The slab of pork hit the grill with a hiss and a salty aroma immediately filled the outdoor air. I sat and admired the beautiful deep rosy chop that sizzled away on my cast iron grill top, knowing this could be the last time I would be able to enjoy this humanely raised, woodsy flavored, juicy hunk of meat. The Michigan Pork Producers Association and their hired thugs from the Department of Natural Resources are looking to put heritage hog farmers out of business in Michigan.
In late 2011, the DNR sent out a declaration stating that domestically raised hogs – with the exception of the ones used by the big pork industry – are an invasive species of wild boar “wreaking havoc” on wildlife and neighboring farms and ordering that they be destroyed. This Invasive Species Order, as it is called, lists nine vague characteristics describing the “wanted” pigs, leaving state officials to use their own discretion as to which pigs fit the bill. Now they’re including penned heritage breed pigs in the definition, because they’re supposedly breaking out and running amok in Michigan.
Mark Baker, from Baker’s Green Acres, is currently fighting the DNR’s rule in court. His pigs have never escaped and are under his watchful eye, but the state still sees them as a threat, and they are – not to the wilderness or other people’s private property, but to members of big agra-business, and they aim to destroy it.
The barnyard brawl
Mark is trying to hold off the state and its mafia men, but time is running short. After his recent defeat in court, his hogs have been banished from processing plants, leaving him no choice but to butcher his own pigs and give away their meat for free. He appealed the court’s decision, the results of which will come out later this month, but the outlook is grim. When armed DNR officials, police, and the judge all walk through the same door, you know you’re playing against a stacked deck. It’s like getting in a dispute with someone and asking his cousin to settle it for you.
Could it be the big pork industry has colluded with government officials to eliminate its competition? Not surprisingly these industry titans support the Invasive Species Order written by their friends at the DNR. A news alert on the Pork Producers’ website assured members that it continues to “fend off legislative attacks from hostile legislators who seek to weaken and overturn the ISO.”
“Our position remains unequivocally in support of the ISO,” the Association wrote. “Wild hogs are a clear and present danger to not only the pork industry, but all of Michigan agriculture as well as the state’s wildlife, natural resources, ecosystem, and public health and safety. Given the serious threat wild hogs pose to Michigan’s farmers, rural landowners and family businesses, we must defend and uphold Michigan’s ban on these destructive disease-carrying animals and close the door to all invasive species.”
The threat healthy heritage hogs pose to large pork producers is not one of disease, but of competition. While heritage hogs may have escaped in some parts of the state, Mark’s never have. Why should he be punished for something his hogs didn’t do? There’s always a chance a hog could get loose, and if it does, its owner should compensate any property owner damaged. If we can’t have pigs raised out on pasture, what’s the alternative? Should consumers only have access to pork raised in confinement?
If you can’t beat city hall…
The ISO never went through the legislative process. It was a simple command by the DNR, quietly inked into law by Michigan’s governor, similar to an executive order by the President. The legislature and courts have shown they are unwilling to do anything about it. With sweeping rules that can change in a flash, who knows what the food oligarchs will take from us simple serfs next? Cows, chickens, tomatoes? Whatever it is, we need to be prepared.
Mark’s hogs were in high demand in restaurants and local markets, whose customers praised his meat for being dark in color and rich in flavor, especially when compared to the pale, chemically sprayed, mystery meat from commercially raised and processed pigs. But that didn’t matter to government officials. They’re in the business of protecting consumers from the foods they want.
Despite the state having their guns pointed directly at Mark and his hogs, he’s still fighting. He’s a man’s man, and one to be reckoned with. He’s shown strength and courage by standing up to the Michigan Pork Producers and their government stooges, and he’s taking his message to the street, with a program called “Anyone Can Farm.”
Anyone Can Farm encourages everyone to be farmers, and gives them the skills they need to make it happen. No matter where you live or what you do, grow your own food, as little or as much as you can, Mark says. The more people farming, the harder it is for the state to enforce its arbitrary laws and the more sources of food we’ll have.
Currently I have to get raw dairy products from out of state, but like Mark said, maybe it’s time for me to “get a cow.” I know it’s not always feasible to keep livestock, but we can start small. Instead of growing petunias, throw down some organic heirloom tomato seeds. At least we can eat those.
Look at gun control. The government threatens to take away our guns, and gun sales skyrocket. Government overlords and their henchmen would have a hard time rounding up 300 million guns, and Mark says it should be the same when it comes to farming. Imagine the state trying to dig up 300 million gardens. I’m not saying they won’t try, but it would be nearly impossible to do.
Taking control our food supply means saying goodbye to the grocery store… well, for the most part anyway. It’s tempting to go and get all of my food of off neatly organized shelves, but when I think about how different the carrots look at the farmers’ market… the honeyed aroma, the dark purple-orange color, crisp texture, and sweet flavor are enough to make me drop the bag of dried, lifeless carrots and wait ‘til the next day, when the farmers’ market reopens. The best way to beat the oligarchs is to stop funding them and spend your money elsewhere.
But what if we opted out of the system all together and just grew our own? Right now there are not enough small farmers to beat back our corporate controlled government, but if more of us become small farmers, the harder we’ll be to legislate out of existence. If people truly want food freedom, I fear the only way to get it, is to do it ourselves.
And if you want to learn how to do it yourself, check out Baker’s Green Acres, in Marion Michigan, and Mark will be glad to show you. Spend a little time out on the land, God’s country. You’ll learn a thing or two, and be better prepared in case one day you have no choice but to produce your own food. This is what Americans used to be, a bunch of farmers, doing their own thing, living in peace and prosperity, free and independent. It doesn’t sound like such a bad way of life to return to.
For audio of Brad’s interview with Mark Baker, click here.