Brion: On the surface, for a general public disconnected from food issues and where their food comes from, it’s easy to see cow feces as bad, for manure to be a really scary thing. So, of course, we need these new regulations. And, The FDA has put a nice marketing spin on it via the name alone–hey, who isn’t for some modernized food safety. Especially when some people can have the reaction of, oh, my God, cows feces anywhere near my food can kill me.
Farmer Ian: But that’s why we’ve done things the way we have for so long–there is a safe way to do it. If you’re careful and conscientious about what you’re doing, then you don’t have a problem. We farm the same way it was done since the 1800s, the 1700s. The simplest way of farming. We’re pretty low tech. We don’t have a lot of fancy stuff. We keep things as simple as possible because, when you farm, that’s the best way to do things. Look at Italy. They’re resisting mega farms and maintaining a food culture, a way of life that’s based on a network, a myriad of small farms. With manure, you take what the animals give you and you use it in the proper manner. You spread the manure, you break it down, you plow it, you till it. There’s a certain amount of time you’re allowing the manure to breakdown and for the beneficial enzymes and cultures to take hold, allowing for the pathogens to essentially be eradicated in the soil.
Brion: Like you said earlier, 30 days is enough for that.
Farmer Ian: Yeah. That’s how it has always been done. There’s times when it goes longer, but we never plant our crops into the soil where we feel somebody could be harmed. I wouldn’t put people at risk farming the way that I farm. That would be stupid. A lot of farming is common sense. It might not be common sense to everybody, but to me, it’s common sense. Growing up farming, as an entrepreneurial farmer, it has worked this far, so why would I change anything?
Brion: The main drawback of what is being proposed is that it would lower your yields, while raising the price of the stuff that you can produce.
Farmer Ian: Obviously, if the price at farmers markets doubles or quadruples, very few people are going to be able to afford produce from small farms. And, it just feels to me that they’re forcing our hand. For me, as a small farmer who is doing everything right, I’d like to think that my government would support me, that they would back me. But instead, they don’t seem to want me to exist.
Brion: What’s next then?
Farmer Ian: I’m hoping enough people get upset about this as it comes to light for more and more people. As I make my rounds [delivering produce], I talk about it as much as I can. The chefs and restaurants I deal with are already deeply concerned about food issues. People like Marc Vetri have already spoken volumes on the problems with our food system. Having that support definitely helps. It’s just so under the radar. Once they hear about, they can’t believe it. We have the same passion. I’m not getting rich off of this. The government and Big Ag industry people working against me know how slim my margins are. But, I’m not stopping anytime soon. No matter what happens, I’m going hard as long as I possibly can. I love what I do.
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