through what used to be a downtown of a small town because the buildings are in horrific shape, and most of them are empty. There isn’t a sense of a future for the children growing up in this community. That’s replicated all over the country. That’s the case all over.
It’s because we lost small farmers who were making a fair living. When we had lots of small farmers making fair livings from their land, they were the backbone of the rural communities and supported local businesses, schools, libraries, and all of the other local everything. These exact same things that are great for the environment and are good for the people who eat the food that’s raised this way are also a huge solution for our economic woes in large swaths of this country.
That’s what I was thinking about because you mentioned earlier as if it were in the past tense, during the time of COVID, we saw the infrastructure and the way we get our food in jeopardy. In some ways, in some parts of the world, we’re still under the time of COVID. There is still a sense in which our infrastructure is very fragile. What I mean by that is we get our food from far-off places. If there is a breakdown of some sort where there’s not enough supply or the big companies can’t send their meat to be slaughtered, then we can’t get it in our grocery store. In other words, we’re all outsourcing where we get our food. Instead of going local and small, we’ve gone big, which means a lot of single points of failure.
The infuriating thing is that the companies and the government have known this for years. This was not a surprise. Many of us who work in the industry could have predicted the COVID effect. I’m not talking about the exact COVID but predicted that a significant shock to the system would mean the disruptions we saw or worse. I was at a huge USDA meeting many years ago. It was about what would happen if foot and mouth disease, which is an animal pandemic but does not affect human health, were to come ashore, like if we have foot and mouth disease in this country. The first thing the government would do is stop the movement of all animals.
Wherever that animal is, it stays. We’re not moving until we figure out where these outbreaks are and can get under control. The hog industry stood up. It is a huge room filled with all the top USDA and top state animal health officials, big industry, and a few people like me who snuck in. He said that if you do a stop movement order within three days there will be millions of dead and dying hogs in this country.
I rocked back in my chair, and I’m like, “Foot mouth disease doesn’t kill that quickly? What are you talking about?” He wasn’t talking about his animals getting foot and mouth disease. He was talking about the fact that they have built a growing chain for these animals that is much in time top efficiency and profit makers that if they can’t move the animals at the exact right time, these animals are under much stress, packed tightly into these buildings and growing fast that billions of them will start dying off simply from not being able to be moved.
We saw that. When the large-scale meat packing plants closed down, they started doing mass euthanasia of hogs and poultry in this country. People were selling trailer loads of full-grown hogs for $1 a hog to try to get them off the property because there was no place to process them because we have centralized the processing much. This was decades ago. He’s publicly stating this. I had a breakout session. I’m like, “Can we please have a discussion about the fragility of this system? Forget foot and mouth disease for a minute. This scares me that our system’s that fragile.” I was told, “No. We are here to discuss how to mitigate those impacts and try to prevent this problem from happening.”
Once you’ve got a lot of power, you’re not going to let it go easily. These companies and officials already have a nice corner of the market. They’re not going to want to change the system even if there are dangerous possibilities in the future.
Very rarely does anyone give up power, whether it is monetary or other, voluntarily. I sat back. It was April 2020 when the meat packers started shutting down. I probably didn’t handle it the best way when reporters would call me for comments because I’d be like, “We’ve been telling you so. We have been trying to get you to listen that this system is dangerous. Stop talking about how great it is that we have all this cheap meat and talk about what’s the price of that cheap meat.”
Very rarely does anyone give up power, whether it is monetary or voluntary.
There certainly have been people already talking about the price of meat in terms of the environmental costs and the animal welfare costs, all of which are important things to bring up. This recognition that there was a real national security cost to it was, “These guys are too big. They’ll figure out the solution.” The answer was, “No, they won’t.” They’ll ask the government to bail them out.
Coming up, Judith offers tips on how to engage with local policymakers to make meaningful changes to help the local farmer and the consumer who wants local fresh and affordable real food.
Go to PaleoValley.com and order yours. Use the code WISE for 15% off your order.
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At the Weston A. Price Foundation, we are always urging people to buy from their local farmers because that is a sustainable solution as you said, not only better for the environment and animals but also the economic structure.
The great thing about it is it is an absolute win-win. I know that can be an overused term, but it is why I ditched a legal career and threw myself into sustainable agriculture and toward my whole life upside down because it’s one of these incredibly rare situations where there’s no downside except for the loss of profits to a lot of these big corporations and things like that. From the perspective of what future we want for ourselves, our own bodies, health, and children, there’s no downside. This is how we build a system, but we have to figure out how we can do it around and in the midst of this incredibly consolidated monopsony, oligopoly, or oligopolistic system that exists. We’re not starting from scratch.
