Hi, I’ve been asked by Maddie and Clara to be a guest blogger for the Local Harvest Dish on food issues. As an introduction, I worked at the grocery briefly when it first opened, volunteered last summer at the Tower Grover Farmers Market, work with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment as my day job, am in an organic farming apprenticeship at the Mueller Farm in Ferguson and will be assisting Andy Ayers with his local food distribution business, Eat Here St. Louis, this summer.
Whew! Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk food. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, there’s a bit of a swine flu thing going around. What you may not have heard yet is that some sources are already pointing to factory farming giant Smithfield as the culprit:
According to one community resident, the organic and fecal waste produced by Granjas Carrol isn’t adequately treated, creating water and air pollution in the region. I witnessed—and smelled—the same thing in Hardin County, Iowa, a couple of years ago, another area marked by intensive industrial hog production.
The connection has not been confirmed, but evidence seems to be mounting:
“Government officials today said they believe the swine flu began in a small community next to a large pig farm in the southeastern state of Veracruz, where a four-year-old boy who got sick in April tested positive for the virus,” reported ABC News, which called the small village “Ground Zero,” and said the deadly virus “somehow spread to Mexico City.”
Well, Mexico and Iowa must have a lot in common with Missouri because the Show-Me State has quite a few of these CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). These operations have a LOT of clout in Jefferson City and have stopped nearly any legislation that would control or decrease their numbers, or make it harder for them to obtain permits (for either constructing more CAFOs or controlling the wastes from them).
The possible link between the swine flu outbreak and factory farming is a disturbing one… What can you do about it other than making sure you eat only sustainably-raised pork from Local Harvest? One thing is to use this awful situation to make the case for the negative health effects of factory farming.
You can also contact Governor Jay Nixon and ask him get behind local food. The Show Me Local Food Coalition includes groups such as the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, which has been leading the fight in Missouri against factory farms for some time. Here’s a short primer of theirs on CAFOs and how they affect local communities.
So remember, “Doing It Local” isn’t just about purchasing decisions but also about how we ensure that our political system addresses these problems.
– Brian DeSmet