Thursday, March 2, 2017

Give me food or give me death!

Declan will be back on Monday. Until then, since we can't take the city boy to the farm, we're bringing the farm to him, via Bokerah Brumley. 

“Give me [food] or give me death!”

What's that you say? You need to consult with the others, but I've got the quote wrong?

I'll wait.

Fine. That’s not how the original went, but it’s the version that's been rolling around my head for the last six months.

In a literal way, it's a true thing; no food = death. Moreover, a lack of real food also equals death, albeit a slower one. Historically, though, food has been one of the ways the ruling government controls its populace is to control its food. Today is no different.

I touch on this idea of egregious, governmental food control in the CLFA anthology, Freedom's Light, and my contribution, Dollars on the Nightstand.

Let's pretend that I'm your neighbor. I've invited you over to dinner. We ate a delicious, crispy-skinned broiler chicken that was free-ranging on my grassy pasture yesterday. As a family, we processed it, slicked it with butter made from my cow's milk, and then seasoned it with herbs from our herb garden. The green beans were canned from last year's harvest, and the water is from our well.

Everything is delicious, and as we're cleaning up, you notice that I have an excess of raw milk in my fridge.

"Can I buy some?" you ask. "Let me at least help pay for some of the feed and work you've put into it." You know how I keep my animals. You see that they're happy and healthy, and you've had the milk before. It's creamy and delicious.

"Nope, sorry, it's illegal. They might take all my animals and arrest me for selling you a little milk."

Really? Yes. Really.

You know what's insane? Minus the last one hundred years, the very thing I just described was a normal occurrence. AND WE SURVIVED IT! WITHOUT government invention. This was life. We bartered as a way to survive. We shared our excess of one thing with out neighbor, and we were the better for it.

In place of this, the government has institutionalized food that's chemically mass produced and emptied of all goodness. Chickens are housed in miserable conditions. Cattle are kept in feedlots, living miserable lives, shot full of antibiotics and fed diets that are not meant to keep them healthy, but meant to make them gain weight. We eat obese food, and we're shocked that the country is suffering from obesity. There have been two studies hinting at the link between these two things." You are what you eat," as grandma used to say.

The USDA manages all aspects of our food industry, based on recommended daily allowances. However, their RDAs are based on the *minimum* allowable of calories, vitamins, and minerals that will net a passably health human. Actual needs are usually much more and not often met by what is now the standard American diet.

But when it comes to the small farm, the USDA invades with oppressive regulations, fees, certifications, and laws that make it nearly impossible for a small farm to bring a livable wage to the small farmer. They can enter a farm without permission, run a single test, and euthanize entire flocks without explanation. Personal autonomy and liberty is ignored.

"In the 1930s, the United States was home to 6.3 million farms; today, there are approximately 2.2 million, and fewer every day. The average age of today’s farmer or rancher is 59 years old, and many are retiring without a successor, as their children don’t want — or can’t afford — to take over the family business. Thus, as farms’ inheritors increasingly abandon the farm, a vacuum of stewardship opens up, leaving many wondering who, or what, will take their place." -- From Down on the Farm by Gracy Olmstead, National Review, August 15, 2016

Food shortages will be a real thing in our future world. Yet it will not be from a lack of individuals that would love to take on the task, but from the inability to enter the industry without millions in pocketbook capital.

As Patricia Foreman, one of the founders of the Chicken Underground, likes to say, "It is a constitutional right for people to feed themselves and their neighbors, if they choose. We lived this way for thousands of years." The USDA allows unhealthy, over-crowding in chicken houses that require HAZMAT suits and protocol to walk through, but demand egg washing that removes the bloom (natural protective coating) from fresh eggs. She also likes to point out that Europeans usually do not wash or refrigerate eggs as it isn't necessary for fresh-from-the-farm eggs. Indeed, if you compare a standard store-bought egg with an egg from a pasture-raised chicken, you will find significant differences in the color and consistency as well as the nutritional content.

According to Joel Salatin (a self-proclaimed "...Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic"), founder of Polyface Farms, Inc., author of Everything I Want to Do is Illegal, there is a prejudice against scale. Crop-insurance doesn't benefit the health of the agricultural market or increase productivity. It insures that the current degenerative farming practices stay in place, depleting the soil and ruining the land for generations, while insuring that regenerative farming practice that use common sense over the "we can chemically engineer it so we will" attitude (example: Round Up and the plight of the honey bees and other natural pollinators). “Innovation starts embryonically, creation starts small,” he says.

But, for us, for our family, it's more than that. It's a throw-back to a simpler time when kids were connected to the value of life and the value of hard work.

