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Pittsfield, Vermont is a small town of just about 400 people. You don’t notice much when you first pass through, apart from the beauty and unspoiled quality of the place. It’s a perfect spot for mountain hikes and star-gazing. The town itself is just a two-lane road dotted with farm houses and picture perfect Inn’s, hugged tight on either side by lush green mountains.
One of the only stops is The Spartan General Store (at least that’s my unofficial name for the place). There’s a small gift shop and grocery inside, but this is mostly a refueling spot. Breakfast plates come piled high with giant farm fresh eggs and thick slices of local bacon. Tall glasses of fresh pressed green juice act as the perfect recovery tonic for legs left for dead by 5 a.m. obstacle course climbs.
By now you know this is no average town. This is the home of Spartan Race. The punishing early morning burpee sessions and mountain runs come courtesy of Joe De Sena, the highly driven founder and leader of the Spartan movement. The lovely eggs and green juice are made possible by the daily grind and passion of Joe Pumentei, or Farmer Joe as we know him.
He is just the sort of guy you need to feed a growing Spartan army. He’s also having an amazing impact on local towns all over through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
A farmer’s job might not seem very impactful at first, but like most things it’s not what you do it’s how you do it. When it comes to farming, Joe brings a bright Boston edge. He and his wife were lured to Pittsfield by that other Joe and his Spartan crew. It was a chance to run their very own farm, according to their rules, and up to their very high standards. It’s clear that Sweet Georgia P’s is an amazing place.
The food is great, but that’s not the only reason for Joe’s impact. It’s got much more to do with that edge. He’s up at dawn with his family every day. He drives endless miles to spread his CSA and product to every town in his 200 square mile territory. And most importantly, he never turns down an opportunity to bark loudly about the big problem here – Most people don’t know what real food is, and it’s slowly killing them.
“Real” is a funny word in this context. Judging by the regulations that Joe is subject to, you would think he was harboring toxic waste, but no, in this case it’s just milk. Raw goat’s milk to be specific. Joe’s milk is alive. It’s teeming with all sorts of cultures and enzymes. The protein is super-duper high quality. The fat is full and rich, just what your nervous system needs. You’d be hard pressed to find a higher quality recovery and muscle building beverage. But the legal reality is that Joe must keep a warning sign posted prominently on his Sweet Georgia P’s property.
“WARNING! Unpasteurized, raw milk can be hazardous to your health.” In just that one paragraph there were three references to baby or fetal damage/death, not unlike cigarette package warnings. Sneak that stuff over state lines and you’d be committing a felony, despite the fact that raw milk has been found to be a low risk food. The same thing goes for many local farmers and all they produce. Getting real food to market now-a-day’s is all uphill. It requires the fight. You could use some edge.
Maybe that’s the right mindset. Most people know that they should be eating better quality food, especially when it comes to vegetables and common animal products. But that’s not always the decision that gets made. So, why not try a new motive? Why not call this a fight?
There’s a mighty industrial machine out there pumping out bleached milk, flavorless veggies, runny eggs from sick chickens, the list of sins is long. The machine is fed by our dollars. It exists precisely because our decisions haven’t been the best. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take action now. We have to start putting our money where it matters most – Back into real food.
To those who would say local organic food is too expensive, Joe’s bright edge bites back, “Have you priced out cancer lately? It’s not cheap.” People need to understand the value of real food. They need to learn. They need access to great farm fresh products, so Joe’s work continues. He keeps up his grind and passion every day. He continues making his impact.
If you want to improve the health of your communities, support local farmers and CSA programs when you are able. Seek them out. No, a few farmers will not make much of a difference. But if a few hook-up every few hundred miles or so they can build a supply network that really could make cheap, super nutritious food readily available to more people. That kind of movement could make a real difference in public health.
Demand better quality in your food. Put your money where it matters most. The value will come right back to you in the form of better health and improved performance, just see for yourself.
Joe, I had a blast. Keep up the good fight.