Customer Reviews: Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front
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on September 13, 2007
Author Joel Salatin is a "farmer." The word tends to conjure an image of the small farmer of yesteryear ... struggling, hapless, about to be made obsolete by today's industrialized, corporatized agribusiness.

Forget that image. Salatin's business model is uniquely American: innovative, quality-driven, free-thinking, and customer-oriented. He has created a loyal local market for his high-quality poultry, beef, and pork, and he accepts no government monies or subsidies.

As if that wasn't hard enough, Salatin has had to constantly swim against an overwhelming tide of flawed regulations that discriminate in favor of mega-operations. "Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal" tells all about that struggle, and so much more.

Salatin asks (and answers) the questions, why are small farmers and local food artisans leaving their heritage behind to work in town? Why do we, as a society, have a larger segment of our population in prison (2.5 %) than working on farms (1.5%)? Why is food quality at a low? And why are regulatory barriers keeping small producers out of the business of food production?

And how did we - the constituency, the consumers, the all-powerful "demand" part of the supply-and-demand equation -- ever buy in to the notion that the institutionalization of our food supply is inexorable and must be suffered with stoic cynicism and resignation? And what is there to do about it?

The answers to these questions matter, because the ultimate costs of these trends are huge, in terms of food quality, in terms of resource damage, and at many other levels. But the worst damage of all is the loss of whole communities and ways of life ... ways that have worked for centuries.

Entrepreneurship - and the freedom to be entrepreneurial - is a huge part of what made this country great, and in the food business, it's in grave danger. A quiet robbery has been happening right under our noses, and the villains and the victims are NOT who we think they are.

I have met Salatin and visited his farm, and he is the genuine item. His book is a must-read for everyone who cherishes freedom.
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on January 21, 2008
Joel Salatin provides an honest, albiet frightening, view of what it is like trying to run a small business in America in 2007. As the owner of a small business for 27 years, as well as a sustainable ag farmer for the past 3 years, I can attest to everything Joel discusses in his book. Other reviews criticize his political leanings, his simplistic libertarianism, his religious beliefs, and his so called "rants", but none of these critics challenges the truth of what he reveals. Those in the front always take the first arrows. This book should scare the hell out of anyone who believes that government is the answer to all of our ills. For those of us who want clean food, those of us who want to produce a wholesome product for us, our families, and our neighbors, and most of all, those of us who just want a choice in our lives, this book is a testament to the need for a revolution against the food industry as well as our big bully government. I borrowed this book from my son, but am so appreciative of the information within, that I will send Joel a check today for the cost of the book.
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on September 12, 2007
I blew through this book over the weekend and I've found a soul-mate in Joel Salatin. Salatin in an evangelist for the local food movement and we couldn't have a more honest or articulate one.
Joel does a heartfelt and beautiful job of explaining how the best intentioned goverment programs to support farming are actually destroying it, and the health and freedom of Americans along with it. It's a manifesto for local food systems. If you are interested in local food and supporting sustainable agriculture, this book should be on your shelf and gifted to those in government and academia who could make a difference but haven't.
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VINE VOICEon July 6, 2009
This book is definitely not for everyone. But, if you are outraged by our food system and the taxes you pay to agribiz for their crappy "food" that's killing us by slow degrees, and also enjoy a good rant by someone who knows whereof he speaks, you'll love it.

For the record, I have been vegetarian for two decades, and that in no way diminishes my respect for Salatin or this book. Must we agree with everyone on everything in order to recognize truth when we see it? I stopped eating meat in 1989 when I learned about our factory farming system and didn't want to be part of it...but I have no problem whatsoever with folks who raise their own animals with love and respect and then eat them, or sell them to local friends. Seems natural enough to me, even if it's not my choice.

But not to the government, and that's the point of this book. Its many examples of constant gov't intrusion into every part of the food chain lay clear who runs what and why we're in the sad shape we're in, ecologically and nutritionally.

It all rings true, whether I agree with each of Salatin's political views or not. The pettiness of some of the reviews here on Am only shows why those trying to fight the moronic system aren't winning: they're too busy fighting each other! Divide and conquer? Why bother? Let us beat each other down! It's working, apparently.

Put it this way: if every adult in America read this book and knew about how our food (specifically meat) system is run, there'd be overnight change. Must we agree with all of Salatin's views on everything to give him due credit for fighting his version of the good fight?

We will all never agree on everything, nor need we. But we do need to wake up and start helping out our brothers and sisters in logic and reason, not only by buying their food but by helping them spread their version of the truth.

