Life, Liberty, and the Right to Farm?

“Can you imagine the outrage if Michigan residents just lost the right to bear to arms?”                      

In June of 2016 the Michigan Commission of Agriculture & Rural Development issued a new ruling that limited the potency of the Right to Farm Act of 1981. That day not one person in my world…NOT ONE PERSON at my work, friends on social media, or even my family had anything to say about it!

These are the same people who catch the faintest whiff of 2nd Amendment infringement in the air and meet it with a tsunami of “only if you pry them out of our cold, dead hands!”  Make no mistake, I am for the unrestricted right to bear arms…but I feel at least equally passionate about my right to establish a safe a secure food system on my own property.

I am willing to bet the average American would be surprised how much food can be grown on a 1/3 acre lot in the suburbs.

*  Food grown cleanly, without unsightly detractions to the neighborhood

*  Food that takes about an hour a day to grow, harvest, and maintain the system

*  Food that arguably tastes better and is more dense with nutrition than anything you can buy from the supermarket

The best part about independently grown food is it blankets your household in resilience to weather almost any storm. Spend just one hour researching the frailty of our industrialized food system and you will quickly conclude that average Americans, good people, who don’t have private food sources are just three days away from not being able to provide for their family’s next meal.


Perhaps by now you have concluded that I am a passionate defender of the Right to Farm Act of 1981 and I am not.

It breaks my heart that our country has veered so far that this legislation was deemed needed to protect small scale farmers.  I am not typically for legislation that increases regulatory code, because it will be twisted to achieve goals that were never intended.

In regards to farming, the USDA has a long legacy of using regulations at its disposal to prop up big agriculture. The USDA tips the scales in favor of major farms citing small farms are too unsophisticated to be safe.

I agree the Right to Farm Act was birthed out of good intention to protect small farms from threats such as state/local regulations and nuisance lawsuits.

The outcome though is it never addressed the cultural undercurrent that was pulling Americans away from a tradition that has been practiced by every generation except one in our country’s history.  Now almost 40 years later, small scale farmers have to contend with the Act being used by big agriculture to limit small farmers, in addition to the cultural migration that put small farms under attack in the first place.

In America, growing food in suburban/urban settings is too often considered a countercultural act and now sadly in many places it’s illegal too.

honey harvest-3

On my family’s 1/3 acre suburban lot I grow a significant amount of my family’s food, just like my grandparents before me and their predecessors before them.

I believe the pendulum is swinging back into favor of backyard and suburban farms. However we have a long way to go. I will know our work is done when threats to our rights to farm are answered by a thunderous resistant choir of voices saying, “only if you pry them out of our cold, dead hands!” 

Canned food

(originally appeared on Shawna’s former blog, Lion’s Thunder, 11/22/16)

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