We encourage people to buy from their local farmers. Joel Salatin says, “Shop with your dollars, and vote with your dollars because how you spend your money sends a message to the infrastructure about what you want and what matters. You’re voting for exactly the world you want to see.” What beyond that can we do as consumers and not producers, because there are readers who are not farmers and not getting their hands dirty, what can we do to make sure this happens and the other scenario we were describing of the big collapse that is not our future?
I’ll get to what we can do, but to add some weight, I will say that I’m trying to abolish the, “Vote with your dollar,” phrase. I want to see it go away. This is why. My husband and I are small farmers. We raise grass-fed lamb and beef. I want people to buy from us. If they don’t buy from us, we won’t keep farming. For us to stay in business and for them to get quality food, they need to buy from local farmers who are doing it right. The majority of small farmers who are selling this type of food are not making a fair living at it. They have subsidized it by having family land that they inherited. Not too many of them. They bought their land and are subsidizing it with income from a previous career.
I was a lawyer. This is where the money came from. They have a spouse working off the farm. There are more people in the small local food movement who are making a living compared to the ones who are trying to do it conventionally. That is where you’ll also often hear someone like Joel talking. He’ll point out the opportunities comparatively, and that’s certainly true. This is a far better path to making a living than the conventional farmers face. The majority of the small farmers I know are not making a living for their families from their farms. That is it. They will not make it up on volume. Simply having more people buy from them is not going to change that.
What has to change is the system they’re working with it. It has to change. It has to stop being expensive to get healthy inputs. How hard is it to source compost or non-GMO seeds for people who are growing crops? How hard is it to source non-GMO feed, not for the seeds, but the actual feed in the grain for the people who are raising hogs and poultry, which need supplementation and can’t live on grass? What is the cost of processing on a small scale? I’ll get to that in much more detail in a minute.
The system farmers are working with has to change. It has to stop being so expensive to get healthy inputs.
Until we deal with the infrastructure and the policies that have driven that infrastructure to be very limited and artificially expensive for small farmers, then the small farmers’ raise will always be more expensive than it needs to be. It should never be McDonald’s cheap. That’s fake too, but it shouldn’t be as expensive as it is. That’s largely because of these artificial problems that were created by government policies and the consolidation of the industry. We aren’t voting with our dollars. We are keeping those people in business, often barely in business. We have to do more in different things to change the system so that more people go into this farming, they’re able to make a fair living, and we have an actual working economic farm economy.
Is that part of what the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance are about?
Absolutely. When I got into farming, I had no intention of doing policy work. I was like, “We’re going to do what we do. We’re going to raise healthy food for people and who could possibly object to it because we’re doing all of these wonderful things?” I laugh because I was a lawyer, yet I was naïve about the system. I got into policy when we realized that you could do it all right. We could be doing the best stuff in the world and we could frankly get crushed. Literally, us and many others have been driven right out of business because of bad government policies that were being written by and for the businesses, the very people who’ve created all of these problems. That was why it has created, and it’s what we do. We do policy work.
That leads us to my next question, which is about the PRIME Act. I’ve heard a lot about the importance of passing this bill to help small farmers. Can you describe it?
One of the biggest problems for particularly small livestock producers is the lack of small-scale processing. This is something legally we aren’t allowed to do on the farm. You can do a little bit of on-farm poultry processing. You cannot do on-farm processing for your sheep, goats, or cattle at any scale. For your own use you can but not to sell. You have to go to a slaughterhouse. Part of the industry is there are a handful of small slaughterhouses scattered around then there’s a handful of big operations that do all the processing for companies like Tyson, JBS, and Cargill. They’re processing sometimes lines of 300 cows an hour. Think about 300-pound carcasses whizzing by this place.
One of the processing plants that closed in April 2020 was doing 5% of the entire beef supply for this country. There are these monster operations, and you have a lot of regulations that have been written trying to address food safety and animal welfare for that kind of operation. They don’t do a very good job, frankly. Animal welfare and food safety are both deeply problematic in those large operations. They are complete and total overkill for a small local processor who might process 100 heads in a week.
It’s 300 head per hour versus maybe 100 head in an entire week. Does anybody think that the exact same regulations make sense for those two operations? That’s what we have. We have the exact same regulations. This is what is known as having a USDA-inspected or state-inspected slaughterhouse. The state-inspected slaughterhouses have the exact same regs. Even though it’s a state inspection, it’s the same as the USDA ones.
