Laura Bledsoe wasn't that interested in politics of any kind, least of all conservative politics. The back-to-nature farmer would be considered a bit of a hippie to many traditional Republicans. But Laura's foray into community-supported agriculture has turned her into a Tea Party hero, highlighting a growing alliance between limited-government activists and small organic farmers.
In October 2011, Laura hosted a "farm-to-fork" dinner in her southern Nevada home. This locally sourced, all-natural meal celebrated all the virtues of the modern environmentalist and “food justice” movements; what could go wrong?
I’ll give you one guess.
Two days before the one-off event, the Southern Nevada Health District Office demanded the farm get a government-issued health permit. When Laura’s husband immediately complied, the office demanded a health inspection on the day of the event. And that’s when it got ugly.
The health inspector raised several concerns, but chief among them was the meat the Bledsoes were preparing to serve. Because the event was advertised as a "zero mile footprint," the meat hadn't been sent through a USDA processing plant, as is required for any meat purchased at a grocery store or restaurant, so the inspector deemed it illegal to serve.
"She immediately demanded that we send our guests home and cease the event, and if we didn't she would call the police and have them personally escorted off the property."
Increasingly panicked, flustered, and "having a nervous breakdown," Laura attempted to reason with the inspector without success. In addition to being ordered to send their guests home, the farmers were also told they needed to pour bleach over all the meat to ensure it would never be served.
"It's one thing when you throw out a piece of food that you have no relationship to," Laura says. "But we raised these animals. When you raise animals and slaughter them and then prepare them, it's with great reverence that you eat this food. The total disregard for any of that was just appalling to me."
After quick thinking by the Bledsoes and a friendly lawyer’s advice, they sent the petty tyrant packing. The Orwellian tale went viral spreading first among the burgeoning farm-to-table movement. But much to the foodies' surprise, the story really gained traction through Tea Party activists. The public outcry was intense.
The Bledsoes are now working with Nevada legislators to shred some of the red tape suffocating small food producers. Meanwhile, activists on the left and right agree that top-down mandates from an ever-expanding government are not the answer.
As with culinary contentions over foie gras, raw milk and other traditional delicacies, left-leaning food producers are recognizing the wisdom of a freer market. And by welcoming these organic farmers and gourmet chefs, Tea Party activists are creating a formidable, if unlikely, alliance.