Are You Afraid of The Lunatic Fringe?

Last evening I went to an event in Milwaukie, WI.  It was part rally, part information, part networking reception to raise some money for Vernon Hershberger.  I donated and I hope you do too.  Vernon is a farmer in Wisconsin.   He thinks differently.  He home schools his children-he has 10.  8 boys and 2 girls.  Vernon is religious.  All those things would put Vernon outside traditional society-a part of the lunatic fringe.

Vernon was arrested for producing and selling raw milk to 200 consenting adult customers that wanted to buy from him.  In a court battle, he was prohibited from saying the words “raw milk” to the jury.  Last night, Vernon said this,

Stop. Close your eyes. Is there anything in your life worth dying for? If not. Nothing worth living for.

Joel Salatin was there.  He farms at Polyface Farm in Virginia.  I have “known” Joel through his books and movies.  He talked about innovation.  Innovation is started by heretics.  Innovation is started by the lunatic fringe.  Big innovations go against conventional wisdom, they go against the grain.  Salatin is one of the most innovative farmers you will find.  He says farming isn’t about mechanization.  It’s about biology.

Salatin quipped, “For 30 yrs the USDuh took me out to steak dinners and told me to feed ground up dead cows to my cows. Nature batted last.”

Joel said we are so far removed from our food we have forgotten what food is.  He criticized the farm to table movement in the way it is messaging the public.  There is no conspiracy between Monsanto ($MON) and the government.  Do you think they want to be regulated too?  The difference is big corporations can get together with bureaucrats and make sure the legislation has loopholes they can jump through.  The little guys can’t.  We see this over and over in every part of business.  Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Banking, Big anything.  They can fight regulators.  Independent businessmen suffer.

Most of the time, consumer advocates like Ralph Nader get on their high horse and spew fearful facts and scare people.  Then, lawmakers and regulators spring into action.  Is their any difference between the way the British government treated the American colonists in 1776 and the ways our bureaucracies treat us today?  Interestingly, most consumer advocates are illiterate about food.  Yet, they are the ones leading the charge for more and more regulation.

The government has screwed up the food supply.  Even accounting systems don’t take into account the full economic costs of production.  GAAP and FASB allow the farming industry to externalize costs.  If we totaled up the real economic costs of farming, we would examine it differently.  Farms would look a lot different.

When it comes to food access, Salatin says to ask four questions:

  1. How do you create responsible food buying decisions?
  2. How do you ensure marketplace diversity?
  3. How do you empower individuals?
  4. How do you empower people when their ability to make a decision has been taken away?

This lunatic fringe movement is just in the infancy.   In America, we must tolerate the lunatic fringe and we cannot be constantly living in fear.  That doesn’t go for farming alone, but lots of industries.  Entrenched cab industrialists attacked Uber by using fear.

This farming movement isn’t going away.  I love seeing it, learning about it, and understanding it. In ten years, this movement will look far different than it does today.  What happens when you interject something like Bitcoin into farming?  What happens when the blockchain is linked to the farming supply chain?  What about drones, sensors, and data?  What about learning how to use food as a drug to defray health expenses?  What about lifting tons of regulations so that individual people can create all kinds of little artisan companies around food that make our life, health and country better?  In a connected, networked society with mobile technology it gets really fascinating.  It’s why I am very interested and excited about innovation in farming, our food supply chain, and how we shop and prepare food in the US.