Or more simply...

"I reject your reality and substitute my own." -- Adam Savage

Farming is a way to be free and unplugged from a societal breakdown. They can riot in the cities when the government decides to face the music and stop printing money; we're working our sustainable plan. Society can collapse. Permaculture farming is the ticket to a kind of freedom that has been in short supply since Big Gov took over the food industry (and schooling, but that that's a story for a different day). We'll still have food and food to share.

At least until we're arrested for selling milk. But you didn't hear that from me.

"Give me [food] liberty or give me death!"

Bokerah Brumley is a speculative fiction writer making stuff up on a trampoline in West Texas. When she's not playing with the quirky characters in her head, she's addicted to Twitter pitch events, writing contests, and social media in general. She lives on ten permaculture acres with five home-educated children and one husband. In her imaginary spare time, she also serves as the blue-haired President of the Cisco Writers Club. 

Her work can be found in Havok Magazine (July issue), Southern Writers Magazine (Summer 2016 issue), Echoes of Liberty (The Clarion Call Book 2), The Stars at My Door (April Moon Books), A Fellowship of Fantasy Anthology: Fantastic Creatures, The Light Leads to Hope and Peace (Reflections of Faith Book 2), Freedom's Light: Short Stories, and three more upcoming anthologies. 

She was awarded first place in the FenCon Short Story Contest, third place in the Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest, and fifth place in the Children's/Young Adult category for the 85th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. More recently, she was selected as a 2016 Pitch Slam! finalist. 

And, yes, her latest book release is about a whale shifter. Go figure. (:


  1. Cattle are kept in feedlots, living miserable lives, shot full of antibiotics and fed diets that are not meant to keep them healthy, but meant to make them gain weight.

    I know it's rhetoric, but that I can't let pass.....

    Cows can be miserable. But when they're eating regularly, gaining weight and in a herd, that's not the time.

    Also, the use of antibiotics-- both shots and in the feed itself-- is already regulated. Shots are expensive to give, both in man-hours and the beating it gives the cattle. They also just put in yet ANOTHER "helpful" antibiotic rule, which sounds decent-- antibiotics similar to those used for humans will have to be given to cattle individually. The reality is that this means that more cattle will get infections, and worse ones, and it will keep swirling around through the herd like the office flu.

    Unhealthy cows don't gain weight-- heck, stressed ones don't, both things make the cows lose weight. There's a formula for various breeds at various ages for estimating how much weight they will lose from being worked. The diets they get for finishing off aren't designed to keep them in prime condition until they die of old age, but cattle are incredibly unlikely to die of old age, just like any other animal. We're just predators that take care of our prey, kill it humanely and care about not abusing it.

    I am less familiar with chickens, but those studies they've done on chicken stress indicate that they are unhappier in situations that a normal human would look at and consider "free range." (There are technical legal definitions and I'm trying to keep this short....) They are prey animals-- large open spaces mean danger. Keeping them in groups is also problematic, unless you can afford to lose a significant number to being pecked to death. Pecking order is no joke.

    For the bees, go do a google news search through the archives-- these strange die-offs end up in the news fairly often... usually right after a fad for raising bees happens. Some are pests-- especially around the "organic is magic, if I just go all natural then everything will be fine without any work" people-- some are misuse of pesticides (as in, the sort of misuse that gets your license yanked) and some seem to be that hives have too little room and are swarming.


    As for raw milk? Choosing the phrase "and we survived it" is not a great idea, especially when arguing for less regulation.
    Explanation for why, and links to even more information, can be found here.

  2. First let me say, I get it. Perhaps you make a living in the status quo food system. Or perhaps it’s someone you know and respect. So I get that when someone questions that system, and the authoritarians that implement it, they are viewed as placing that livelihood at risk – or maybe seen as impugning someone you respect. With that, I'm not really trying to convert you, per se. That’s not likely. But for anyone else that may read your comment, I have a question:

    When you see an average height, 375lbs person walking (or carting) around, do you suppose they're "happy"? Or would you categorize some part of their existence as miserable?

    Do you also suppose they are healthy? Most likely not. And yet they continue to gain weight despite they're not being healthy.

    Our brilliant federal overseers once told us it was safe to feed dead cows to live ones. Whoops, their bad... Now they say it's safe to feed chicken manure to cows. Chicken manure! Oh but it's been made to be safe. Do we really believe that???

    When animals are managed correctly, there is no need to include antibiotics in the feed, or inject them, save individually rare instances. Maybe you've never seen artisan animal husbandry, but there are a plethora of examples if you "google" it.

