Last year, in my quest to "go local" I joined a food club. It was easy. An ambitious and dedicated woman with boundless energy coordinated healthy, local and innovative suppliers to send her their wares and each week she sent the members the friendliest email describing the week's offerings and an attached order form. With ease, each week I filled out my list sometimes being adventurous and trying new foods, like fermented veggies and unique handmade soaps. Other weeks I played it safe and stocked up on chocolate cupcake mixes from a local mill, delicious raw cheeses, local eggs and even fresh produce when in season. For a $5 delivery fee, coolers lovingly packed with ice and instructions arrived on my doorstep while I was at work. I was in local food heaven!
And then? Busted. The Department of Agriculture shut us down. Why? Because you can't store food meant for sale in your home. You also can't sell food that isn't properly marked for resale. Never mind the fact we all signed agreements that allowed the food club to be our "personal shopping" service. Or the fact that we all agreed to allow the club to package, store and deliver the food safely. It's a no-no and we got shut down.
I was angry! Why can't I choose where and how I get my food? Why should I trust the government to secure safe and healthy food for my family? Aren't they the ones who allowed mercury into the corn syrup? Didn't they allow a peanut factory with more than one health violation to keep operating, pumping a dose salmonella out with every granola bar? How about that chocolate with a little tweak of melamine in it that arrived here from China, just in time for Halloween? Aren't they the ones to blame for all those tomatoes that were thrown out or left to rot because the government was sure that was where the e-coli when coming from. Oh, wait? Or could it be those crazy peppers?
Now my food is under government control. No more share-sies of a 5-gallon tub of frozen Michigan cherries with the rest of the club. No more loose tea purchased in bulk. No more ethically raised chickens bought directly from the farmer, cut the way we like them and wrapped simply and ready for the freezer. Our fearless food club leader is looking for ways to reorganize and restructure her businesses so we can once again operate as a cooperative. But for now... I am lost.
Today, I bought eggs from the grocery store. Yes, they're organic, cage free and vegetarian fed. But creepily, they're all the same size and uniform in color. I miss my eggs with the pretty rainbow-hued shells in different sizes with the nice handwritten date on the plain carton. But, I needed eggs, so I bought them.
I ordered from the handmade soap company that I love dearly, but had to pay for shipping and the soap actually was more expensive than through the volume buying discount of the club. But, I needed soap, so I paid the price.
Can anyone please tell me why, in this tough economic time, is our government making it harder for us to buy local, save money and eat healthy?
Why is the government making it more complicated for parents to choose what foods they feel healthiest for their children, yet they allow vending machines and soda into the schools?
Why do they feel that my food, bought from a straight shooting farmer that will shake my hand and give me his phone number, is less safe than factory farmed animals that stand in poo for most of their lives with their only identification a 16 digit number?
Seriously, doesn't the government have something better to do with their free time? I don't know, like bail out some banks? Fix the housing crisis? Straighten out health care or maybe education? I can't imagine that a bunch of suburban housewives splitting up a bucket of frozen cherries is really that critical to the survival of our country... Am I missing something here?