The phone rang and it was Joel- my farmer. He had arrived in town a little early with my buying club order and was wondering if I could come early too. See, I order my meats and eggs from a farm in rural virginia. Joel, the head of the family who runs the farm, chooses to deliver the foods to his customers directly. He prefers to have the eye to eye contact believing that you can't regulate morals, real morals come from looking your customers in the eye. I like the novelty of seeing Joel face to face on a regular basis. I was even a bit star struck the first time as I'd read a few books about him and his style of farming.
I jumped in the car, eager to get my eggs, chicken, and beef. The radio was tuned to NPR and The Diane Rehm Show was just beginning. Ironically they were discussing food safety. You may remember that a while back there were recalls on contaminated pet food. The wheat, grown in China, had been intentionally injected with a chemical contaminant named Melamine in an effort to make the wheat appear to be a higher quality. The Melamine was reacting with other contaminants and causing the animals kidneys to shut down. The story focused on the FDA's responsibility to protect American consumers from food contaminants. An ever increasing amount of our food (or ingredient in food) is imported and most countries don't have the safety regulations we have. Food born illnesses have doubled in the past 5 years. They stressed that we need to know where our food comes from. By how? asked Diane. Unfortunately there is no way as of yet. The current administration has not allowed laws to pass that would inform consumers.
What sparked the story this week is that the FDA had discovered that chicken raised for human consumption had eaten feed containing the melamine contaminated wheat. They decided that the potential for melamine poisoning was minimal and they would not pull chicken off the shelves. They are leaving it for us to eat.
I listened in concern, but was not tempted to fear. Why? Because I do know where my food comes from, Joel and his family. Their chickens don't eat feed, they eat grass. Grass that is grown on their farm. I know the ins and outs of Joel's farm because he makes them well known. He encourages his patrons to drop in any time and give themselves a tour of the entire farm- full access- to see everything. This, he feels, keeps everyone on the farm accountable and he likes his customers to be educated.
I am hoping to make it up to Swoope, Virgina this summer to visit Joel and his family and my chickens whose eggs I eat every morning. I'm grateful for his desire to farm "beyond-organic", to educate the public, and to be so politically involved with the legislation regulating farmers. And, I'm grateful that I can enjoy tonights dinner without wondering if my kidneys are going to be ok.