Wild food is the ultimate local food: uncivilized, untamed, it grows wherever it pleases. Like the “wild wild west,” it could be the icon of all-American independence. But like any small child or small business, wild food and local food in general are threatened by over-regulation.
The FDA, for example, requires that all food sold to restaurants come from an “approved source.” In the case of wild mushrooms, that has to be a wild mushroom “expert.” However, they haven’t defined just what a wild mushroom expert is. When people ask me, I say it’s anyone who’s still alive.
This gray area leaves it up to each state to decide. Consequently, The North Carolina Department of Agriculture says that for now, it’s legal for a restaurant to buy wild mushrooms from an independent mushroom hunter. South Carolina, on the other hand, has ruled the opposite.
You might think a clear definition here would be helpful. But what if the definition of an “expert” is someone who has spent eight years and about $80,000 to become a Doctor of Mycology? How many people are going earn a PhD and then try to to pay back their student loans by hunting mushrooms?
Of course, licensing, certification, accreditation, rules and regulations are all supposed to protect the public, just as education is supposed to inform it. I’m living proof of that! Sadly, what federal laws tend to defend are corporate interests. Most food safety regulations make it impossible for small businesses to compete against large-scale operations. Similarly, small medicine companies are declared unsafe and therefore illegal because they can’t meet unnecessary and unreasonable demands. The logic is backwards because these safeguards are actually only needed on factory farms and other mass-production facilities.
Who do you trust: local farmer or faceless corporation? A small farm can’t get away with poisoning people or the planet: you “know where they live,” so they can’t exactly pack up and leave town. A multinational corporation can. That’s the point of limited liability.
In all fairness, a single sloppy mushroom hunter can poison quite a few people; see one such close call here. This is why I recommend a certain level of regulation: through the establishment of mushroom markets. The foragers for these markets can be children. Why? Because when it comes to mushrooms, you don’t need experts to collect them; you just need experts to inspect them. For more info, see here.
In conclusion, the only thing we have to fear about witches — to turn a phrase — is fear itself. The word witch means “to bend.” But when it comes to twisting the truth, it’s not witches you have to worry about.
The latest move to consolidate not just our medicine but our food supply into big business is the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The deadline for public input on what will effectively outlaw local food is November 15th.
This Halloween season, don’t take candy from strangers. Keep your right to choose wholesome, local food. If you live in North or South Carolina, support The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. Wherever you live, support your local food organization. For more information, see here.
More importantly, don’t see people as strangers. We are all in this together, all in the same boat. It’s when people are only “looking out for #1” that we turn to laws to protect us. But laws don’t help. They only separate those who can’t manipulate the law or get around it from those who can. But even that can’t last forever. Unless we address the root cause of the problem, we’re all going to sink.
Ultimately, we need to see each other and all beings as family once again. The Lakota are a matriarchal society. They have a well-known expression describing nature and humanity. Together, the two add up to “all my relations.”
When we all lived in a matriarchal culture, no one was out to screw anyone else because everyone was family. Grandmothers saw to that, because if grandma wasn’t happy, nobody was happy. Our grandmothers cared for us because they cared about us. That’s why their care was free.
I try to recover some of that lost tradition. I teach about relationships — natural relationships — in which people trust and care for each other. Thanks to modern individualism, it’s now difficult to convince people that opening your heart to others isn’t dangerous. What’s dangerous is keeping it closed.
“There came a time,” writes Elizabeth Appell, “when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” That time, for us, is now.Pages: 1 2 3