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Bootstrap @ Chaseholm Farm – Reflections on Policy

Chaseholm Farm - Dayna and Chase smallHi All, it’s a rainy day in the Hudson Valley and the cows are inside, we made our rotation last until 10/27 in our first season.

Not bad…but room for improvement. Today’s post is about policy issues and regulations and how they affect my farm. One of the clearest ways is in my ability to sell raw milk. I went through some hurdles this year but in NYS you can be licensed to sell raw milk directly from the farm as long as you continue to meet certain quality standards. These were all easy for our farm to meet and so I wasn’t shelling out big money to alter my operation but I did have to spend a lot on pathogen testing (the first tests are the farmer’s to pay for and NYS does all the rest after you are licensed).

Chaseholm Farm - Dayna in fieldThat amounted to a lot of phone calls and some expensive shipping but maybe $600 total expense. The most money I spent for the raw milk license was on a lawyer. I felt I needed a lawyer to create an LLC, outline a good lease agreement with my parents to protect their assets and to give me advice. I think that I felt this way because of the attitude that government gives to raw milk issues. At one point my lawyer even advised me to treat my product like a hazardous material; my reaction was outrage but I can also see that his attitude was coming from a legal system that makes me look like an outlaw.

This was really discouraging to me, the whole process made me really scared about the level of risk I am willing to take on as a business. It has less to do with the product being unsafe and something more to do with a perception of risk- I believe in raw milk as a healing food that more safe for people than its pasteurized counterpart but the FDA feels really differently. Now that I am selling to people around me and talking with them about it I feel much better, I am reminded that when my lawyer talks about “people” and when I talk to people we are having to different types of interactions. His is risky and mine is real.

Chaseholm Farm - Dayna and Blue Ivy - smallIt’s been really awesome to legally be able to sell raw milk. I’m building a farm store that I am really excited about but that also brings me to other regulations that are potentially affecting the farm, like the potential to be designated a “facility” and regulated as such by FSMA. We just hosted a letter writing party here, so that farmers could get together and write in to the FDA about the proposed Food Safety Rules and how they could be better written to help protect small farms, diversified farms and CSA’s. It’s a really worthwhile effort to write in and to educate yourself about the rules in the process. I suggest it. In the spirit of the National Young Farmers Coalition- Farmers Unite!

I’m signing off and sending warmth to you all as winter begins. It’s nice to have a dairy barn to hang out in as the weather turns!

Thanks to Stonyfield, Profits for the Planet, for funding the 2013 Bootstrap blog series.
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