Especially if, as here, that truth is backed up by real world experience, written of with passion and humor. That's good enough for me.

This goes on my shelf next to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, John Robbins' Diet For A New America, and a bunch of other disturbing but necessary books on where our food really comes from.
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on August 12, 2011
I loved this book from the first page and still love it as I continue to read it now. ( not finished yet, but I only started it this afternoon) I am so moved by it that it made me curious to see what the other readers think and how they have reviewed the book. Once I started reading reviews I simply had to add my own thoughts.

The man is brave. He is honest. He is passionate about the things he believes. So sad that people who are afraid to know (or show) such passion have given it a few poor reviews. Whether you agree with every word or not makes no difference. The main premise of the book is that there seems to be a law against almost everything natural, these days. Most of these things were just normal a century ago. It would have been inconceivable to people to imagine that one could not slaughter an animal on one's own land. The regulations about dwellings and construction are silly in the context of the writer's way of life and his personal wishes.

We put up with these things and just keep going, but we are wrong to do so. The TSA is a travesty. The FDA is totally corrupt. But only a few people speak up. Why is this? Are they afraid? Are they asleep? Are they stupid? Or are they just sheep?

I hear all the time "The Government should do something " about this or that. NO! We should do something about it. NOT the government. When did we become such wimps? We have been brainwashed into believing we cannot change things. But we can. And we must. Joel is taking a lot of flack, but he is essentially correct.

We need an organization such as the NRA to protect the right of farmers to grow what they like. It will also protect our right to eat and drink as we please. It is hard for me to believe that (lethal) MacDonalds is legal, but (healthy) raw milk is not.

Women go to the hospital to have babies because they believe they will be safe there, when in fact they would be safer at home amoung their own germs, their own things, surrounded by people who actually care for them. Birth is natural and not a medical event at all. However we have become programmed to believe we need professional medical help. Rediculous! The AMA did a great job with propaganda when it comes to birth.

The same is true of food. I once read a funny story, but a true one about an outraged 'anti hunting' person who ranted that hunters were barbaric. He said people should go to the supermarket to buy their food because that was the civilized way to get meat. I guess he never read about how commercial beef is raised and finally slaughtered. ( I would rather eat a wild animal that had a fighting chance to get away or get shot). The sad, pathetic, unhealthy animals that make up our commercial meat supply is frightening.

Please read this book. It will open your eyes. And please don't think he is exaggerating the stupidity of regulations and of the government inspectors who enforce them. He is not. Yes, some of his passions seem to be a "rant" and that is OK, too. Why should he tamp down his emotions just to please the sleeping public? I wish he would shout them from the roof tops. Even the things I disagree with are simply his beliefs. We are all entitled to our own beliefs. No one has the right to criticize us for voicing them.

I bought a couple of extra copies of this book and plan to send it to some people who may be able to help.
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on April 15, 2011
I was recommended this book by our babysitter. It was rather interesting to be turned on to something that speaks to exactly what I do and how I'd like to do it by someone completely outside of our way of life. I have a small farm and I'm a second generation farmer. I have a day job as well but certainly don't mind it as it's only 8 minutes from home and it lets me do more than live the lifestyle proffered in this book.

There are some reviews here that say this book is just one big rant by Joel Salatin. Um, yeah, I think that's the point. Over a lifetime Mr. Salatin has been exposed to, waded through and fought tooth and nail against bureaucracy, ignorance, stupidity, and the general loss of individual liberty that continues to invade our culture on our government. "If it will save just one life, it's worth it." is the justification I've heard for many laws that our founding fathers would take arms against. 99% of it goes on without the general public even knowing. I've seen laws being made. Generally the single most clueless person involved is the one who has the vote. As it's been well said and is said again in this book, sausage and laws are two things you don't want to see made. So politically, economically, and morally I agree with Mr. Salatin. His rants are based on dealing with the inequities in the system as it stands today and are good reading for anyone who goes to the polls to vote our leaders into office.

