Supporting Small Farms

Fighting for the Access to Local Food: My Interview with an FTCLDF Attorney

Yesterday I had the privilege of interviewing Pete Kennedy from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Today marks seven years that the FTCLDF has been fighting for the rights of farmers and consumers. I learned a lot from Pete, and I’d like to share what I learned with you:

Brenda: So, what are some of the common legal issues that farmers have been dealing with lately, and how has the FTCLDF been involved?

Pete: The main overriding theme is overregulation, and regulations that aren’t necessary for farmers to produce a healthy product. There are two food systems right now: the industrial food system, and the local food system. I think the safest food is from the local food system.

Brenda: I am assuming that the majority of the work that you do is for for-profit farms, is this true?

Pete:  Yes, some teaching farms, some non-profit farms. It’s very difficult to make a living for small farms with the regulatory systems out there now. The majority of the farms, farmers have to get off-farm jobs as well, because the farm doesn’t generate enough income. The goal is getting the regulatory system out of the way of small farm prosperity.

Brenda: What advice would you give to someone who is starting up a small homestead or farm?

Pete: Most of the successful farms are diversified, they don’t just sell one product. They have to sell direct to consumers and not to a middle man.

 We represent a number of raw milk producers. Raw milk more than any other product is what gets the consumer onto the farm, but once they are there it is important to have other products too: eggs, meat, poultry. Be as diversified as possible.

Brenda: A lot of my readers are consumers who buy from local farms, and they care about their farmers making it. What can consumers do to help fight for the rights of farmers?

Pete: The important thing is not to take the access they have to these producers for granted. Spend as much of your food dollars as possible on the farm (towards local food). Get involved politically. Working for a bill, contacting your legislature, letting the agency know you’re not happy with them harassing a local producer. Stay vigilant.

Brenda: Can you tell everyone what a Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund Membership costs, and what exactly a Membership means for the farmer?

The membership is $125 per year. It gets you unlimited consultation with attorneys within matters in our mission statement. There is a toll free hotline if you get a visit from an inspector. Also, free consultation with farm consultant for best management on the farm.

If you face a formal administrative or judicial hearing, you can cask for representation from FTCLDF. (This costs little or nothing above the membership fee for the farmer or consumer they are representing)

When we were farmers, we signed up as members of the FTCLDF. I believe that every farm in America ought to have a membership–the benefits of a membership are well worth the $125 annual fee. I told Pete a little bit about our farm experience, and I agree with his comment:

“It {farming} is a difficult business, but really the most important business there is.”

 I want to make a suggestion to the consumers out there–offer a gift membership to your local farmer!

Also, consumers can sign up as members for $50 per year. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has represented consumers & their right to obtain local food.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is a true, grass roots, non-profit organization. They receive zero government funding, very little corporate funding (mostly from small, like-minded businesses). 3/4 of their revenue comes from membership fees and private, individual donations (from people like you!). 

If you are interested in learning more about the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, you can sign up for their e-mail list. It is a way to keep informed about food freedom and the initiatives that are taking place, and what government actions are causes for concern.

Pete’s last comments in our interview were:

“It’s a small, non-profit, looking to grow.

There is a lot that needs to be done out there to get the government agencies off of the producers back and to have a strong, prosperous local food system.”

Check out the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund website to learn more and to become a participant in the fight for real food freedom in America.


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