More than 500 supporters of farm couple Clint and Pam Cavers have signed a petition asking the province to hold off destroying $8,000 worth of cured meat seized from the couple's on-farm meat shop two weeks ago.
The specialty meats, some of which have been in development for five years in consultation with Winnipeg's Italian community, are to be destroyed Wednesday. That would be a big financial hit for the farm family that runs Harborside Farms near Pilot Mound and would "destroy three to five years of research and development," said Colin Anderson, the petition organizer.
The Manitoba government should hold onto the seized meat "until everyone can get together and talk about this as rational people," said Anderson, a PhD student at the University of Manitoba who is studying direct-farm marketing.
The province hasn't explained what the Cavers did wrong, never mind proven wrongdoing, said Anderson. "Why destroy the product without going through some kind of due process?"
The petition also asks the government to sit down with producers to make made-in-Manitoba regulations for small-scale producers of specialty meats. The petition is addressed to Premier Greg Selinger and Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyhshyn. The Cavers have also been trying to get a meeting with Kostyshyn.
But the government issued a statement late Monday saying it will not change its plans and will destroy the meat on Wednesday as scheduled. The province reiterated earlier comments "any product that is being sold without the appropriate permits certifying it is safe to eat will be seized and destroyed."
The petition started on the weekend and is growing rapidly. Anderson said signees have come from across the spectrum, from the Cavers' customers to farmers to business people. People can register online at www.realmanitobafoodfight.ca/petition.
People are saying "if it could happen to them, it could happen to anybody," said Anderson.
The Cavers have been at the forefront of small-scale on-farm food production for more than a decade. They are founding members of the Harvest Moon Society and were the first farm to be certified by the Winnipeg Humane Society. They raise many heritage livestock breeds, such as Berkshire pigs, in a natural fashion and run a meat processing shop on their farm as a value-added enterprise. They sell directly to consumers, including operating food clubs in Winnipeg at set drop-off sites.
In April, the Cavers won first prize in the Great Manitoba Food Fight for their pastured pork prosciutto.
The government has been encouraging enterprises such as the one owned by the Cavers, said Anderson. In fact, the province changed the department name from Manitoba Agriculture to Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives expressly to broaden its mandate to encourage on-farm food enterprises.