Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Third Maine town passes food freedom ordinance

Garden Hen/Wiki Commons image
Food Freedom

On Saturday, April 2, Blue Hill became the third town in Maine to adopt the Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance.  The Ordinance was passed at Blue Hill’s town meeting by a near unanimous vote. This comes on the heels of the unanimous passage of the Ordinance in neighboring towns, Sedgwick and Penobscot, on March 5 and March 7, respectively. The Ordinance asserts that towns can determine their own food and farming policies locally, and exempts direct food sales from state and federal license and inspection requirements.

On March 7, the Ordinance failed in a fourth town, Brooksville, by a vote of 161 to 152, however voting irregularities have called the vote’s validity into question. Brooksville town residents are circulating a petition calling for a revote at a special town meeting, which could take place in the next few months. The petition questions the legality of placing the town’s Ordinance Review Committee’s recommendation of a “No” vote on the ballot. Brooksville was the only town to vote on the ordinance by ballot, rather than by a show of hands.

Blue Hill resident John Gandy said the passage of the Blue Hill ordinance “is a huge milestone in the struggle to protect the rights, not only of farmers to sell their products, but also of all citizens to eat the food of their choice.” Gandy serves as the Master for the Halcyon Grange in North Blue Hill, which passed a Resolution for Food Sovereignty in February of this year. “It is time citizens start defending our rights against big government and big business.”

Dan Brown, farmer from Blue Hill, noted during the discussion on the Ordinance that this comes down to whether or not small-scale food producers can earn a livelihood. “They come to me, close my doors, and I’m back to driving truck.”

Losing even more farms and food producers, says Brown, means local people have less access to local food. “Shut me down, then people don’t get their tomatoes, their milk.”

Brown’s personal experience with the Maine State inspection program has revealed inconsistencies in which operations are deemed legitimate and under what terms. According to Brown, the state inspector responsible for his county has offered to license Brown’s home kitchen in a way that would “bend the rules.”

“He said to me, ‘Couldn’t you put your cats outside between 10am and 2pm? If you tell me you will I’ll believe that you do all your cooking between those hours.’”

When Brown asked if only selling dairy products to his customers who have signed a contract would satisfy the Maine Department of Agriculture he was told that such contracts were not legal, despite at least one other Maine farm operating in this manner.

Five years of frustration and worry from not knowing whether he will be in business tomorrow has taken it’s toll on Brown, yet he is not giving up. “Either arrest me, prove what I’m doing is wrong in a court of law, or leave me alone.”

The Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance has drawn national attention, with emails and phone calls pouring into Western Hancock County from around the U.S., Canada, and as far away as New Zealand. Farmers, ranchers, and artisan food producers have contacted local residents wanting to know how and why this ordinance came to be, and whether or not it could happen where they live.

Heather and Phil Retberg, whose diversified family farm in Penobscot has been a coalescing force for the local effort, has found comfort and camaraderie in the show of support.

“A farmer who has given up her award winning cheese operation under incredible pressure from the FDA has connected to our work here,” said Heather Retberg, “and a friendship is forming across the country because of it.”

She noted a call from a Virginia farmer from Virginia who assured Retberg that “we believe the same things as y’all do.”

As of press time the Maine Department of Agriculture had not returned requests for comment.

The Local Food & Self-Governance Ordinance can be viewed at:

This article may be re-posted in full with attribution.


If you enjoy our work, please donate to keep our website going.


Anonymous said...

I'm so scared of these small time producers...what if they don't use genetically modified seeds? What is they don't use nutrient-stripping glyphosate? How will they kill all the possible microbes without irradiating the food products? I don't want to eat their better tasting, fresher, nutrient-packed foods and get healthier at the expense of losing excess fat and cancer causing agents in my body? Please save us Federal Government from these Satanists bent on destroying the American way of profit at all costs.

GOD Save Poverty and Sickness for All

Anonymous said...

Remember that sarcasm when your laid up in the hospital with E coli eating your gut out as well as your families beacuse you ate contaminated frood. If they would have just followed a couple rules you would have lived. I guess you can sue yourself to cover the medical expenses.

Anonymous said...

I love these tools that post for commercial businesses thank you Monsanto. You can go to your Wal-Mart or any other community grocery store. You have most of everything coming in from California, Mexico, etc. My farm is open to visits, you will know me and I will know you. My farm is an open book; all you have to do is open your eyes. I have a small farm; I wish to provide the BEST produce that I possibly can. My guarantee is that my family eats from this farm including most of my animals; I love my garden, I love my earth, I love the gift of it's bounty. Trust yourself, start a garden at home then you KNOW what is going on. Freedom and free will it's all up to you.
"GOD Save Poverty and Sickness for All" who are these people or are they people? Just asking.

Anonymous said...

good for you, mainers. corporate america is finished. how about hemp, next?

Anonymous said...

gardening as a "turrust" act? oh! my!

david hatfield said...

i raise my own pigs to use in my restaurant for obvious reasons. i was just told by the Oregon State Agricultural Dept that i was commiting a crime by feeding my swine vegetable scraps and trimming from my kitchens. i was only allowed to feed them commercial grain and cannery waste. cannery waste? Its a completely obsurd rule that only benfits the big agro feed companies and makes it impossible for us small operators to make it pencil out

Anonymous said...

Seems clear to most that the "fed" isn't really doing their job weather or not they are involved with Marin's farms. The future generations are left to piece together a shattered system of government pulverized by private corporate interests and apathy.

Anonymous said...

To the either woefully misinformed (or strategically placed industry spammer) who made the comment about sarcasm...

Your concerns are only valid for factory farmed foods. Such farms should be illegal for how unsanitary they are. Anyone who would consume raw dairy or other foods from such operations would absolutely have a death wish.

However, raw and real foods being produced in natural and sanitary conditions that are the norm for the small, local farmer do not require the pasteurization, sterilization, etc, that the agribusiness farms must. The small farmers' cows do not stand ankle deep in filth. Their chickens are not crammed into pens with dead birds. The milk is not tainted with puss. They are not being forced to eat unnatural diets of by-products and GMO-corn and soy that actually raise e-coli levels to an unnatural level in the cow's intestines.

You should educate yourself on why such methods are necessary in factory farming and how those conditions do not exist for the small, local farms. Or perhaps you already are, but are an industry mouthpiece, just spamming blogs like this because it doesn't suit corporate interests.

Anonymous said...

Right on!! These sociopathic corporations, and the people who support them, have an unspoken motto, "In Greed We Lust." I derived this from our privatized money system that allows the printing of "In God We Trust," this would be constitutionaly un-viable if it wasn't privatized by international bankers. It should say, "In Community We Trust," because that is were people make a difference. ;)

Anonymous said...

Right on!! These sociopathic corporations, and the people who support them, have an unspoken motto, "In Greed We Lust." I derived this from our privatized money system that allows the printing of "In God We Trust," this would be constitutionaly un-viable if it wasn't privatized by international bankers. It should say, "In Community We Trust," because that is were people make a difference. ;)

Anonymous said...

The arguments used in the name of small time natural garden or farm practice are often horribly chliche' and many times nothing more than justification for bending the rules put in place to protect a society that consumes food. Here we go, the sarcastic poster from early in this thread and his/her fellow thinkers will now turn to talking about defiance of authority, big government, etc...Old School, boring, heard it before....Let's all gather hands now and sway to Kum Ba Yah! While we sing of intolerance and justice.

Post a Comment