Frankly, the inspectors are unhappy usually when they get stuck in small-scale slaughterhouses because they have to drive long distances, and there’s never a nice office for them. It’s not set up properly, and they have to do all of these extra little things. You have a lot of grumpy inspectors who don’t want to be in the small-scale slaughterhouses. Not only do you have these bad fitting regulations, but then you have inspectors who are pissed off, and they need to be there. They don’t want to be there and they’re very uncomfortable with it.
All of that has led to small-scale slaughterhouses after small-scale slaughterhouses going out of business, but then there’s something called custom slaughterhouses. These are the slaughterhouses that provide processing, for instance, all people who go hunt deer around the country, or feral hawks. Anybody who is a homesteader takes their animal over to the custom slaughterhouses. What’s happened over some time many years has been farmers will sell cows by half a cow at a time and take them to these slaughterhouses because the restriction is the meat has to come back to the person who owned the live animal.
If I take it as an animal to the custom slaughterhouse and bring it back, and then I try selling a pound of hamburger, I’m breaking the law. If I can sell half of that cow to somebody and their name is on the list as the owner when it goes to that slaughterhouse, they can take that half a cow home and all of the hamburger, steaks, and everything, but that’s a lot to ask of a lot of people. How many people want to buy 1/2 or 1/4 of a cow at a time? That’s a lot of meat, a lot of different cuts, storage space, and money upfront, but that is happening, and there are a lot of people who buy meat that way.
There have been pretty much no reported problems. I did a freedom of information after a quest to USDA and said, “Any documents of foodborne illnesses from custom slaughterhouses?” I did from 2012 forward, and the answer was, “No, I don’t have anything.” They have a different set of regs. They don’t have an inspector there all the time. I’ll give the caveat in case there’s a health department person reading this. I know that just because there were no reports to USDA doesn’t mean that no one’s ever gotten sick.
In fact, I will go out on a limb and say, “I’m sure someone has gotten sick from me at a custom slaughterhouse.” Statistically, it would be impossible to assume that someone no one had. You compare that to the number of outbreaks and the daily recalls from large-scale operations. These guys have a pretty darn good track record.
That’s a lot of background for the PRIME Act, which is a simple little bill, a lovely little thing that simply says that the state can allow farmers to sell meat that was processed in a custom slaughterhouse within the state under whatever conditions the state wants to put. A state that wanted to limit it to direct-to-consumer could, a state that wanted to limit it under a certain dollar amount could, or whatever. It’s up to the states, but let’s try creating some local situations where we can look at, “What’s the availability of the slaughterhouse in that state? What’s the farming and food situation in that state?” Let them come up with the rules for when meat can be sold from these custom slaughterhouses.
This is better for the consumer who might not want half a cow or who might want a couple of packs of ground beef. It’s better for the farmer because they can profit in an easier fashion than they can if they try to work with these large slaughterhouses.
Yes to both of these. To put it in context, there are large swaths of this country where there isn’t an inspected slaughterhouse that will accept small-scale operations. I keep going back to it because I know the Texas layout the best, but this is not unique to Texas. In the Rio Grande Valley, there is no small-scale inspected slaughterhouse open to farmers. There’s one that they’ve set up their own operation and they only do their own animals. If you’re a farmer in the valley, and you want to sell a package of ground beef, you either do it illegally. There are several custom slaughterhouses. You take your animal in, process it, and do it illegally, or you haul your animal three hours to the nearest slaughterhouse.
Think about this. You haul the animal up, leave them, and come back. Two weeks later, you go back up, pick up the meat and come back. First of all, how much have you added to the cost of that meat? Second of all, one of the farmers that I spoke with was sharing with me. She did that. She was like, “We are going sell local meat in the Rio Grande Valley. We’re going to do this.” She did this and got back. It was pretty apparent she hadn’t gotten all of her cuts, that there would be a problem with the slaughterhouse.
What is she going to do? Is she going to drive six hours again round trip to pick up the missing cuts if they can be located? It’s a completely unworkable system. There are large areas of this country where if we don’t change the laws, not only is it a question of consumers having better access and farmers doing better but there is no alternative to the custom slaughterhouses. You want to be able to sell meat by the pound. We’ve got to open up these custom slaughterhouses in those regions.
I’m grateful for the work the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance is doing. I’m grateful for your passion on this matter. Other than buying locally, what can the regular consumer do to see the system change and avoid the collapse we were describing earlier?