    It is true that sick or stressed cattle don't gain weight. But to suggest that cramming cattle into the fecal fog of a feed lot where they have an all-you-can-eat candy buffet (i.e. grains for ruminants) where they become by all reasonable measurements, obese, is somehow "healthy" because they're gaining weight is, forgive my pointedness, a bit obtuse.

    Let me suggest this: if medicated (aka drug laced) feed is a requirement to avoid herd or flock die-off, then maybe, just maybe, we're doing something wrong.

    And it's not about the cows dying of old age. But let's not pretend that feedlot cows are healthy because they're fat or that the meat brought to the market by that system can hold a nutrition candlestick to rotationally grazed, grass finished beef.


    1. If you've ever been to a Tyson or Pilgrim contracted chicken farm, and then go to any family flock that roams a yard, and say the family flock is unhappier, then as you say, you unfamiliar with chickens. Pecking order is no joke - it's also not a problem for chickens that have enough space and access to food and water. I'll tell you what is a joke: what "legally" defines free range. But here again, this is the government serving industry interests by word play and manipulation.

      I would suggest this, go to your local farmers market, buy some non-GMO fed, pasture raised chicken, and cook it with your Tyson chicken. Sample both, let us know if you still think the colorless, tasteless Tyson bird must have been happier because it went from egg to 8lbs in a 4 weeks. And how having to be de-beaked so the 10,000 birds it lived didn't peck each other to death because they are packed in an environment unfit for humans without space suits on, how it must have been a happier chicken than the ones raised on pasture (typically in mobile, open air shelters that protect them from predators) that aren't vaccinated, fed un-medicated non-GMO feed, with all their beaks left on so they can scratch and peck a new patch of ground for half their food each day - usually taking 2-4 time as long to reach mature weight compared to industry birds.

      Do that, then tell us if you don’t think those “studies” you site aren’t maybe bent to support an inhumane way to raise chickens.

      As for bees, it is true that novice bee keepers will lose hives. But the misuse of pesticides, is often times government agencies (that conveniently cannot “get their license yanked”), spraying for mosquitoes, which is the culprit for many of the die-offs you speak of - not the nefarious organic growers who think they don't have to work. Because, as we all know, most organic growers lazy bums. Cause ya know, all they want to do is spray their weeds and bugs away instead of working with nature and natural ecology to content with these challenges... oh wait... that's the petro-farming crowd. Hm. But I'm sure you're right. There's no bee die off problem. Cause if there was, then industrial farms would have to hire bees enmasse to pollinate their crops and then haul them back out so they could spray all their completely harmless herbicides and pesticides. Whoops, they do hire bees to pollinate. And those chemicals are harmful, no matter industry funded studies say.

      As for the Slate scare-article you linked, a simple internet search can generate ample articles, siting government studies, to argue raw milk is quite safe. Safer, many would argue, than pasteurized milk ( ). And it's an easy argument to make when the industrial dairy model cannot produce any raw milk safe for human consumption - it MUST be completely sanitized or it WILL be unsafe for consumption. Period. Why you ask? Read here:

      Again, I understand no one wants to believe what they, or someone they know and respects, does for a living is bad or immoral. I don't think people earning a living in the current food system are trying to destroy the ecosystem and mankind’s health (Monsanto excluded). Nor that they willfully bow their knees to government oppression. But for those who yearn for self-reliance and self-determination, the food freedom should be a frontline battle.

  3. First let me say, I get it. Perhaps you make a living in the status quo food system. Or perhaps it’s someone you know and respect. So I get that when someone questions that system, and the authoritarians that implement it, they are viewed as placing that livelihood at risk – or maybe seen as impugning someone you respect. With that, I'm not really trying to convert you, per se. That’s not likely.

    That's a mix of ad hominem and poisoning the well.

    You then go on to either fail to answer the objections, answer points I did not make and generally fail to answer in good faith.

    Guess that is rather enough of an answer to how secure your ideas are, both for me and anybody else who might read this....

    1. I'll give you your first point, insomuch as I did question the motives of your arguments. Yet I doubt that anyone reading our commentators failed to divine the purpose of that questioning. Which is to say, it is hard to image but that only someone who had a financial or emotional gain from the current food system could observe it, in whole, without also observing it is horribly broken – as I highlighted in each of my very specific rebuttals of each of your contentions.

      Moreover, to also claim I did not answer your objections is itself a glaring lack of good faith.

      Let's recap:

      Your objection to the blogger's point of the "legal,” yet altogether inhuman treatment of the confined space livestock system, was to say that cows in that system gain weight and are fed antibiotics that are regulated, so it must be okay.

