“We proclaim the freedom to choose and decide for ourselves the types of products, services and methods that we think best for healthy eating and preventing illness and disease of our minds and bodies and for achieving and maintaining optimum wellness. We proclaim and reserve the right to include healthy food options that include but are not limited to cutting edge discoveries and farming practiced or used by any types of healers or therapists or practitioners the world over whether traditional or non-traditional, conventional or unconventional.”
~ Articles of Association of Weekly Fig (a private membership association)
By Pete Kennedy
So, what do you do when the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is threatening to take an enforcement action for operating a food buyers club that the state considers illegal? If you are Michele Reneau, what you do is work with the state legislature to change the law, turning adversity into precedent-setting legislation—Tennessee Senate Bill 651—that establishes that the Weekly Fig, a private membership association that Michele co-manages, is legal.
Passage of the bill was not the end of Michele’s involvement with regulators, however; a complaint made about the Weekly Fig to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) led to a two-year federal investigation that concluded after a deposition Michele gave to an attorney from the U.S. Department of Justice and FSIS.
Michele Reneau joins the Solari Food Series audiocast to talk about her experience with the state and federal investigations, her strong belief that there should be a legal distinction between the public and private distribution of food, and other topics related to local food.
Michele is a mother of five and a Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) chapter leader for Chattanooga, Tennessee. She and her husband William have a hobby farm where they raise chicken, sheep, and goats.
In Money & Markets this week, Catherine and John Titus will cover the latest events and market developments. E-mail your questions for Ask Catherine or post at the Money & Markets commentary here.
Please join us this Thursday, March 17, for an inspiring discussion with Michele Reneau about making a difference in local food systems.
Talk to you Thursday!
110th Tennessee Assembly (2017)—legislative bill summary for SB 651
Tennessee: Making a Difference (realmilk.com, January 13, 2018)
Related Solari Report
Food Series: Champion of the Small Farmer with Senator Frank Niceley (May 15, 2020)
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund