Poland is a haven for small, sustainable farming in Europe. Its farmers fought collectivization under communism, and today the countryside is home to 1.5 million small farms, which plant many indigenous, only-in-Poland seeds. The average Polish farm is roughly a third the size of other European farms, and the Polish farms pollute less and are largely self-reliant.
So, of course, the European Union is killing them. As a half-heartbreaking, half-infuriating story in the New York Times reports (registration required), the EU regulations, which were designed exclusively for modern, mechanized agriculture, have ripped up the fabric of the Polish small-farming system.
If they want to sell their products, European law requires farms to have concrete floors in their barns and special equipment for slaughtering. Hygiene laws prohibit milking cows by hand. As a result, the milk collection stations and tiny slaughterhouses that until a few years ago dotted the Polish countryside have all closed. Small family farming is impossible.
Traditional Polish hog farming is also threatened by Smithfield Farms, which now owns a dozen industrial pig farms across Poland: The price of pork has been pushed so low that Polish farmers have demonstrated outside the prime minister’s office, saying they’re losing money on each pig sold. In any case, says one stubborn small farmer, that’s almost irrelevant: According to the Times, “He is forbidden to slaughter his own pigs, and the nearest abattoir that meets European Union standards is hours away; there are only five in all of Poland.” Haven’t we heard this before? Does everyone everywhere have to make the same mistakes?