Help Save a Farm!

Fundraising to Defend the Rights of Raw Milk Dairies and Raw Milk Consumers – by Kimberly Hartke

Kimberly is awesome! Please read her article and help us help the Estrellas.

ACTION:

  • Give $5 (or more, if you can) – $5 is not much to give and, if we can get the word out broadly enough, it will help the Estrellas TREMENDOUSLY!
  • Please ‘like’ this post and also share it on Facebook!
  • Also, as Kimberly mentioned, please add the Pledgie button for the Estrellas to your blog. See here for code.

Thanks for your help, friends!

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14 responses to “Help Save a Farm!

  1. One more comment. I, as an individual, do not want to get sick from improperly prepared cheese. I am 67 years old, love cheese, but because of my age have a lowered immune response and don’t want the risk of Listeria. FDA is simply, in their action, pointing out that by finding listeria monocytogenes, the conditions are right in the cheese and more might be found if examined. Its simple statistics. Why risk a human life when you can simply destroy some cheese. I agree that I wouldn’t want to be the owner of that cheese, but that seems to be the cost of doing business. If you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen, better get out.

  2. I saw another article in the NY Times about the prevalence of listeria in artisanal cheese. It says that listeria is very common on farms; that close vigilance is necessary; and that many cheesemakers are not adequately trained.

    Perhaps the Estrellas can tell us precisely what their training has been; what sanitation steps they had been taking prior to the first inspection; how they changed their procedures; and what they did after the second inspection in August showed that their facility and cheese was still contaminated.

    Those are much tougher and less glamorous subjects than pointing the finger at the big, bad federal government. So be it. Bacteria aren’t real glamorous either, and I guarantee you that the flu is even less glamorous. Especially if it hits a pregnant women, a small child, an old person, or someone with other medical issues.

    Someone needs to remember this: We’re are talking about food. It is supposed to nourish us, not make us sick, or worse. That is Job #1, and everything else is secondary.

  3. John, I don’t have that “unglamorous” information at my fingertips, but I do know that the EFC has spend a great deal of money updating their facility in attempts to comply with FDA standards. It has been and remains their intention to comply with the FDA, so long as their requests aren’t exceedingly unreasonable.

    Also, please remember that there is no case on record of anyone, anywhere getting sick in any way from EFC cheese. Some people like to get all wrapped around the axle about the potential sickness in the raw cheese industry, but don’t seem to be as worried about the actual sickness (and death) in other segments of the food industry (bagged salads, eggs, beef, etc).

    I, personally, am not into pointing fingers at the big, bad federal government, but I am quite interested in providing more context in which the consumers can make better judgments.

  4. As a consumer, I depend on the food safety regulation regime. In recent years, we’ve seen a variety of contamination issues, including BST in milk, slack inspection at meatcutting facilities, e coli in vegetables, and people dying from unpasteurized Odwalla juice.

    I’m not a biologist or a farmer. All I do is eat the stuff. I also pay for it, by the way. Never forget that, because in the end, the farmer has to sell the product or he is out of business.

    Simply telling people not to get wrapped around the axle isn’t going to cut it. Same goes for saying that there haven’t been any reported illnesses. All it’s going to take is one highly publicized death, and then the whole industry you are supporting may well be shut down.

    I realize I’m being a pain in the butt here, but you should actually think of me as a friend. I genuinely want small, artisanal cheese makers to survive and prosper. But I think they’re going to need to get their act together, and quickly.

    There is another factor to think about. These farms producing the artisanal products are small businesses, and small businesses are always mixed bags. You tend to see the extremes, both positively and negatively. It’s a big mistake to imagine that, because a business is small, its owners sit at the right hand of God. All too often, the exact opposite is the case.

  5. No health problems from raw milk cheese, eh? Do a Google search. There plenty of problems. Costco just recalled raw milk cheese with salmonella, and France has had a number of nationwide disease outbreaks traced to raw milk cheese. Interesting that no one wants to talk about this stuff.

  6. John, who ever said there are no health problems with raw milk cheese? Seriously. I’m not here pretending that the EFC doesn’t have problems to fix or that the raw-milk cheese industry doesn’t have both real and perceived problems. The wrapped-around-the-axle comment wasn’t really aimed at you – I think that you seem to have a fairly even-keeled view of this. I have in mind people like Big (see his comment on “A Site to Help”). Food safety (and unfortunately even the perception of it) is a real issue with real consequences. The EFC takes food safety very seriously and have spent a great deal of time, money and effort to make necessary changes (and are still doing so).

    John, what do you see as the first steps in small artisanal cheese makers getting their act together? What do you think is lacking and what needs to be done?

  7. Okay, Tim, I accept your rebuttal, and once again I appreciate it.

    At the risk of being nothing but a critic, a position I really don’t like, I have to say that because I’m not an expert I can’t be comprehensive. So, consider the following to be provisional, off the top of my head thoughts for the industry to consider.

