Pima County Health Department Unjustly Cracking Down on Farmers' Markets

Does the government have the right to influence how you spend your food dollar? The Pima County Health Department thinks so.

The Pima County Health Department has decided to set its sights on local farmers' markets ("A Young Couple Leaves the Rat Race Behind to Run a Sustainable Cattle Ranch," July 5, 2007), imposing a capricious set of convoluted requirements upon small producers. One health department official spent an entire morning serving "notices of violation" to a majority of one market's producers. These "violations" and comments ranged from the infinitesimal to the absurd, highlighting an agency with either too much time on its hands or an ax to grind. Tellingly, not one of these "violations" had anything to do with public health or safety:

· The official was willfully naive, asking how it could be that a "rancher was allowed at a farmers' market?"

· The official stated that every vendor would have to get a separate license for every market attended, to the tune of $68 each.

· Vendors were cited for not having a "valid seasonal permit."

It seems evident that the department's sole objective in sending out this "sweep" was to harass and intimidate a popular and growing sector of the food market.

Farmers' markets are gaining acclaim precisely because they offer an alternative to an industrialized food chain and a place where people can directly interact with those who produce their food. These markets are guided by their own stringent set of requirements. If each week sees yet another massive food recall in the highly regulated industrial food chain, why should we believe that regulation at the micro level directly between food producers and their clients is going to be any more successful?

Pima County intimates that the public cannot make their own decisions about the food they choose to feed themselves and their families. In large-scale, depersonalized food distribution, this may indeed be the case, but when it comes to markets where farmers and ranchers have a direct and meaningful relationship with those who consume the food they produce, government can only be a hindrance.

Cochise County has already gone through a long spate of similar bureaucratic meddling with small producers, and it seems the malaise has spread here as well. A Pima County representative recently told a vendor applying for a business license, "We're coming after you guys." This is not a positive development. Pinal County applies the same state code in a much more cordial fashion, and has not resorted to these ham-fisted tactics. Is Pima County's overly aggressive application of the law a case of budgets being determined by "violation" counts? Might it be a new revenue generator in the form of new applications and fees? Are there perhaps "pressures" from commercial retailers?

Those who come to farmers' markets are rejecting the typical food outlets that are highly regulated by government. The effects of overregulation are evident enough in our industrialized food chain: "natural," "organic" and "free-range" labels that have been rendered meaningless by big-business lobbies, regular recalls (see the November 2007 recall of 96,000 pounds of beef), a pervasive sense of disjointedness and a lack of community connections.

People ought to be able to buy goods, produce, dairy products and beef directly from the people who produced them without government interference. The notions of seasonal licenses, commercial kitchens and the regulation of farmers' markets as if they were Wal-Marts are absurd.

Please urge your local representatives to push to exempt direct sales between producers and consumers from government oversight. You do not need them to tell you what you can and cannot eat.

Paul and Sarah Schwennesen
Double Check Ranch

Perhaps Advertising in the 'Star' Just Isn't Doing the Trick

From the Dec. 13, 2007, Media Watch: "'The reason for the staff reductions is, we need to reduce costs,' Star publisher and editor John M. Humenik said in a story that ran in the Star. 'Advertisers are advertising less because their sales are down.'"

Silly me! All these years, I thought advertising was supposed to increase sales.

Chuck Klemann

Those of You Who Dine Out on Christmas: Take Note!

In your issue just before Christmas, you listed eateries that are open on Christmas day (Noshing Around, Dec. 20, 2007). You missed one of the best: Gandhi Cuisine of India restaurant at 150 W. Fort Lowell Road. The restaurant is always open on Christmas for all the usual service, including the wonderful all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.

Mimi Klaiman

Welcome to Bubble-Popping Corner With Peter Meis, Guest-Starring Dubious Statistics

I must address the letter from William Winkelman ("Don't Scapegoat Mexicans; Blame Outsourcing Instead," Mailbag, Dec. 20, 2007) in which he says that Mexicans come here to work and do not do anyone any harm.

In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide target illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants are for illegal aliens. The California Department of Justice reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in Los Angeles is illegal.

In Los Angeles County, the gangs, mostly illegal, have taken over Southgate, Lynwood, Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Hawaiian Gardens and Huntington Park. Some 70,000 illegal alien felons are apprehended each year in the United States, and FBI records show that 30 percent of inmates in prison are illegal.

I am dealing in facts. Mr. Winkelman is dealing in conjecture. There is much more information available about this if you would care to look. I could give you names and dates about Americans who have been murdered by illegals, plus crimes too numerous to put in this letter. If your quality of life has not changed yet due to crime by illegal Mexicans and others from south of the border, you are having good luck--so far.

As the illegal aliens disperse around the country, the crime rate is steadily rising wherever they show up. I am sorry to have popped your bubble.

Peter Meis

A Letter From Someone Fleeing Fourth Avenue and Heading North

After our fight last night, I realized I just can't go on living like this. I'm ending this relationship and getting on with my life.

If you stop and think about it, we've been having problems for quite a while; I just didn't want to admit it. I kept thinking, "No, it's just a 'phase' she's going through. She'll realize how special she is, clean herself up and start treating me with some respect."

At first, it was just little things I could overlook. I'd come over to your place for a nice, home-cooked meal, only to find someone had ripped the stereo out of my car. And I remember those warm summer nights where just once, it would have been nice to sit on your front porch, have a pizza and not have someone ask me for money and smokes.

But last night was the final straw. I was introducing you to my family for the first time. You were charming and witty all during dinner. It wasn't until we got out on the sidewalk that you began hurling obscenities at my family. I mean, why you would even say "MERRY f!@#$% X-MAS, LOSERS"? Then you chose that moment to stick your hand down your pants and follow us for 20 more feet. I mean, I've seen you do it before, but at least before the smoking ban, you did it inside.

So, that's it! I'm tired of always being on the defensive around you, and I'm done with this sad relationship. Casas Adobes gave me her phone number last night. She seems a little "needy," but hopefully she won't puke on my car.

Richard Graveline

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