“If you are not over the target, they aren’t shooting at you.”
~ Mark Baker of Bakers Green Acres
When one small farmer from South west Virginia got involved with the legislative process to promote food freedom, he believed with all his heart that American Freedoms, begun in Virginia were important enough to stand up for in Richmond at the General Assembly. He spoke in favor of the Virginia Food Freedom Act and the Raw Milk Bill ( three cow exemption.) It was a six hour ride for him- one way. Dwayne McIntyre spoke to a Agricultural Sub committee meeting for 12 minutes, much longer than anyone else, but after a six hour drive to be heard, we all agreed it was deserved. And he stood out. Stood out enough to be noticed by Virginia Farm Bureau and Virginia Agribusiness Council.
He made the point that we all want to be able to participate in the free market. Small Farmers want to be able to sell their products.
The bill was shot down, but undeterred, Mr. McIntyre went back home to southwest Virginia and embraced the springtime calling of farm work. He had the opportunity to move from full-time management of someone else’s farm to starting his own, beginning with one cow, Em. She was the beginning of his cow share operation which is legal in VA. He found with Em, the vegetables and the poultry operation he and his family could profit well from their labor of love of the land and animals.
His bright friendly personality brought welcome interviews with news media that wanted to do stories on local food and new farm items available in the area. He was featured in local news stories and radio interviews and most recently a television interview. That media attention got him noticed by local extension agent Phil Blevins, who is also the coordinator for the Agriculture Advisory Committee for Washington County Board of Supervisors.
Since Dwayne legally sells non-government inspected ( but consumer inspected) poultry and vegetables at the Abingdon Famers Market, like many other farmers, and recently started his own Cow share operation, like many other farmers there, it was curious why suddenly Washington County Board of Supervisors recently had a presentation on its agenda initiated by Rena Johnson, owner of Highland Dairy, a 500 cow industrial dairy operation and member of the Agriculture committee. She posited that non-(government) inspected foods and raw milk at the Abingdon Farmer’s Market were a serious danger to the community. How long have farmers been selling vegetables, eggs, poultry and shares in cows? Why the danger? Why now? No one has complained about illness nor death. Farmers Markets are growing by leaps and bounds.
Luckily, Mr. McIntyre was able to make a presentation as well at that same meeting, and the public comment was impressively supportive of small family farms.
For a small farmer starting out with a one cow share operation to be attacked viciously by a large farmer who has 500 cows is pretty sad. It shows the vulnerability of the industrial food system which is threatened by one independent small farmer.