Free Seeds

Most of Congress seems downright hostile toward the rights of consumers to know what’s in our food

By Mike Jopek

Last year Sen. Jon Tester helped keep an amendment out of Congress’ budget process that bans the rights of states to label genetically modified foods. Tester opposes the effort in Washington to preempt state labeling rights.

Rep. Ryan Zinke cosponsored the House-passed bill to preempt state GMO labeling laws. Zinke was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to vote for the unbalanced budget bill that repealed our nation’s country-of-origin meat labeling laws.

Congress and our president agreed that Americans no longer have a right to know where on this planet the meat we eat is raised. Meat at the grocer may be from Australia, Mexico, Canada, Brazil or Montana, yet eaters’ right to know was revoked.

Tester co-introduced legislation that requires that food genetically modified in the lab be labeled. “Every American has a right to know if the food they eat was created in a lab,” Tester said. “If GMO producers – and their allies – are as proud of their products as they claim they are, they should want to label it.”

Zinke and the Republican-controlled Congress are steamrolling down the wrong road by banning state labeling laws. Apparently Congress is unaware that Montana enjoys many state labeling laws like those for natural beef and huckleberries.

This Saturday, March 19, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Flathead Valley Community College’s Arts and Technology Building is the annual seed and starts fair.

The Free the Seeds event has an impressive lineup of workshops and booths for anyone wanting to know more about how to produce or process food at home.

Organized by volunteers, the event is free and open to the public. A schedule is online at www.freetheseedsmt.com.

There’s a seed swap where gardeners can trade locally adapted seeds with other growers.

A workshop on the basics of backyard beekeeping is put on by Tamarack Apiaries; another shares the principles of basic cheesemaking by Flathead Lake Cheese.

Mountain Heart Permaculture hosts an overview on permaculture chickens and how to keep poultry happy on a smallholding of land.

Rod McIver will provide hands-on bench-grafting demonstrations of both scions and whips for home growers wanting to add new varieties of fruits onto exiting trees. Barton Morse covers the pruning of fruit trees like apples, pears, cherries and plums.

Food Corps is holding a workshop on growing micro-greens for kids. Montana Bees and Berries has a workshop on killer compost, effects of herbicide persistence and confidently amending the soil.

Terrapin Farms hosts a seed saving workshop on breeding for earliness, vigor and cold-tolerance. Two Bear Farms is hosting a workshop of understanding soil mineralization and why the key to healthy food is soil.

Lower Valley Farm presents on rotational grazing and holistic livestock management. The Good Seed Company has an interactive workshop for home gardeners on seed saving basics.

Natural Grocers hosts a workshop on fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. Two Frog Home covers the basics of how to safely can fruits and vegetables for long-term pantry storage.

The Center for Restorative Youth Justice has kids activities on the changing of the seasons and earths rotational patterns. Scott Larimore is teaching a class on how forests cycle nutrients and increase fertility.

Free the Seeds features numerous booths and workshops, from professional farmers to businesses to governmental agencies. There will be roundtable discussions on building seed libraries and moving farming forward in the Flathead.

Most of Congress seems downright hostile toward the rights of consumers to know what’s in our food or where it was grown.

Anyone looking for more practical and less ideological talks about farming and food must spend some time with their hands in the soil. Saturday’s Free the Seeds event shares much real growing and food experience.

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