I started back to school this week. My summer project of finding ways of supporting local meat farmers is wrapping up. I've mostly been having conversations with government officials (USDA and MDAR), and writing a lot.
I wrote one long paper summarizing everything I learned and concluded this summer. I don't think it's publishable, but it's good to have all the information in one place.
I wrote a much shorter paper, "Going Local," aimed at the public health community. This paper was inspired by events this summer in Portsmouth, NH, where the city public health inspector forbade the sale of uninspected chicken at the city farmers' market. This was her right, as the market is held on city soil. However, I feel it was the wrong decision. Why didn't she instead go talk to the poultry farmers, look at their operations, see if they're clean? If not, maybe suggest some changes to the farmers. The paper suggests to the public health community that local food is good, local meat is clean, and if they are worried about particular farmers they should connect with them directly. I will be meeting with the head of the public health program at my school when she returns from overseas to get her opinion on whether this is a publishable paper.
Right now I am working on another short paper to send to selected members of Congress, recommending that an act be introduced to Congress which will move responsibility for regulation of small farmers from the USDA to state departments of agriculture. Given how much good work the Massachusetts Dept of Ag is doing supporting mobile processing units, I suspect that moving regulations down a level would be a really good thing. States would be much more able to write some regulations aimed at supporting small farmers, not huge companies, and to assign inspectors (or not), than the USDA. I don't really think this will make a change actually happen, but I feel like I can't let this project go until I have told someone who can do something exactly what I think they should do.
I may or may not post again; vet school has a way of eating up all one's time. Thanks to all who read this blog and thanks for your supportive comments.