Small towns in Maine pass Local Food Ordinances
In the time honored tradition of the New England town meeting, where each resident has a voice and a vote on issues that affect them, the towns of Sedgwick, Appleton, Penobscot, Blue Hill, Trenton, Hope, Plymouth and Livermore, Maine have voted for a Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance. Setting a precedent for other towns looking to preserve small-scale farming and food processing across the country, the ordinance was established to provide small farmers and food producers the opportunity to run their business superseding the regulations in place by the state and Federal governments.
Sedgwick farmer Bob St.Peter noted “This ordinance creates favorable conditions for beginning farmers and cottage-scale food processors to try out new products, and to make the most of each season’s bounty.”
St.Peter, who serves on the board of the National Family Farm Coalition based in Washington, DC, sees this as a model ordinance for economic development in rural areas. “It’s tough making a go of it in rural America,” said St.Peter. “Rural working people have always had to do a little of this and a little of that to make ends meet. But up until the last couple generations, we didn’t need a special license or new facility each time we wanted to sell something to our neighbors. Small farmers and producers have been getting squeezed out in the name of food safety, yet it’s the industrial food that is causing food borne illness, not us.”
“And every food dollar that leaves our community is one more dollar we don’t have to pay for our rural schools or to provide decent care for our elders,” adds St.Peter. “We need the money more than corporate agribusiness.”
The ordinance exempts small farms from state and federal licensing and inspection requirements when farmers sell food directly to neighbors and other individuals.
“The state finds itself in no position to recognize the ordinances,” said Maine Department of Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb. He noted that state and federal law supersede local ordinances.