Thank you for bringing that back. It’s about making changes in policy. The best way to do that is to engage as a human being. I say that because people either figure that there’s no point engaging with their elected officials because, “They’re all bought off. He comes from a completely different point of view than I do. He’ll never listen to me. She’ll never listen to me.”
The best way to make changes in policy is to engage as a human being.
They don’t go in there and recognize that their legislators are human beings. You may disagree with them vehemently on certain issues. A lot of times, that doesn’t matter when it comes to these issues. Let’s say you are polar opposites on issues such as gun control, abortion rights, and tax policy. You probably aren’t going to change your legislator’s mind about those. Those are staked-out positions. You’ve got an opposite one, and they’re probably not going to, but let’s be realistic. They probably don’t have a position on custom slaughterhouses.
They’ve probably never thought about the issue of custom slaughterhouses or even heard of such a thing. They probably don’t have an idea about permit fees or sampling of food at farmer’s markets, or making food in home kitchens and selling it directly to consumers under Cottage Food Laws. These are things they probably have never even thought about. If you go in there and you approach them as a constituent human being and talk about the values and where you guys have common ground, you both care about small business or you both care about healthy local food, you will find that common ground if you look for it. When you do that, the results can be nothing short of miraculous.
I’ve been doing this for many years, and it doesn’t always work. Sometimes you bump into someone and they get lots of campaign contributions from big ag, and that’s that. You’re not going to make a difference. Most of the time, that’s not the case because big ag targets their campaign contributions to a few legislators. If you go in and talk with your elected officials, the odds are you’re going to be able to convince them to become a supporter.
I have seen a handful of contacts, 10 or 12 from a district, not only convince a legislator to vote our way, but to become a champion to start carrying bills for us to get up there and speak on the floor and sign their name onto the bills. It doesn’t take nearly as much as people think it does if you approach it with that openness where you’re listening as well as speaking and you’re creating that relationship and that dialogue.
That’s super inspiring and encouraging. Thank you so much for all that you’ve brought to this conversation. I want to wrap up with a question I often pose at the end. I’ll modify it a little bit for you. Since we’ve been talking about farming, if the reader could do one thing to effect change in the way we get our food, how would you recommend that they do it? What steps should they take? Just one.
What I’m about to suggest will help both their health and farming. Buy from the best and closest source you can. Most often, that’s going to be a farmer’s market. A lot of people may not have access to good farmer’s markets still or they may not have a year-round farmer’s market. There are more small mom-and-pop groceries that are making an effort to source high quality and work with their farmers. There are even a few home delivery services that make an effort.
Most of them don’t. Most of the home delivery services are recycling the cheapest crap they can find and making it convenient, but there are some that are working and sourcing locally and acting as hubs for local farmers to make it more convenient for consumers. Whichever it is, if it’s the farmer’s market, a smaller grocery that has standards, or the home delivery that truly has standards, you have an option. There is an option that is in your area and that you can work with. That is the first step for both your health and for helping our farms rebuild the farming structure that we need for this country for our national security and everyone’s well-being moving forward.
Thank you so much for giving us this charge, encouragement, and all the information. You are amazing. Thanks for it. I appreciate it very much.
Thanks for having me on.
Our guest was Judith McGeary. Check out her website FarmAndRanchFreedom.org for information on the Farm And Ranch Freedom Alliance. Here’s a review from Apple Podcasts. Paul Schmidt puts it this way, “I love this show and all the people involved.” Paul, this is such a kind note. Thank you so much for your review. You too are welcome to rate and review the Show. go to Apple Podcasts and click on ratings and reviews. Give us as many stars as you’d like and tell the world why they should listen. Thank you in advance. Thanks for reading. Stay well. Hasta pronto.
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About Judith McGeary
Judith McGeary is an attorney, activist, and sustainable farmer. She is a passionate advocate of sustainable agriculture. After seeing how government regulations benefit industrial agriculture at the expense of family farms, she founded the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) to promote common-sense policies for local, diversified agricultural systems. She has been profiled in the Texas Observer and Edible Austin, appears in the documentary Farmageddon, and has been interviewed on numerous radio shows across the country.🖨️ Print post
Judy T says
Josh Tickell’s book Kiss the Ground referenced this study by Lowdermilk, a soil conservationist who was commissioned by FDR to seek solutions to the 1930s Dust Bowl catastrophe. This study shows us that our current agricultural problems are nothing new and that regenerative farming and grazing methods can not only feed the world but reverse climate change.