Interview With PA Farmer Ian Brendle: How A Proposed Law Threatens America’s Small Farmers

I talked with Ian Brendle of Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s Green Meadow Farm, which he runs along with his father Glenn Brendle, who started the farm in 1981. Supplying over 100 Philadelphia restaurants throughout the year, Green Meadow’s herbs, microgreens, and vegetables have been showcased by some of Philly’s best (i.e. Le Virtú, Osteria, Russet, London Grill, Memphis Taproom, Honey’s Sit N Eat, and Lucky Old Souls food truck), with the resulting experience converting many to the value of small-scale farming.    

Ian Brendle and wife Barbie Marshall at a recent Industry Night at Alla Spina.

Ian Brendle and wife Barbie Marshall at a recent Industry Night at Alla Spina.

We discussed the implications of The FDA’s proposed Food Safety Modernization Act which, if enacted as it now stands, could put small farmers such as himself out of business. At issue is the application of standards by a Kafkaesque bureaucracy that would do nothing to improve food safety in this country. Admitting to a high degree of anger and anxiety, Brendle points out that those who contaminate the food supply–the country’s giant Agribusiness companies–do as they please, while those who farm in a safe, sustainable manner as he does, are being unfairly targeted. 

At issue, along with the addition of nonsensical costs, is a proposal to lengthen times before planting and harvesting after manure rich compost is applied to fields, which could lower yields for small, local farmers. To this, Brendle offers up a way of farming tied to tradition that has never strayed from common sense–much unlike the practices of factory farming.   

Brion: When I first contacted you about this issue, you quickly related a confluence of emotions.

Farmer Ian: To me there’s a lot that’s not known about it. Nothing is finalized yet. After a recent extension, November 22nd is the last day for people to speak their mind on what’s being proposed and what they’re trying to implement. And there’s still a lot that’s up in the air as far as what’s going to happen. That’s why it’s really nerve wracking—not knowing what’s going to be implemented.

Brion: The crazy thing for me is that no one even knows about this.

Farmer Ian: We ourselves, we don’t have a farmstand and go to farmers markets—we deliver to restaurants. Sure, those restaurants will be affected, but think about the popularity of farmers markets throughout the country and how they have provided people from all walks of life the opportunity to source sustainable agriculture. And, you get to meet the farmer, you get to talk to the farmer. You make that connection. What’s being proposed, it has the potential to tear that all apart.

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