However, the problem with being an expert on some areas is you tend to think you may be an expert in other areas. While I agree with Mr. Salatin that his rants are justified, the solutions that he espouses can be a bit simplistic. I'm a libertarian and frankly some of the views are simplistic. Drug problem? Legalize drugs. Can't feed yourself? Church and charity. The reality is that some problems are more complex, or even if the solution is that simple, getting from where we are today to the simple solution is exceedingly complex. Just saying milk is perfectly safe because we drank it for thousands of years isn't going to be good enough in today's environment. Should it be illegal to buy raw milk? Absolutely not. Should we just let it onto the open market, on the shelf beside what has become "normal" milk like Joel would seem to favor? No. It probably needs a label that is a skull and crossbone and you have to sign a waiver. I don't think Joel spent a lot of time on trying to show the efficacy of his solutions, just that there were better solutions out there. I'm sure he could expand on his ideas but one negative to the book in my opinion was that some of his solutions seemed to be just a bit out there and not really practical.

For people who believe in individual liberty, his book will read well. For those who can't imagine the government not regulating safety so we are all protected, it will read like a horror story. As for his rants, I run a farm and run a fairly large business, I can tell you that he is spot on concerning the basis for his rants and unless you step out of the consumer role and into a producer role, you never really see it.

If you plan on voting in the next election, this should be required reading.
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on August 22, 2011
Salatin is the owner of Polyface Farms, "the farm of many faces," in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He was featured in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and stole the show as the big-hatted farmer in Farmageddon.

He is quite a character. He describes himself as a "Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist" and pulls no punches when explaining his views on how farming should be done and people fed. Chapter by chapter, he explains how one-size-fits-all government regulations designed for large-scale, industrial, monoculture agriculture unfairly limit small farmers trying to serve local communities by providing a variety of healthy food, humanely produced.

This is a Must Read for small, entrepreneurial farmers and a Great Read for all freedom lovers. Salatin's good-natured ranting is part of the fun.
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on August 20, 2010
Here in Brazos County, Texas, we have had access for years to delicious goat's milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream from a local producer, WaterOak Farms. One could buy raw milk if they were willing to either have it delivered or go to the dairy. The ice cream won awards in Austin, a pretty tough market for boutique food products.
Now, all this is threatened by newly enacted state legislation that went into effect on July 4, 2010. All the many small dairies in Texas will now be inspected as Grade A, rather than Grade B. The cost of compliance for most if not all existing goat dairies is prohibitive for these small operations that account for over 30% of cheese sales in Texas(heard that number from dairy operator, not sure how accurate). Locally grown and produced food is in greater demand these days, so the state legislators are doing what they can to eliminate it!
The idea for the new regulations did not come to the sponsors of the bill out of the blue. Hilmar Cheese had just opened a new facility in Dalhart, TX, one that processes over 5 million pounds of milk each day. I feel quite sure that Hilmar would love to eliminate those producers that account for 30% of the market share. Did they spend money in Austin to insure this would happen? It's certainly legal...and supports the thesis of Mr. Salatin's work.
Small, local farming is up against big money, with possibly more regulations([...], the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010) coming from the Federal government. In the name of insuring "consumer safety," anyone wanting to sell produce(think farmer's markets, roadside stands, pick-it-yourself, your neighborhood gardener) will be hounded by perverse requirements for fees, licensing and documentation. Even gardening for your own table may be endangered.
If you know a local farmer, give him a hug. They probably need it.
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on March 6, 2008
This book illustrates countless items that most people don't know or think about but should. I am HACCP certified and worked in a processing facility for over a decade so I know a lot of what he says is true e.g. inspectors mainly worry about paperwork, not the product; that many day workers/temps work in processing facilities. Other things I'll have to take his word for.

Lots of people make fun of the airport screening process. If they only knew what a farce the federal food safety program is they'd want their tax dollars back. The author does go off on a tangent or rant at times, still the book is worth reading.
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on November 19, 2007
Finding a more ecological way to farm...smaller and local....closer to the rhythms of of the rules and regulations concocted for big agriculture, is not only a dream, but a worthy and noble dream. We live within an industrialized food system, where the "masses" are fed not only bland and sometimes unhealthy food, but are also fed...for corporate advantage and awful lot of propaganda and half-truth, about one of the most universal human activities...eating.

I appreciate that Salatin puts his local agricultural vision of his specific operations in the context of entreprneurship. It's exactly the medicine that's needed, if the movement is to succeed. This alone, makes the book worth reading, and for me, supersedes some areas of strong disagreement.

The vision for a new appreciation of the traditional wisdom of in many other areas of accumulated human wisdom, has been largely discarded by the modern world...and the unsustainable modern food juggernaut, in particular. Salatin posits that a wall now divides Americans from a healthier, more sustainable, and more enjoyable food culture. This is his message, and it is a necessary and good one.
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