      My rebuttal was to illustrate that weight gain is not an indicator of health. And went on to highlight that just because something is “regulated” doesn't by default mean it is good. In fact, the contrary is often the case. Here again, I gave examples to illustrate my point.

      You claimed that studies show free range chickens are more stressed and therefore less happy than industrially raised chicken. My counterpoint was that I don't believe any study that would make that ludicrous assertion. Nor would anyone else who has ever visited an industry chicken house and compared it to a pasture based operation. Now you're welcome to call that argument anecdotal, and we could then recite conflicting studies till the chickens come home. But most any average person with a minimum of experience would have a good belly laugh at your claim.

      Your next contention was to blame the plight of bees on lazy organic growers, acknowledging limited misuse of pesticides, and swarming. Again, you show your extreme bias in ignoring the mountain of evidence that chemical farming and landscaping as the leading cause of colony collapse to instead blame growers who don't use chemicals. I simply pointed the absurdity of that claim as well as the convenience that government gets to decide what constitutes misuse. I didn't even bother to point out how uninformed it was to blame swarming. The "lack of space" you mention is a sign of a HEALTHY colony. When a colony out grows it space (like a tree hollow, not just fabricated hives) it will groom another queen and a portion of the workers leave with the new queen to start another colony. This is called procreation, not extermination.

      As for your brief comment about surviving raw milk in a placid attempt to justify ridiculous regulations, I offered two articles to counterpoint your one – quite specifically answering your objections.

      My worry is not for security of my ideas, but for the liberty of people to be responsible for themselves. The point of the blogger, that I strongly support, is we need to recognize the our food rights are being trod upon by authoritarian regulation – that are only even necessary because we have departed from common sense in agriculture in favor of dollars and cents. [mic drop]

  4. Living out in the middle of nowhere farm country, I've seen both setups. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Small setups will never provide the quantity and large setups have an issue with quality. And, even though there are a ton of regulations we hear about ecoli and salmanela contamination in those large facilities on a regular basis. Smaller set ups, not so much, yet the government regulates them as if they are the same. Which they are not.

    Government regulations need to be minimal and reasonable. Regulation has caused a cattle shortage because small producers have gotten out of raising cattle due to over regulation. Hogs are impossible to make a profit on unless you have a huge confinement set up. Chickens and turkeys are the same way. Farmers getting into niche areas are the only way they survive anymore. And thanks to big producers throwing a fit, the government cracks down on small producers for stupid shit.

    1. Since it was 97% family farms in '07, there is a lot of room for reduction. cattle industry FAQ

      The big shortage of beef is largely gov't caused, but not quite that way... do you remember that horrific flooding a few years ago? That wiped out entire herds? And did you hear about the fires in Washington and Oregon's rural areas, which is incidentally where a lot of the family ranchers that sell to the feed lots are?
      And then the snow storms in '14 that took out 100k head...wiped out some ranchers, and while the reports about it not directly causing a jump in prices were true, it did do damage to the supply system.

      Yeah, gov't caused, but not exactly regulation....

      We hear about the larger facilities getting contaminated more often because
      "organic" is an extremely small subset of the food that people eat- and that's even now, after it's gotten much bigger. There's been a huge increase in recent years of recorded outbreaks (including deaths) from organics, in spite of the CDC's foodborne illness outbreak system not systematically collecting production method:


      I love the idea of cutting back on needless regulations, especially the ones based on emotional appeal or "but there COULD be so we must protect just in case" theories. The moves to reining in the EPA that Trump has made are encouraging.

    2. I'm sorry you totally missed the point of my post. Shall I dumb it down for you?

  5. Which is to say, it is hard to image but that only someone who had a financial or emotional gain from the current food system could observe it, in whole, without also observing it is horribly broken – as I highlighted in each of my very specific rebuttals of each of your contentions.

    'I cannot imagine anyone not agreeing with me,' especially when you then go on to reject facts with which you do not agree, is exactly the problem.

    1. LOL! Now who's using ad hominem and poisoning the well? Who is not answering objections in good faith (or at all for that matter)?

      There was no rejection of facts, only confutation of assertions, assumptions, and biases.

      You may attempt to categorize industry funded studies as "facts" but that doesn't actually make it so. That's why they call them "studies". That's synonymous for "observations". So it is quite reasonable to disagree on observations, wouldn't you agree? It is well short of fact rejection to say I have first hand observations whose different data points offer contradicting conclusions to your site observations.

  6. The lord and master of the keep doesn't like blood on the carpet, so comments are being locked.