    1. Back off of the anti-regulation theme and make it clear that food safety is a vital priority. Forthrightly acknowledge risks and real problems within the artisanal cheese sector.

    2. Seek to define industry standards and practices for all producers to follow, and remedies when contaminants are discovered.

    3. Educate the public on the presence of bacteria in food.

    From what I’ve been able to read, the FDA didn’t come down hard on EFC until the second offense. I’m having a tough time seeing how they acted unreasonably. True, it has been a hardship for the business, but that strikes me as EFC’s problem and not the FDA’s.

    The more I look into this, the more apprehensive I am becoming about consuming artisanal cheese. That worries me quite a bit. The industry should act BEFORE something really bad happens, with “really bad” being defined as the deaths of consumers. If that winds up happening because the industry was too defensive, it’s going to be “game over” for a promising industry. I’d really hate to see it happen.

  8. Very good, John. I quite agree with you and appreciate your insights. I have tried to be very clear about the EFC’s desire to be completely up to standards. That’s something they’ve always sought to do. Nothing has changed on that score. The EFC wants to work with the FDA to get back in business.

    The unreasonable part of the FDA’s treatment was the request to recall ALL their cheese, when there was no evidence that had ever spread into anything other than one or two soft cheeses. That request was one that, were it honored, would have been the end of EFC. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to you? One of my irons in the fire, therefore, is to highlight this heavy-handedness. Such “regulation” threatens more than just artisan cheese. So, it’s not anti-regulation that I’m after, but sensible regulation.

  9. John, you said, ‘The position of EFC and its supporters seems to be, essentially, “Let’s wait until someone dies before we take any of this really seriously.” I suppose I’m exaggerating a bit for effect, but not too much. How many infections have there been that went unreported, i.e., so-called “mild cases” of this and that?’

    This is wildly unfair. The Estrellas have been diligent from day one (before FDA field agents began swabbing their drains) to produce and sell GOOD, HEALTHY cheese. They’ve spent thousands and thousands of their own dollars to fix the problems found by the FDA. You seem to be focusing your ire for the industry as a whole on the Estrellas, who, as it turns out, have fantastic karma (jk).

  10. Kenneth, John, here is the background on this case, put together by the attorneys of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, who are working with the family. This may help to put everything in perspective:

    http://ftcldf.org/press/Background-Morningland-Estrella.pdf

    We need to have compassion on this family, they have made no one ill, and they have worked very cooperatively with the regulatory agencies. But they shouldn’t be expected to close their doors because of ‘suspicions’. Only, proof of harm should be the reason to ruin an enterprise, and even then I believe in redemption.

    In this horrible economy, why is our government bent on putting people out of work. I really believe this is a case of bureaucratic bias and a too stringent (unreasonable) standard being applied.

    Plus, the FDA has already stated that U.S. citizens don’t have a right to healthy food of our choice, and that no one, for any reason should consume raw dairy foods! Why do they have even an ounce of credibility on this matter? Maybe only because you are unaware of their explicit statements. See the ftcldf.org for more details.

    Check the press release:
    http://ftcldf.org/press/press-FTCLDF-answers-FDA.htm

    Kimberly

  11. John, this is a fund raising page. Please, if you choose to continue finding fault with the Estrella family, take it elsewhere. There are plenty of media articles where you can debate the issue in the comments.

    Since you persist in your negative vein, I am going to ask you to leave this blog, as we are trying to come to the aid of this family and you are actively discouraging people from supporting them in their defense of their enterprise.

  12. I’m happy to donate and spread the word to help this family and other farms like them who are providing Real Food to nourish us!

    Visit Save Farm Freedom Friday to see all those who are standing together!

    http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2010/11/save-farm-freedom-friday.html

    Kelly

  13. Thanks for the comments, Shane. The facts of the matter bear out that the FDA was way heavy-handed. It’s that simple. In speaking with the Estrellas a couple days ago, I was informed of a number of other safety precautions (costing scores of thousands of dollars) that they took unasked by anyone, including the FDA.

    As to Kimberly’s comment above, she’s not the admn, I am. I enjoy an open exchange of ideas. I think openness is good, and I know that our side (supporting the EFC) can learn a great deal by listening. On the other hand, this site is for the support of the EFC. Let’s try to keep comments supportive. Criticism is fine, but constructive criticism is best.

  14. It seems pretty obvious to me that Jack’s “axe to grind” is simply the matter of food safety. Through polite and informative conversation, Tim, you have both managed to stay reasonable. I see nothing trollish in Jack’s language. At most, perhaps there’s a bit of Devil’s Advocacy. While I disagree, I do understand his point. Food safety is not something to be treated lightly. In this case it seems likely to me that the FDA’s actions are overzealous; however failure to correct a potentially harmful infection speaks of other potentially harmful failures. As a farmer and food producer, I can imagine what it would have felt like to the Estrellas if someone had died from eating their product. Ultimately, that’s the whole point. I hope they are able to survive this draconian assault but I can see both sides.

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